After being discharged from the United States Marines, Haverhill resident Anthony Soto faced a dilemma that many new veterans experience.
What do you do for the rest of your life?
Soto looked for a job that could provide for his wife and young son, but found his resumes and job applications routinely rejected. With the help of a friend, he decided to change paths completely and has started a video game development company — from the ground up.
Becoming the founder of a start-up company is something he never expected, especially while going through a tough upbringing in Haverhill.
“Everybody always told me that I couldn’t amount to anything,” said Soto, 28. “Everyone always put things against me. It drove me to prove to everyone I could do it.”
Soto joined the Marines as soon as he graduated from high school in 2004. Just two days after he graduated, he left on a bus to Parris Island, S.C., where he would enroll in a rigorous boot camp.
Soto found a niche in the Marines as an air conditioning mechanic. He was deployed to several places, including a base in Japan and eventually to Iraq in 2008. He was in Iraq for nearly a year and while there, he became popular among the soldiers who were in extreme heat all day long.
“I was always a happy sight for people to see,” Soto said. “People were always excited to see the air conditioning guy arrive.”
Soto fixed air conditioners and refrigerators for Marines and soldiers, both Americans and Iraqis. It gave him a feeling he hadn’t quite experienced before.
“It felt good to improve the quality of people’s lives,” Soto said. “It was extremely rewarding.”
Soto stayed in the Marine Corps until 2008. He then worked as an air conditioning technician for a company in Norwell for six months, but left a short time later when the company was having financial troubles.
He was out of work for six months, submitting resumes to numerous air conditioning companies around New England, but with no success. Soto realized that air conditioning might not be in his immediate future, so he went back to school as an analitical chemistry major at Northern Essex Community College, using education benefits given to veterans.
Soto interned for a few months at Charm Sciences in Lawrence after he got his degree from Northern Essex Community College. He was ready to take a full-time job there until he got a better offer from his friend Logan Pellerin.
Pellerin and Soto had been playing a video game together for two years, but the game wasn’t professionally done and was filled with technical errors. Pellerin knew of Soto’s mechanical experience and challenged him to make the game better.
“He came to me and told me that I could do this if I put my mind to it,” Soto said. “He gave me startup capital and I began to start producing a newer, better version of this game.”
Soto had no video game experience, but he had been an avid player for more than 20 years. He taught himself and surrounded himself with aspiring video game developers.
“I started hiring people who were knowledgeable in making games,” he said. “They were much more experienced than I was in making games and I managed them.”
Soto is working on his first new game — “Exodus:Grand Melee,” one which comprises combat, role playing and building empires. He said this game is different from any other video games.
“There are other games that are similar to it in certain ways, but there is nothing that is exactly like the game that I’m making right now,” he said.
The game’s release is scheduled for the end of 2013. Once it is launched, players will have to pay a monthly fee to play the game through an online service.
Soto believes that he wouldn’t be able to invest in his true passion without certain lessons he learned in the Marine Corps.
“Veterans have always been told that you don’t stop and you be the best that you could possibly be,” he said. “I’ve really felt that the only path I could take was through the company and this game. I was presented with a challenge where I had no experience and I’m going to put my heart into this no matter what.”