In Memoriam: Professor Tony Tseng of SCAD-Atlanta

Hanako Lead Matt Canei with SCAD-ATL Professors. (Tony pictured on far right).
Hanako Lead Matt Canei with SCAD-ATL Professors. (Tony pictured on far right).

It is with a heavy heart that we have learned of the passing of Professor Tony Tseng, of SCAD-Atlanta. Tony was a father, husband, mentor, friend, professor and an always positive, always inspired game developer. The first question you may ask is “What does Tony have to do with Hanako?” The short answer is he holds strong importance to our game. The long answer… well, read on.

Tony was one of my first professors once I got into my game development curriculum, he taught probably over half of my classes and we immediately became really close, more like an older/younger brother relationship than professor/student. Shortly into my second year, my mother had passed away and the entire department was extremely supportive. After writing the original design for Hanako during that Winter break, Tony and I had conversations about it, about the meaning and he became the first supporter of the game all those years ago. Tony endlessly supported us, pulled strings, created classes, let us work on it as class assignments, anything we needed to pursue this dream that had taken on life. His unwavering support helped create internship and job opportunities for me personally, as he opened doors for myself to get into the game industry at the place I’m still working.

Fast forward two more years, we brought it into our Senior Studio class, still with his full support and guidance (Professor John Sharp’s too :D). Guidance that often times we were too young, arrogant and over-zealous to listen to, but many years later realized were the right moves to take and thankfully can apply those lessons to our development now. From there, I always told Tony I wanted to come back to do a ‘Master’s Workshop’ within 5 years of graduating, it was a goal of mine to come back, after having attended so many. In the Fall of 2013, 3 years after graduation, he invited me to come do a nearly 3 hour workshop, the first one I had done. It was a privilege and honor to speak to his students, and I’m sincerely grateful for him always making sure we had the means to achieve our goals.

Presently, Hanako is ever evolving into something more than a game, an indie project, a side-project whatever you want to define it as. Ironically, a game that started as a tribute to a lost loved one, with the endless support of a mentor – now will have his own artistic representation to honor his love, support and undying spirit. And as I often think “Mom I will make you proud” each night I sit down to make a Sakura tree, or a rock or a bridge, I now will sit down, determined to also honor Tony’s memory through this game, as it would not have been possible without his support. Even when we put it on the shelf, to his disappointment, he always told me over the years “Matt you can do both, you don’t have to choose between your career and Hanako, you can do both.” And I never thought it was possible. When we rebooted in 2013, I reminded myself of his words often. And as it remains the most difficult challenge in my life to balance everything, to work on AAA, to lead Hanako, and everything else, that “Matt you can do both.”

So its with a crushed heart that I say goodbye in a physical sense to a dear mentor and brother. Tony Tseng, may you rest peacefully, and know in spirit, that the Hanako team will honor your memory, your support and life efforts through our game however we can, and that your spirit will be remembered and cherished, and taught to our future players. We will make you proud!