When you're a problem solver like Joe Ricks, nothing stands between you and your dream. For Ricks, the dream was the holy grail of any kid growing up attached to a controller: making video games. So determined was the cash-strapped man, that he risked it all to get the education he needed. Joe Ricks enlisted and went to war so that he could learn how to make video games.
"When I was a kid I played the hell out of Final Fantasy and got sucked into Everquest and Counter-Strike pretty hard in highschool," Joe reminisced to me over instant messenger. The relationships that he developed over playing Counter Strike and participating in a clan in particular seem to be one of the biggest influences in Joe's desire to make games.
He wants to bring people together. Over a decade since the clan's inception, his friends still rock the old clan tag. "That's how tight we are," he explained. Naturally, they're playing Counter Strike: Global Offensive right now.
"I just wanted to make something that was as fun for people as CS was to me. I still represent my old CS clan to this day just because it meant so much to me.
"I still play CS:GO with some of the same people today. But really it was the socialisation of it all. People were able to just drop in and out of our server at will and we could do whatever we wanted in it. I just liked how if you were a regular on many CS servers it felt like coming to a bar where you knew everyone there."
Counter Strike, in a way, taught him that his calling was bringing people together -- that's what he wants to do now as a game developer.
But going to school for game development isn't cheap -- at least, not if you want to go to a good school. Ricks decided he wanted the best school he could find, regardless of what he had to do to get into it.
"I saw FullSail in an ad and got their information packet and they seriously had the best curriculum I saw for making video games. I just knew I had to go there."
When I asked him why he chose the army to accomplish his dream, he told me that it was a combination of lacking the money, and having a father in the special forces. "My dad was a green beret and I grew up outside and on Ft. Bragg NC, so [the army] ended up being an option to me," he explained. And so it was decided that he would enlist and stick it out for as long as he needed to in order to have his education paid for.
David Goldfarb, developer at Starbreeze Studios and previously of DICE, saw determination in Ricks early on. Joe sought advice from David years ago. "He asked me some questions about how to make games, what would I recommend doing. I told him what I tell most people, which is learn to code, and he nodded virtually and thanked me and went off. He seemed very determined and very motivated even back then," he told me over email.
They've kept in contact over the years, with Goldfarb recently noticing Rick's great progress after their early interactions. "It just makes me happy that he is doing it, and inspired that someone wants to do this shit enough to put themselves in the line of fire," Goldfarb stated.