Charles Huang and Lillian Qian

Charles Huang, class of ’93, is the co-creator of Guitar Hero, the music video game he and his brother developed in 2005. Charles was so confident in the game’s potential that he launched it entirely with personal funds. “I think the game will sell,” Charles reassured his wife, Lillian Qian. Charles’s instincts proved correct: Guitar Hero was an instant sensation. The interactive game, which enables users to simulate the experience of being a rock star while playing a guitar-shaped controller, captured rave reviews and achieved a record-breaking $1 billion in North American retail sales in just 18 months.

Charles majored in economics and Asian studies at UC Berkeley and spent a transformative year studying in Beijing. He originally aspired to become a professor of Chinese history, but his life took a different course when he and his brother Kai, class of ’94, formed RedOctane, a company that introduced the first online video game rental service. Spurred by the popularity of music video games in Japan, the brothers concluded there was a market for similar products in North America and created the series of Guitar Hero games. “We didn’t know how successful it would be, but we knew we had a successful product that people would pay for,” Charles recalls.

In 2006, Charles and Kai were named among the 50 top producers in new media by the Producers Guild of America New Media Council.

Charles and Lillian live in the Silicon Valley with their two school-aged daughters.

Inspired by Charles’s experience studying abroad, Charles and Lillian have generously endowed the Charles Huang Advanced Study of Chinese Fund at UC Berkeley. Their gift will enable up to 50 Berkeley students to gain a deep understanding of Chinese language and culture by exposing them to two summers of study in Beijing along with specialized Chinese studies during the school year at Berkeley. “When you get a chance to spend time in other parts of the world, you see things differently,” Charles says.