Matej 'Retro' Jan is creating learning with video games
60

patrons

$811
per month
Hey guys, I'm Retro—artist and game developer. I write about pixel art on my blog Retronator, and create educational content about drawing and games. 

For my Master's degree in Education, I've been researching how video games work as a learning medium. I'm now putting these ideas into practice with my game Pixel Art Academy.



I've been learning with video games—and because of video games—all my life. Games made me curious about the world we live in, and I've taught myself a crazy amount of skills connected with making games.

Below is a way-too-long visual summary of my creative life, if you wanted to get to know me better.



It all started with making games. First on the ZX Spectrum (I grew up in Europe where this computer was popular), and later on the PC. My older brother taught me coding, while I was learning how to draw on my own.



Soon enough drawing for video games grew into love of digital and traditional art in general.



At this point I went on to study Computer Science. My college part-time job was writing for a video games magazine. Yeah, I played games for money, every teenager's dream job.

In 2005 I wrote an article about drawing pixel art, and designed the isometric cover that most people know me for as an artist.


Eventually I got sick of writing about video games. I got frustrated that more and more games were about fighting and killing each other, while the games that focused on creativity dwindled in comparison.

I couldn't just continue to complain about it in my articles so I decided to return to making games. In 2007 I came up with the name Retronator for my game studio, because my pen-name at the magazine was Retro and retronator.com was the only available .com domain I could find.


Unfortunately I didn't end up making my own games. I was offered a game development position at a local company and it sounded too good to pass. It was my dream come true at the time, but I didn't know myself good enough to know that giving up my own ideas led down a dark path.

I entered my late-twenties and the infamous quarter-life crisis finally hit me. I experienced big mood swings, from feeling invincible and working crazy amount of hours, to burning out and sinking into weeks of apathy when everything in life seemed grey. I started therapy for the first time. My creative output in 2010 went from minimal to non-existent.



2011 was better. I went on a hiatus at my job, to focus on finishing college. I graduated in September with an MSc in Computer Science. I also realized I made a huge mistake and should have really gone to art school instead.

I decided to make up for it and improve my art on my own. 

The following year was formative. I started doing one portrait with pencils each week and then moved on to painting digitally. I turned my pixel art magazine cover into the Tribute poster, which got posted around the internet and my pixel art blog took off. I even made my first music video.



Meanwhile, at my job I was back to making mobile games. I hoped the company I worked for would earn enough money to fund my own games, but when the next game flopped, I needed to get out of the mobile space. I needed to get out of games.

By complete surprise I got offered a designer position at the University of California, Berkeley, a move that would fulfill my lifetime wish of living in the United States. I accepted and arrived to the US in March 2013.

My job was to produce a textbook for my boss, and I soon started illustrating it as well. Berkeley was great for my art progress. I started going to life drawing and finally got better at anatomy.



My life was a mixed bag of happy and depressed though. Yes, I was making art for a living, but I was also lonely and struggling with relationships. I re-entered therapy. I started learning gymnastics every day which was the only thing holding me together. When I do sports I forget about all life's problems.

Things kept getting worse through 2014. At my job I was moved from illustration into web development, a time for which I have little to show. Making art for myself became more and more of a struggle.



By the end of 2014 I wanted to get out of my job. I didn't want to give up living in the US though, so my plan B was to apply to grad schools there. At the same time I was diagnosed with bipolar type II disorder and started taking medication.

Medication gave me the needed stability to do great work again. 2015 has seen a resurgence in my art. Life was finally peaceful and happy—and more productive than ever. I got accepted to Stanford. I launched Pixel Art Academy on Kickstarter and started my Master's degree in Education.



In school I took electives in digital art and explored conceptual fine art. I returned to traditional mediums and learned how to paint with watercolors and oils. I made up for not going to art school. For my Education subjects I did research on how adults learn in their free time.



My year at Stanford was the most productive and fulfilling in my life, thanks in big part to focusing it around Pixel Art Academy. My coding efforts, however, went into data visualization at my research assistantship, which paid for college. It was worth it, even though I didn't get as much coding done for the game as I hoped. After I graduated, I quickly turned the tables around and started working on the game full-time.


And here we are. I'm now working full-time on Pixel Art Academy and Retronator Magazine—a new dream come true. I'm finally making my own game and writing about the art community that surrounds it. I owe it all to my Kickstarter backers and you, Patreon supporters. Thank you so much for making it happen.

That's been my journey so far. How it continues from here … you'll find in my Patreon posts below. 👾 🎮 🎨 🌈 ☺️
—Retro
Rewards
Retronator
$1 or more per month 16 patrons
Welcome to the family—you are now a true retronator. Thank you so much for your support!


  • Special thank you message.
  • Patreon-only vlogs.
  • Use your pledges in Retronator Store.
Text adventurer
$3 or more per month 22 patrons
Try out Pixel Art Academy! As long as you remain at this tier (or higher) you will have a basic version of the game added to your inventory. You can even use your pledges to buy add-ons.


  • Player access to Pixel Art Academy.
  • All previous rewards.
Art collector
$5 or more per month 9 patrons
Get exclusive Patreon wallpapers with my artwork, as well as high-res poster files, in case you wanted to print any (including Tribute!).


  • Retronator wallpapers and poster files (delivered monthly).
  • All previous rewards.
Cool dude-tte
$10 or more per month 11 patrons
You're going above and beyond with your generosity. I am at a loss for words so I will put your name in the description of my future videos and articles.


