In life, sometimes all you need to do is “Level Up.”
As a Campbell Hall high school student, Chris Kovalik ’09 was passionate about gaming. He would spend hours in role playing games and even became so skilled in World of Warcraft
that he was able to earn money helping other players gain legendary status gear. Despite Chris’ success in the gaming realm, his parents cautioned against what they felt was just a hobby and urged him to develop a traditional career with a reliable source of income.
Chris reluctantly heeded his parents’ advice, but soon embraced this new path forward. He decided, at age 18, that he would become a Wall St. banker. He majored in Finance and Economics, receiving his B.S.B.A. from Boston University School of Management, working various jobs throughout college to build his resume.
After graduating, he took a deep dive into LinkedIn and connected with fellow Campbell Hall alumnus, Radu Patrichi, ’94, who helped him secure a Mergers & Acquisitions role in New York City. From there, Chris pivoted into a role with Virgin Group, investing on behalf of Sir Richard Branson. While things were going well for Chris, he began to feel unfulfilled and uncertain about his path forward. Chris left the financial field and jumped into the unpredictable world of entrepreneurship. Each venture seemed more promising than the last, but each ended up failing within a year of starting.
It was at this point that Chris hit an especially low time in his life. In 2018, his third entrepreneurial venture failed, his bank account was empty and, as he says, he “could not possibly get any lower.” He was suffering from a deep depression which left him emotionally paralyzed. After reaching out to his mom and asking for help, he began a journey of self-discovery.
Chris realized that his career trajectory had been based on what others thought he should be doing. Now, he made a conscious decision to focus his work solely on what he loved doing.
In hindsight, Chris attributes this new direction to his time at Campbell Hall which teaches that love is at the center of one’s true purpose and, first and foremost, that includes loving oneself. “Campbell Hall made it possible for me to find myself,” Chris says. “I learned there is a journey that exists for me to love myself. Exactly as I am.”
When he thought back on what brought him the greatest joy in life, he realized that it was gaming. With a renewed sense of purpose, he purchased the hard drive from a gaming company he had invested in and felt passionately about, but that had ultimately failed. “I wanted to make this game about what the players wanted it to be,” Chris explains. “The game was in the bottom 5% of reviews when I first acquired it, and now we are in the top 5%. We have significant venture capitalist investors and a team of 60 people.”
The ethos underlying Chris’s new business, Vortex Games, is to treat everyone -- customers, colleagues, employees and partners -- as friends. “Value triangles” drive each team’s purpose and the company as a whole. For instance, the value triangle for the entire Vortex Games community is to be “welcoming, harmonic, and supportive.”
Everyone in the company is free to build on the work of others. Chris equates this model with a Tik Tok video
in which a woman calls her cat over in a sing-song way. The video went viral and other Tik Tok users built on it, creating a beautiful score and layering vocals to make a reinvisioned song, embodying the beauty of what can happen when various voices and talents are contributed to a communal project.
Chris now has a clear vision for his future and for the future of his company. He wants to empower those in the Vortex Gaming community to find their true passion and purpose, just as he has. In thinking of some of the life lessons he gained, he remembered his time on the Campbell Hall cross county team and that, no matter how tired he was, he would never give up on the race. While Chris feels he has been on a winding and sometimes difficult path, reinforced by a greater understanding of love for himself and others, his resilience and endurance have paid off.