The ASTRO Gaming office is located in San Francisco, California not far from AT&T Park and is filled with dozens of talented people that have continued to impress me since my first day in the office. Christopher Chang, leads our team of insanely dedicated graphic designers–those responsible for keeping ASTRO’s signature style on point.
I had a chance to sit down with Chris and talk about how he came to be a part of the ASTRO crew, as well as life away from the office.
K: Who are you?
Chris: So I’m Christopher Chang. People call me Chang or Cha-Chang. Derived from my email addres because there’s a million Christopher Changs. So the email address CChang was taken, so mine was CHChang.
K: Where are you from?
Chris: I am from the Bay area. Born and raised in California. Never lived anywhere outside California, went to college in California. Never leaving. I’d probably get a tattoo of a California license plate… if tattoos disappeared.
K: And what do you do at ASTRO?
Chris: I am the boss of graphic design.
K: And you already wrote a fantastic blog for us from that perspective.
Chris: Yeah, it’s called ADD… because all designers have a minor case of ADD. But it is short for ASTRO Dungeons and Designers as well.
K: Ha, I never caught that, actually. What does being the boss usually entail?
Chris: I wear a lot of hats. I do a little bit of the actual graphic design work, I do a little bit of scheduling, and in terms of the work, I not only plan ahead and set standards for brand but I do the day to day and help out my team as well. We act like a consultancy pretty much. It’s pretty difficult to try to keep everyone happy, right? [ASTRO Gaming] prides itself on our design—we come from a design background. So we want to keep marketing happy making sure they have their say and feedback and hierchy of elements, and you also have to keep PD happy in terms of trying to keep the cost down and stuff like that.
K: Are you known around the office for anything that’s not work related?
Chris: Skeeball Yeezus.
K: Give me a little background on that. Why are you the Skeeball Yeezus?
Chris: Because we were in the Skeeball league for the past two years, and the first year that we did it, I was highly involved. And when we were coming up with names, I wanted us to be Skeezus. That was back when Kanye had just released Yeezus. But nobody wanted to be that name so I just called myself that.
K: How did you first get into gaming?
Chris: I was gaming since I was very little. Video games were really kind of my first babysitter. My parents wanted me to be very independent—and back then it was safe around the neighborhood so I could walk myself to school and such. But when I came back home, I’d finish my homework real quick so I could play video games. My first system was a regular Nintendo. I could never beat anything because I was a little kid, so I’d always have my cousins help me beat stuff. That’s how I got into gaming.
K: What are you playing right now?
Chris: Destiny. The House of Wolves expansion, been playing a lot of that. Play a lot of Heroes of the Storm. A little bit of Hearthstone now and then. Every now and then I’ll check out a Steam Sale game like Spelunky but… those are my main go-tos right now.
K: What game or game series has been with you the longest? What can you not get enough of?
Chris: Can it be a whole genre? Because I always go back to arena games. Mainly cause they’re so competitive and collaborative. There are different kinds of team strategies. It’s amazing how they can do things in an instant and also plan things out from a bigger picture. Long and short term strategies.
K: Do you have a favorite gaming related memory?
Chris: It’s not really a memory, but me, Harry and Kyle play a lot of Tetris Attack together. It’s some old school Super Nintendo game. And it’s so simple but there are so many different layers to it. You can combo in so many different ways and arrange the blocks in so many different ways. I like playing with them because they’re engineers and see things differently. So when they do combos, it’s different from how I do combos and I just find that really interesting.
K: What do you hope to see in the future of gaming?
Chris: In general I want eSports to be taken more seriously. I also want, not only the professionals who play the games tot take it more seriously but the general public.
K: If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
K: Don’t get a tattoo of California?
Chris: [laughing] Yeah. Uh… Don’t wear baggy jeans?
K: Was that a problem for you as a child?
Chris: No, just the 90s when everyone was wearing them and looking back at it… Also try a new hair cut, I always had a bowl-cut haircut since I was a kid up until like middle of high school.
K: No baggy jeans, new haircut. Listen up Young Chris Chang.
K: How’d you first get into the gaming industry?
Chris: My first job was at a web design consultancy and it was really fun but pretty stressful because you’re always trying to please the client. And then I changed jobs to a social gaming company. They mainly did facebook apps and things like that. But I’m a real gamer so I don’t believe in that shit. So I wanted to get out. And I was actually looking into buying a new headset. And I saw ASTRO was hiring. So I applied… and I got the job.
K: Aha. Seek and you shall find. What advice would you give someone who wants to do what you do?
