There has been exciting recent progress in the study of the quantum nature of black holes through the use of certain exactly solvable models. This work shows how to realize, in concrete terms, various long-held expectations about quantum gravity, such as the transition from describing physics in terms of smooth spacetimes to a description in terms of the underlying quantum microstates. Random matrix models are central to the discussion, and provide fascinating connections to several other fields in statistical physics, chaotic dynamics, and mathematics. It is explained why it is crucial to use both t’Hooftian and Wignerian perspectives to uncover all the physics. Possible lessons for the program of quantum gravity in more general settings are discussed.