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Obituary: Artist and mentor Joe Skivolocke
Obituary: Artist and mentor Joe Skivolocke
October 22, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

Joe Skivolocke, who worked in the game industry for more than 15 years and mentored a number of artists, passed away on Monday after battling heart cancer. He was 44 years old.

Many artists and developers who worked with Skivolocke will remember him as a friend, mentor, and someone who demanded excellence from others.

"He was the most fiercely passionate and fiery person I have ever known," says Playforge studio director Tami Baribeau, who worked with him during his years at Metaplace.

"He had the kind of personality that drove creativity and productivity, as he was so committed about the products he created. Every piece of art was stamped with a look and style that was uniquely Skiv."

She also remembers Skivolocke as "the life of the office" and for "his love of all things off the beaten path" -- almost every day he would wear a different funky hat, or have a new funny story about his elderly father's antics or his life outside work.

Skivolocke got his start working on games as a technical art coordinator in 1996 at Dreamforge Intertainment, where he contributed to titles like Warhammer 40,000: Rites of War and Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Even in his early years in the industry, he provided guidance to young artists.

"Joe Skivolocke taught me so much as a 2D/3D artist at my first job out of college," says Pittsburgh Technical Institute instructor Sunil Ketty. "Joe, know that what you taught me is being handed down to future computer artists. Your skills, talent, and positive outlook [were] a big influence on me. I owe a lot to my early days at DFI and the talented artist I was surrounded by."

In 2002, he joined a studio formed by veterans from Origin Systems' Ultima team. There Skivolocke served as art director on projects for a variety of major publishers and even the U.S. Army. Afterward he founded a start-up called Roadkill Dynamo Productions, which was absorbed by social game studio Metaplace in 2007.

Metaplace head and MMO pioneer Raph Koster says, "Anyone who visited, or played Island Life or My Vineyard, saw the distinctive touch he brought to his art. He was a large personality, fierce and passionate about his work, someone who seized life, and cared deeply about those who worked for him."

"His track record of mentoring and inspiring younger artists was astonishing, and I know today many are in mourning," Koster added. "My favorite memories of Joe will always be the glint in his eye when we were on the track of something great – the anger in his voice as he berated me for not caring about something enough -- and the way he looked at his wife Honey and son Brixton. I can't express how much he will be missed."

Not long before Playdom acquired Metaplace in 2010, Skivolocke went off to work as an executive producer at Pixelstep and then Glu Mobile. Even after he was diagnosed with heart cancer in January and as he battled cancer, others say Skivolocke maintained a cheery and optimistic attitude.

"He was an inspiration to the artists that he managed and to all of us who worked beside him who were motivated by his intensity," says Baribeau. "The game industry has lost a phenomenal talent and a great friend."

Skivolocke is survived by his wife and son. With permission from his wife, a friend has started a fundraiser on Fundly to help the Skivolocke family.

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