In 1995 I was still a fledgling student dabbling in the world of "the Internet", where the idea of world wide web was a collection of research papers and anime shrines, and the Internet's only source of community was a text based messaging system call Usenet.
The chat group rec.arts.anime was my home and the file sharing group alt.binary.anime was my daily stop where we share images we scan from anime magazines. One day a stranger showed up in this file sharing group and quietly became the first quality fan artist on the whole internet. That day John Kim shared his Fatal Fury fan art in the newsgroup. His art was influenced by the original Fatal Fury artist Masami Obari, but it clearly carried John's unique style, and his understanding in posing and anatomy was nothing that I've seen from fan artists before. I was shocked by his talent, and immediately wrote to him, and we exchanged pleasantries, we immediately clicked, sharing our love for games and anime.
In late 1996 I moved down to California for my first career job. It was an exciting time, but my old friends were hundreds of miles away. Lucky I still had my friends on the Internet to keep me company. I wrote an email and told my friends that I'm now living in California, and John immediately replied, saying "I live 20 minutes away from you!".
And so me and John started hanging out in person. John had recently graduated from art school, which explained his skills and talent as an artist. He loves spending time at home drawing, working on one picture at a time, perfecting each picture for hours or days, sometimes even weeks, yet no picture is every satisfactory. While other artists simply draw with the paintbrush tool on the computer, John would use CorelDraw and painstakingly assign vectors for every stroke in his drawing, one vector at a time, so that the end result can be scaled up to any size and the picture would still look perfectly smooth. I was amazed by John's talent, then I was amazed by his patience and his dedication for perfection. Till this day I don't know anyone as obsessed with perfection as John would.
John's quest for perfection also made him take months to put together a portfolio for a job application. Or did it take a whole year? We used to joke that John was so talented, but no one could hire him for he would not send his portfolio out as his portfolio wasn't up to his own standards. But rest assured, as soon as Atari/Midway games got hold of his portfolio, he was hired as a game artist, working on games such as San Francisco Rush and Gauntlet Legends.
As much as we made fun of his delay in getting employed, we enjoyed those moments with John because he would have all the time in the world to play games, and he definitely know how to spend his free time. He was the only person I know to have owned the arcade Neo Geo system, and we would spend countless hours playing co-op shooters, as well as fighting games such as Samurai Shodown. He was always the friendly opponent who insist on playing your very best, but you know that he will always go easy on you if he's winning by a large margin. This made him a terrific gaming companion as nobody would ever leave home frustrated when John is around.
Come to think of it, there would be no Gaia Online if it wasn't for John Kim. While I was just a computer nerd who love anime, John had been a prolific artist online who had made many online artists as friends, and John invited me to go with him on a trip to Anime Expo, where artists from all over the world would meet and hangout. It's through John's invite and introduction where I ended up meeting CP, L0cke, and Vo, as well as many other artists who are great friends till this day. It's only when I met all these artists that I figured out how I could apply my skills towards artistic means, and the catalyst of it all was John.
Once I started Gaia it was only natural that I offered John Kim a position to help as an artist. John immediately got along with everyone in the company. Even though he always prefer to sit in an isolated corner of the office, his passive and honest demeanor made him a good friend to all his peers. John always have something great to share in ideas and techniques. Naturally when Gaia set out to build an MMORPG game, John was there to help lead in the team in technology and design. He not only cared greatly about the game itself, but he extended his dedication, time, and presence to thousands of players in zOMG and became countless Gaian's favorite staff member. Everyone who plays zOMG loves JK, it felt only natural.
John has many funny quirks and demeanors, one of which is that he would say "that's messed up" when describing even the most devastating of news. We would joke and say that when a tornado is flying above our heads, he would still say "that's messed up" without a sign of anger or distress. But we made this joke not because he doesn't say the right thing, but because he has a very high and strict set of morale standards where he wouldn't raise his voice or emotion towards others, he always try to reflect on what's right, he always share with you the honest truth from his heart, and he always care deeply about what you think before sharing his own opinion.
Two years ago John was diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer, and he went through a tremendous lot battling the caner through cancer treatment and chemotherapy. Finally, on Sunday, July 7, 2019, John had found peace amongst his friends and family.
There wouldn't be anyone else who is such a sweetheart, with such talent, humility, and honesty that combines all the best traits from all the friends I know. John is the most genuine person to appear in my life, and I have to say, that's it's really messed up that he is leaving us this early. I will forever miss my fighting game partner, and John will live on in my heart, as well as all those who interacted with him. We will always remember you.
For those who wish to send any cards or wishes to John's family, you can send them to Gaia's P.O. Box and I will deliver them. The address is:
P.O. Box 612680. San Jose, CA 95161-2680
Manage Your Items