We had the good fortune of connecting with Trisha Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Trisha, how do you think about risk?
Pigeon Hole Productions’s story has been defined by risk. When we (Joseph Unger and Trisha Williams) founded PHP, it wasn’t just creating a new business, it was the beginning of a new life. As partners, we’d been working together in the game industry for years and decided to start anew in San Diego. We had no connections here, just the grit to make our story happen on our own terms and a goal to become part of a community. Working with new technologies is always risky, and we wanted to ensure that we didn’t completely rely on just the fun, cutting edge tools, but also strongly on Research & Development, and World Building. Introducing those elements to each other in combined projects wasn’t always easy, but with patience and determination, we began to integrate technology such as virtual and augmented reality into communities in order to create a shared, aspirational world that could be experienced together. We knew from experience that 20 people who were excited to be involved in what we were doing was more important than 2,000 retweets. After risking everything, we found it was human connection that built communities and those communities helped build Pigeon Hole Productions.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
“There’s only so many zombie games you can make before you rethink your career.” After years in the game industry working on projects we had little control or pride in, we left Los Angeles and founded Pigeon Hole Productions here in San Diego in 2015. The idea was to re-think what entertainment production and technology could do for the world, starting from the community up. The first several years Pigeon Hole Productions focused on refining their world building practice. Back then “World Building” was new to most people as the term was very specific to video games and movies. Now, it’s used in elementary school programs and corporation team-building. Our first major world build was focused on our own city. As the border gained attention in 2015-16, we decided to amplify our local creators and entrepreneurs with a Collective Future project called “Frontera: Women of the Wall.” We invited the community to tell the story of their future in art, architecture, and short stories. We hosted immersive events and virtual reality experiences to show the community’s vision of 2035 and to build a network of inspiring, future-forward people. We have been building Local Community Futures ever since; In Los Angeles with Sundance, in Kansas City, Missouri with the Marion Ewing Kauffman Foundation, and have spoken about the practice around the world in places such as Columbia, Germany, Mexico, and New York. As the practice grew, we were able to start integrating our technology expertise back into our work. We began to use digital art and video game engines to help visualize the collective imaginations of classes, institutions, and neighborhoods. Little by little, people began to accept 3D worlds and virtual reality that may have previously been considered “toyish or intimidating.” But the biggest change we’ve seen has been 2020. Along with the rest of the world, we were pulled away from our communities and on-site projects. We were stunned by how something we’d put our hearts into creating could so quickly feel shuttered. But, as entrepreneurs tend to do, we turned to our team, found our strengths, and immediately began to build an entirely virtual world to continue our business. Our current project: Afterville, in collaboration with The Arthur C. Clarke Center is a completely 3D constructed series of environments, hosted on Altspace VR, where we’ve started our first, fully-virtual world build. Dozens of local San Diego professionals, individuals from around the world, and a dedicated internal team of visionaries has created our first concept of 2028 post-pandemic. And this virtual, collaboratively-built world will only grow as Pigeon Hole Productions launches the beginning of our Virtual Universe this October.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Every park east of the beach. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that San Diego has a wealth of Parks & Trails. Our sunshine and sand capture all the insta-snaps but the shady groves are inspirational and the entire region is littered with stunning outdoor art. The El Cortez and neighborhood. Great views and a classic neighborhood that’s great for an architectural tour. As road-warriors we love old hotels and motels. This part of town is full of old-school charm from a by-gone travel era. Kindred in South Park. We have visitors from all around the world come through and we always take them to Kindred. It never fails to impress.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
No business builds in a vacuum, and every person we’ve met along the way has helped forge Pigeon Hole Productions. Since 2015, we’ve collaborated with UCSD Innovation, The USC World Building Media Lab and partnered with the Arthur C Clarke Center for the Human Imagination to help grow access to “virtual worlds.” These groups pushed us to think bigger and reach further. The local community here in the San Diego/Baja region has also been a pivotal part of our growth. Union Co-Work and all the folks we worked alongside made us realize that we were part of something bigger. And the amazing people in Baja, such as GAMACON, The Baja Film Studios and iDigital Creative showed us a larger world to explore.