Chicago-Area Coin-Op Archive

Josh Tsui, Robomodo

200 N LaSalle St
Suite 2390
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 806-8071

Josh Tsui photo Tsui Portrait_zpsflxiplpf.jpg

Josh Tsui is the president and co-founder of Robomodo, a video game development studio in Chicago focused on producing quality games for the Xbox and PlayStation console platforms. His passion for video games began when his older brothers introduced him to the arcades they managed in California; they would leave him to play with a stack of tokens as a way to keep him out of trouble. Through this experience, he developed a fondness for the open and friendly arcade atmosphere, as well as the arcade cabinets, which were optimized for the game inside.

Tsui got his formal education studying film at Columbia College in Chicago, and became a regular occupant of the computer graphics lab. Once he graduated, he began working at Northwestern in research, at which point a friend at Midway recommended him to the hiring team for his skills in digitizing people’s movements. After a drawn-out interview process as the company tried to figure out how Tsui would fit into the corporate structure, he started work at Midway in 1993, the day after he returned from his honeymoon.

The first game he worked on was WWF WrestleMania The Arcade Game, for which they scheduled regular recording sessions with wrestling legends like Bret Hart. He later joined the Mortal Kombat development team, and worked on a few of the Mortal Kombat sequels. He appeared in-game as Sub-Zero in an ending cutscene of Mortal Kombat 2, and Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat 4. His image was also used as a playable character in NBA Jam TE.

Seeking new challenges and opportunities outside of a more structured corporate environment, Tsui and few of his colleagues left Midway in 1999 to found a new game development studio called Studio Gigante. They worked on games such as Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus and WrestleMania 21. After Studio Gigante closed its doors in 2005 due to the waning popularity of the XBox and PS2 just before their successors were released, Tsui joined EA Chicago for two years before it was shut down during the financial crisis from 2007-2008.  

At this point, Tsui called up many of his former colleagues from EA Chicago, Midway, and Studio Gigante to create another independent studio called Robomodo in 2008. Since, they have made games for Activision such as Tony Hawk Ride, Tony Hawk Shred and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD. Tsui’s role in this studio is focused on managing and being available as a mentor for his teams at Robomodo.
Tsui’s current project is a documentary called Insert Coin, which tells the stories of many of the giants in the video game development industry in the 90’s. He feels this brings his career full circle in many ways, as he finally gets to make his own film about an industry that he was an integral part of. They are currently in the process of finishing up the main interviews, and moving into the production stage.

Interview with Josh Tsui completed by A.D. Brazauskas and Zulema Hunt on November 14, 2016. Photographs by Zulema Hunt. Transcription by Rachael Affenit and Xun Ma. The full archive of the interview, including the complete audio file, full transcription, and additional photographs, is available through the Illinois Tech Institutional Repository.

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