Game Changers #STLMade | Across STL


Game Changers #STLMade | Across STL


-Photo by R.J. Hartbeck

Today, Matt Raithel is the owner and studio director of Maryland Heights-based Graphite Lab, which creates in-house and branded games for all gaming platforms – what he dreamed of doing as a kid.

What started with the creation of the company’s original flagship game, “Hive Jump,” has now expanded to developing branded games for major companies, including Cartoon Network, Mattel and Hasbro. Raithel and his team recently made “Hive Jump” available on Nintendo Switch and Xbox One, a huge accomplishment for the company.

Similarly, Robin Rath successfully co-founded Pixel Press, situated in downtown St. Louis. Rath and his team found success with creating educational games for kids, including the creation of “Bloxels,” which uses a board with plastic pegs to map out game levels and characters before animating them through a mobile app. Thanks to a partnership with Mattel, Pixel Press has secured manufacturing and distribution of “Bloxels” in the retail world. A partnership with Disney recently led to the creation of a “Star Wars” version of the product.

With dozens of gaming studios, courses and industry events, St. Louis is becoming the nation’s next video game development hot spot. “I think St Louis is a really special place for making games because it’s such a diverse crowd of people making them. There’s everything from hobbyists to larger scale companies, but they’re all making something different and they all do it in a different way,” says Mary McKenzie, managing partner of the Metro East studio Volcano Bean.

McKenzie is also a co-organizer of the PixelPop Festival, an annual independent game conference and expo that launched several years ago and, as McKenzie puts it, is “an event that could show off the amazing things that are being made in St. Louis.” The event, held annually at University of Missouri – St. Louis, typically ranks among the top three largest in the nation, and top ten largest in the world.

TJ Hughes, game developer and 3-D artist at Terrifying Jellyfish, especially appreciates the resources offered to gamers here in St. Louis. He cites the Cortex Innovation Community and St. Louis Game Developer Co-Op as examples. “No matter what you need – music, programming, someone who makes really weird, specific art – [the CoOp] is probably the place where you can find that,” he says.


All of these dreams, ideas, companies and progress are possible because of the unique mix of culture, affordability, Midwest openness and grit, and a dedication to taking on longterm issues of accessibility and equity.

We hear similar stories again and again. With the second highest rate of Millennial home ownership and a cost of living 6% lower than the national average, the St. Louis Federal Reserve reports that the standard of living in St. Louis is higher than 94 percent of the MSAs (Metropolitan Statistical Areas) in the nation. It creates a place big enough to provide world-class institutions and attract national, global tours, yet small enough that residents can make their mark and be recognized for their contributions.

A place where you can stand up, stand out and stay.

STLMade is a movement working to shine a light on the people, innovations, and ideas that are driving growth and change in our region so that residents and non-residents alike can better see the renaissance for themselves. Through stories on theSTL.com, the movement aims to highlight the work being done and the progress being made – from building communities that are more inclusive, to creating new industries and economic opportunities, to finding those ideal careers people never thought possible.

Across STL is a collaboration between the Katy Land Trust and Trailnet, telling the stories of the people and places that make the St. Louis community.

This article was first published in Across STL Volume 3, click here to read the entire issue.