  • Name in videos and articles.
  • All previous rewards.
Goals
$811 of $1,100 per month
Independence! At this point I can afford a modest rent of $300, which means I have all the basics covered: health insurance, taxes, food, small expenses, and my own place to live (see previous goals as well). Now I can work full-time as Retronator just on Patreon income. Thank you so much everyone for making this possible!
4 of 4
Hey guys, I'm Retro—artist and game developer. I write about pixel art on my blog Retronator, and create educational content about drawing and games. 

For my Master's degree in Education, I've been researching how video games work as a learning medium. I'm now putting these ideas into practice with my game Pixel Art Academy.



I've been learning with video games—and because of video games—all my life. Games made me curious about the world we live in, and I've taught myself a crazy amount of skills connected with making games.

Below is a way-too-long visual summary of my creative life, if you wanted to get to know me better.



It all started with making games. First on the ZX Spectrum (I grew up in Europe where this computer was popular), and later on the PC. My older brother taught me coding, while I was learning how to draw on my own.



Soon enough drawing for video games grew into love of digital and traditional art in general.



At this point I went on to study Computer Science. My college part-time job was writing for a video games magazine. Yeah, I played games for money, every teenager's dream job.

In 2005 I wrote an article about drawing pixel art, and designed the isometric cover that most people know me for as an artist.


Eventually I got sick of writing about video games. I got frustrated that more and more games were about fighting and killing each other, while the games that focused on creativity dwindled in comparison.

I couldn't just continue to complain about it in my articles so I decided to return to making games. In 2007 I came up with the name Retronator for my game studio, because my pen-name at the magazine was Retro and retronator.com was the only available .com domain I could find.


Unfortunately I didn't end up making my own games. I was offered a game development position at a local company and it sounded too good to pass. It was my dream come true at the time, but I didn't know myself good enough to know that giving up my own ideas led down a dark path.

I entered my late-twenties and the infamous quarter-life crisis finally hit me. I experienced big mood swings, from feeling invincible and working crazy amount of hours, to burning out and sinking into weeks of apathy when everything in life seemed grey. I started therapy for the first time. My creative output in 2010 went from minimal to non-existent.



2011 was better. I went on a hiatus at my job, to focus on finishing college. I graduated in September with an MSc in Computer Science. I also realized I made a huge mistake and should have really gone to art school instead.

I decided to make up for it and improve my art on my own. 

The following year was formative. I started doing one portrait with pencils each week and then moved on to painting digitally. I turned my pixel art magazine cover into the Tribute poster, which got posted around the internet and my pixel art blog took off. I even made my first music video.



Meanwhile, at my job I was back to making mobile games. I hoped the company I worked for would earn enough money to fund my own games, but when the next game flopped, I needed to get out of the mobile space. I needed to get out of games.

By complete surprise I got offered a designer position at the University of California, Berkeley, a move that would fulfill my lifetime wish of living in the United States. I accepted and arrived to the US in March 2013.

My job was to produce a textbook for my boss, and I soon started illustrating it as well. Berkeley was great for my art progress. I started going to life drawing and finally got better at anatomy.



My life was a mixed bag of happy and depressed though. Yes, I was making art for a living, but I was also lonely and struggling with relationships. I re-entered therapy. I started learning gymnastics every day which was the only thing holding me together. When I do sports I forget about all life's problems.

Things kept getting worse through 2014. At my job I was moved from illustration into web development, a time for which I have little to show. Making art for myself became more and more of a struggle.



By the end of 2014 I wanted to get out of my job. I didn't want to give up living in the US though, so my plan B was to apply to grad schools there. At the same time I was diagnosed with bipolar type II disorder and started taking medication.

Medication gave me the needed stability to do great work again. 2015 has seen a resurgence in my art. Life was finally peaceful and happy—and more productive than ever. I got accepted to Stanford. I launched Pixel Art Academy on Kickstarter and started my Master's degree in Education.



In school I took electives in digital art and explored conceptual fine art. I returned to traditional mediums and learned how to paint with watercolors and oils. I made up for not going to art school. For my Education subjects I did research on how adults learn in their free time.



My year at Stanford was the most productive and fulfilling in my life, thanks in big part to focusing it around Pixel Art Academy. My coding efforts, however, went into data visualization at my research assistantship, which paid for college. It was worth it, even though I didn't get as much coding done for the game as I hoped. After I graduated, I quickly turned the tables around and started working on the game full-time.


And here we are. I'm now working full-time on Pixel Art Academy and Retronator Magazine—a new dream come true. I'm finally making my own game and writing about the art community that surrounds it. I owe it all to my Kickstarter backers and you, Patreon supporters. Thank you so much for making it happen.

That's been my journey so far. How it continues from here … you'll find in my Patreon posts below. 👾 🎮 🎨 🌈 ☺️
—Retro

Recent posts by Matej 'Retro' Jan

Rewards
Retronator
$1 or more per month 16 patrons
Welcome to the family—you are now a true retronator. Thank you so much for your support!


  • Special thank you message.
  • Patreon-only vlogs.
  • Use your pledges in Retronator Store.
Text adventurer
$3 or more per month 22 patrons
Try out Pixel Art Academy! As long as you remain at this tier (or higher) you will have a basic version of the game added to your inventory. You can even use your pledges to buy add-ons.


  • Player access to Pixel Art Academy.
  • All previous rewards.
Art collector
$5 or more per month 9 patrons
Get exclusive Patreon wallpapers with my artwork, as well as high-res poster files, in case you wanted to print any (including Tribute!).


  • Retronator wallpapers and poster files (delivered monthly).
  • All previous rewards.
Cool dude-tte
$10 or more per month 11 patrons
You're going above and beyond with your generosity. I am at a loss for words so I will put your name in the description of my future videos and articles.


  • Name in videos and articles.
  • All previous rewards.