If you’ve picked up an iPad, Nintendo DS, or a Wii remote lately, then there is a chance you’ve played some of the video games Brother Matt Raithel helped create. Odds are better if you happen to be under the age of 10. That’s because most video games he’s helped create are based off of brands like My Little Pony, Play-Doh, Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, Ben 10, Garfield, The Grinch, and the Zhu Zhu Pets.
Born alongside an Atari, Matt went to grade school with the Nintendo. He played on the monkey bars with the Sega Genesis, and he learned to drive with the Nintendo 64 riding shotgun. Brother Raithel pledged Phi Delta Theta at Missouri State University (‘01) with the PS2, and when he joined the founders of video game developer Black Lantern Studios, he fulfilled his dreams of developing games on the video game consoles that would follow. Matt’s not a nerd, really; He just like wearing flip-flops to work and enjoys making games.
Matt joined Black Lantern Studios as a 3D modeler– his job was to create game assets using 3D software like Maya and 3D Studio Max. The company’s first game idea was for the PC, a night club simulator called “NiteLife”. Matt would spend his early days at BLS creating 3D objects for the game –everything from bar stools to bouncers. Despite some strong interest in the idea, “Nitelife” as a game never got published. Instead, the company’s big break would come not in making a 3D night club simulator for teens, but in getting hired by Nickelodeon to develop their kids’ brands on the handheld systems like Game Boy and Nintendo DS. Black Lantern’s first products for Nickelodeon we’re very much learning experiences. Employees obviously didn’t spend their days watching the shows you’d find on Nick Jr. TV. So, it was a big change in direction for the company to consider making games for the 5 and under crowd. However, Matt had recently been promoted to Art Director and was in charge of a really great team. Together, they worked with the teams at Nickelodeon to translate their ultra-popular characters like Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego,Go!, and The Wonder Pets into great looking games for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. Collectively the company’s Nickelodeon work alone has sold millions of units worldwide and offered Black Lantern Studios a great foundation for growing the company in the early years.
As Black Lantern grew, Brother Raithel continued to seek out new responsibilities. From 2005 to 2008, he served as an Art Director, Director of Art and Design, Vice President of Operations, and finally Studio President. In his time at Black Lantern, he held a production role in over 30 video games while helping grow the company to over 60 employees. Black Lantern amassed a portfolio of games that spanned newer platforms (at the time) like the Wii and XBOX360. In developing these titles Matt had the honor of working with the top publishing teams in the world including Hasbro, Disney, Konami, Cartoon Network, Activision, PopCap, Universal Studios, Nickelodeon, Mattel, Hasbro, High Voltage Software, THQ, 2KPLAY, Warner Brothers, ValuSoft, GameMill, Dreamcatcher Games, Destineer, ZOO Games and Tecmo.
In January of 2009, Brother Raithel led the next expansion of the company, this time to his hometown of St. Louis to focus on the then emerging mobile market. There, they created Graphite Lab, and Matt led a growing team of artists, programmers and designers on a mission to develop outstanding educational and entertainment products for kids. With a focus of raising the bar for quality of kid’s mobile games and apps, his team created critically acclaimed experiences for kids by connecting curriculum and creativity in more meaningful ways. Their recent portfolio of mobile games includes some top ranking apps such as My Little Pony: Party of One and Play-Doh Create ABCs.
The next evolution of Graphite Lab is now getting underway and their most exciting endeavor yet has just begun. In February of 2014, the company announced a new original game in development; one that will return the company to its roots of making games on the PC. This new game is called Hive Jump. Inspired by classic Nintendo games like Metroid and Contra, HIVE JUMP is a multiplayer co-op sci-fi shooter that gives players the experience of jumping into a gloriously rendered alien hive, fighting their way to the bottom, and nuking the hive queen for the good of mankind! Set for a September 2014 release, Hive Jump will be the company’s first foray into the world of original IP development and will be the first step in growing Graphite Lab in to a studio that is well known across the world.