A Farewell to Colin Johanson

It has been said that “we shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do” and while that may be true, I want to recognise the good work of one smile in particular. Game Director Colin Johanson, for so long, has been the human face of Guild Wars 2. His excitement, concern, and care have always been apparent when reading any of his website and forum posts, watching his interviews and presentations, or even when running into him at a convention. For the last eleven years, this man has lived for the success of Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. Last Friday, it was announced that he would be setting sail from ArenaNet for newer shores. Here at GuildMag, we are aware and grateful of the time and energy Colin has devoted to not just the game, but to the game’s community, and the support he’s shown for our own publications. To that end, I have rallied the GuildMag team to share their own thoughts and memories about the Game Director and his lasting influence.


When Guild Wars 2 stopped being a shadowy explanation for why Guild Wars 1 campaigns were discontinued and started actually becoming something we were hearing about, so too did Colin go from being a relative unknown to the community to the face of the new game under development. In doing so, he spread an infectious enthusiasm and spawned memes that have stood the test of time. With Colin’s departure, we can expect a 66% reduction of sword swinging and a 50% reduction in massive grins coming from the studio. There may even be brakes installed on the hype train.

Best of success on your future endeavours, Colin, and may your Life Quest never blow up in your face!


With Colin’s departure from ArenaNet, we witness another of the old vanguard leaving for pastures new. Like our resident Loremaster Draxynnic, I’ve witnessed the rise of Colin from Game Designer in the original Guild Wars campaigns, to Game Director for Guild Wars 2. As the longest-serving GuildMag members, we’ve become accustomed to reporting on Guild Wars 2 news with Colin at the forefront; under his leadership, ArenaNet set out to build an MMO like no other, and no matter your opinion on Guild Wars 2, I think everyone agrees that that’s what we got. Colin and the rest of the team have opened up MMOs to millions of players worldwide, and fostered a huge and diverse community. From the UK to the USA, Europe, China, Australia and beyond, Colin has overseen a game that brings together people of all ages, genders and ethnicities with a common goal: bash dragons and have fun. 

It was my hope to be able to meet Colin in person one day. Unfortunately it looks like that day will never come, but for everything you’ve done for Guild Wars 2 over the last 9(!) years since its inception, thank you.

Colin_HoT Reveal

Colin Johanson at PAX South, 2015


Having come to Guild Wars late, I didn’t get to experience Colin’s leadership and enthusiasm until just after Guild Wars 2 launched. The two words that best describe Colin to me are: joy and enthusiasm. Truly, as we know from last year’s Heart of Thorns hype train, Colin was the engine leading the marketing team, bringing his joy and passion for the game to all of us. His smile is infectious and helped me feel like I could trust the direction in which he was leading the game. His love for Guild Wars 2 carried over to his genuine affection of the community, supporting fan endeavors like our own GuildMag with gusto. While I’m sad to see Colin go, I know that wherever he focuses his talents next, that same joy and enthusiasm will carry him through. Thank you for making the Guild Wars franchise such a delight. We’ll miss you!


Prior to the announcement of Guild Wars 2, I hadn’t really paid attention to the minds behind the Guild Wars series. I’d read the the occasional announcement on the main site, but I was a kid, self-involved in my own little world and my creations, and as I turned my focus ahead to what I wanted to do with my life, the “ArenaNet MMO Manifesto” video was released. I think that was the first time I’d ever put real faces to some of the creators, Colin being one of them. I didn’t meet the Game Director until about a year later during my first trip to PAX Prime in the Summer of 2011. The first thing I remember thinking was that I had expected him to be shorter, but like me, he towers over most. After that, I talked/ran into him over the next two PAX Primes and what stuck with me was his ability to engage, listen, and truly share in the community’s excitement.

I ended up skipping the next two years of conventions, only returning to PAX East in Spring of 2015. There, I got to reconnect with Colin at the Guild Wars 2 Fan Party and the next day for a video interview for GuildMag. One thing I observed was that he didn’t seem any different, not lacking in enthusiasm or patience. I know from talking with various game developers that long-term stints at studios can be especially draining and maybe he was just good at hiding it. However, I like to think that Colin was one of those developers that drew a good deal of strength from the support and love of the Guild Wars 2 community. Although I am sad to see him move on, I know that people come and go more frequently in the game industry than other careers and that we were lucky to have had him as long as we did. I personally hope Colin carries the same passion (and the same smile) he had for our community to wherever he goes next. Best wishes and thank you.

Left to Right: Matt, Colin, Isaiah, and some guy who forgot how to smile :(

Left to Right: Matt, Colin, Isaiah, and some weirdo *whistles* at PAX East, 2015


It’s really quite staggering how far Guild Wars 2 has come under his direction, especially considering the struggle for relevance that is the MMO industry. He’s helped ArenaNet achieve so much, and his legacy will undoubtedly remain with the company forever. He was always heavily involved in the community, be it on Reddit, the forums, or internet realms beyond, and I wish him luck and good fortune in his future endeavors! I know I’ll never forget that glittering, radiant beauty of a smile!


Admittedly, I never followed production of Guild Wars 2 close enough to know the individual devs responsible for the game, but it is impossible to look at community reaction online without hearing about Colin and his smile. He has a willingness to candidly reach out to a very passionate (and often divided) fanbase, which eased the pains of waiting for news or updates. Best of luck in your career, Colin, you will not be soon™ forgotten.


With Colin’s exit, an era comes to an end but we will always have his smile in our hearts. Although I’ve played Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 for years, it was only recently that I paid much attention to the people who worked to create this amazing game and Colin was one of the first people I took notice of. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for his vision and the years he dedicated to this game. Our community benefited from his enthusiasm and I suspect the other devs feel the same about his leadership.  I’d like to wish you farewell, Colin, and good luck with your future endeavors.


Colin at PAX Prime, 2015.


As a 16 year old angsty, hormonal teenager, I’d never set foot into the world of an MMO having had very little money. The biggest thing that turned me off was the dreaded ‘sub fee’ that came with them; the pressure to spend the time in a game you were paying monthly for to get that ‘money’s worth’. Browsing my local video game store one day, I noticed a game that screamed ‘no sub fees’ on its box. Immediately, my interest was piqued. Could an online world I’d always wanted to delve into truly have no sub fee without being pay to win? The answer was ‘yes’. The game was Guild Wars. I’ve been hooked ever since and one man played a huge part in that.

In hindsight, I don’t remember much of Colin Johanson during my time in Guild Wars 1, other than an Elonian NPC of a similar name and a mention here and there. When Guild Wars 2 was announced, however, that all changed. This burst of energy and bright smile appeared at every convention or video that had the name ‘Guild Wars 2’ attached to it. When I learned he was the Game Director, I knew my favourite franchise was in safe hands. He always spoke with such enthusiasm and excitement for the game which in turn rippled throughout the community. He was the ‘Hype Train’ incarnate.

The more I learned about Guild Wars 2, the more the game excited me. The development team weren’t afraid to try different things, to stand out amongst the crowd and while I know he wasn’t the only one responsible, Colin Johanson played a huge part in making a well deserved sequel to the game I grew up playing. The years that followed didn’t buck the trend; from a ‘Living World’ that provided me with a Tyria that truly felt like it was progressing constantly and more recently to an expansion that’s allowed me to explore the jungle and glide through the canopies. The part he’s played directing the game for the last 11 years has left me with tons of fantastic memories that I’ll always be able to look back on with a smile that rivals his own. I wish him good luck in the future with whatever he’s doing and I hope to see his name in the years to come. Keep swinging that sword!

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