Chris: That’s a hard question, because I think it depends on the company. If the company wants UI or UX primarily, then I would study that. If they want someone more versatile then you kinda have to be a jack of all trades. I guess it depends on the gaming company you want to apply to. But graphic design in general is pretty hard. You have to put your heart and soul into it. It’s time consuming. We live in details all the time—down to pixels and millimeters. So you have to be detail-oriented. And you have to be able to work well with others. I know some design divas out there but I’ve found success in collaboration with others.
K: What’s your favorite ASTRO Product?
Chris: In terms of gaming, probably the A50s. Because they’re wireless and so I can still talk to my raid group if I’m playing Destiny but I need to go to the kitchen or whatever.
K: What are your hobbies?
Chris: I like to be active. I have to stay inspired too, so I play a lot of tennis with my co-workers. During summer, since we have half-day Fridays, we go bike riding, rock climbing… In terms of staying inspired, I like to take our design group to art museums and check out book stores because you can get inspired from pretty much anything. Just making sure I get out to do things.
K: Favorite vacation spot?
Chris: Um… Can I say locked up in my room? If I really wanted to go somewhere probably Hawaii, but nowadays I find just sitting at home doing nothing but watching TV and playing video games is pretty relaxing.
K: Best movie of all time in your opinion?
Chris: Pulp Fiction is one of them. In terms of more modern… probably the Avengers. Actually, I’d probably put Guardians of the Galaxy over Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy for sure. Hmm… if I have two, I have to have a third.
K: There’s the design mind. Must work in threes.
Chris: [Laughing] Exactly! I guess my favorite childhood movie was Dumbo. I just recently re-watched it and it was so sad, and it’s so good. And there was the trippy part that when I was a kid I didn’t understand that he was drunk, and I was like, “Oooh.”
K: What music is your jam?
Chris: I grew up listening to hip-hop, so definitely a lot of hip-hop. I do listen to EDM nowadays too. To get inspired I mainly listen to electronica like Odesza, Cashmere Cat—cause they’re a little more mellow.
K: And speaking of jam, what is your favorite food?
Chris: Ooh, I’m a foodie so that’s hard. I love steak—the most, probably. And Korean BBQ, and Mexican food for sure. I guess my mom when she was pregnant with me—they’re immigrants from Taiwan, so they hated Mexican food—but when she was pregnant with me she saw a commercial for Taco Bell.
K: Well, that’s not *really* Mexican food.
Chris: No, but it’s still good. But she had all these cravings for Taco Bell, and she blames that on me because I love Mexican food.
K: What’s the best brain food?
Chris: Little bit of everything probably. I definitely take breaks and cherish lunch. You know, rest your mind, and just even take a walk. Because you can’t just turn on a switch to be creative… so if you can even just take a walk to clear your head it can help. So for me it’s just a good balance of everything. You can’t work 14hr days for two weeks straight and still be okay. You need to have a balance.
K: Where would you like to be in 10 years, ideally?
Chris: Ideally, huh? I don’t know, I still love doing all the design work myself, but I can still see myself directing a little more—like becoming a Director of Design—a creative director, obviously. But I don’t know, I’ve always loved doing the work, creating assets and shaping the brand. So it’s a tossup between a really high senior designer and a creative director.
K: What’s your favorite non-ASTRO gaming related product or electronic?
Chris: My PC. I do everything on my PC. I watch TV shows, I play video games.
K: And is it a PC or is it a MAC?
Chris: I have both. I use my PC for entertainment and my MAC for my job and design work.
K: What’s the most important part of a game for you?
Chris: The addiction.
K: What makes it addicting for you? Where’s the root of this problem, Chris?
Chris: [Laughs] That’s a good question. I guess I’m mostly addicted to multi-player games because I like to play with my friends. It’s always nice to have this comradery when you finish something hard. I guess as long as my friends are playing it, I’ll going to be playing it also.
K: What’s your passion? What drives you?
Chris: My passion is always going to be in design. So even when I’m not working, I think about design in general. Whether it’s an ASTRO related project or… thinking “oh, that menu is… really ugly.” You kinda see the world differently when it’s your passion. Like… I’m sure I’ll get backlash for this, but I’m tired of seeing Helvetica. It’s out there…everywhere. And it’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong but it’s overused. That’s why I love ASTRO because there’s a lot of opportunities to put more personality in our designs.
K: What do you do to better yourself?
Chris: I guess like I said before. Always thinking about design, but not overworking myself and finding that balance. Also just having that mentality of striving to be the best and never stop learning.
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