Where does one begin any story? With Raconteur, it all goes back to a surreal moment and an incredible opportunity.

The work began, in part, as part of the group’s high school senior project. The members decided to pursue a prototype as their ultimate goal, and this required significant dedication from all involved.

This opened many doors for the group. As part of the senior project parameters, all members had to have a mentor for their aspect of the project (production, programming, and 3D art, respectively). Nicholas Laborde, the group’s leader, aimed big.

He wrote a snail mail letter to the president of Gearbox Software, Randy Pitchford, asking him to be his mentor for the project.

One week went by, and he received a response via email.


Hi Nicholas,

I received your letter today.

I’m inspired by your passion.  I’m afraid that if I committed to being your mentor that my responsibilities at our studio would prevent me from being able to prioritize you enough to give you what you need to succeed.  I’m afraid that I would become a bottleneck for your efforts and wouldn’t end up giving you the time you require.

Having said that, if you want to send along stuff for me to look at without a commitment it’s conceivable that it could come in at a time when I have a few moments and I might have a look and offer you some notes or feedback.

In any case, I enjoyed reading your letter and I’m pleased to hear that you are pursuing your goal of becoming a game maker!


– Randy

Little did he know that it was all but over. Moments later, another email came through:

Hi Nicholas,

You recently got in touch with us when you sent Randy an email request about mentoring you for your Senior Project.  It sounds like you have a fun project coming up!  I’ve got good news and bad news…

Bad news: Although Randy would love to help you with your project directly, and thought your request was very cool, he’s been busy traveling around the world promoting our games, and he’s going to be continuing to do that through the end of the year — so it would be a bad idea for him to commit to mentoring you when he might not actually have the time.

Good news: If you’d be OK with getting help from someone other than Randy, I’d be happy to help you out and to try to include some of the developers here to give you guidance about your project and the game industry.  We can probably even arrange a meeting with Randy if we can time it for when he’s in the office, assuming you could make the trip out here whenever that will be.

Let me know what you think, and if you want help from someone-other-than-Randy (that would be me), then let’s talk about it.

Warm regards,

Aaron Thibault

Vice President of Product Development

In an instant, the group’s future was sealed.

Obligatory awkward photo, courtesy of Nicholas.

Obligatory awkward photo, courtesy of Nicholas.

Over the next year, Nicholas job shadowed Aaron at Gearbox during key moments of the company’s early development. He met with game developers of all walks of life: programmers, sound designers, level designers, producers, artists, business development executives, and more.

Nicholas speaks fondly of the time spent at Gearbox: “Never before had I been surrounded by such abundant passion. I looked around and saw two hundred people that absolutely wanted to be at their job. It was a surreal and profound moment that I’ll never forget. I always knew that I wanted to make games, but that experience cemented my ambition.”

At the end of it all, Aaron said to keep in touch. To this day, Nicholas and Aaron meet for coffee once per year to discuss what’s been learned since the last time they met.

By mid-2012, the team (then three people) graduated high school with members receiving three of only eight “Outstanding Senior Project” medals.

From here, the team would continue onward into college, carrying their passion for games into the next stages of their lives.