The Tenth Year

And so concludes my tenth year in the games industry. I can’t remember my exact start date at Free Radical back in 2003, but it was sometime around the end of August. I looked at my archived Gmail Inbox to see if I could nail down a more accurate date, but what do you know, Gmail didn’t open its doors until 2004.

Gmail

Leaving University was a scary prospect; I had all this education and no idea what I wanted to do. I fired my CV scatter-shot at the games industry, no company was safe from my ambition. I secretly hoped that Revolution would return my call; their studio was in York just a few doors away from my frequented watering holes, and they made the Broken Sword series, some of my favourite games of all time. Ultimately, just three out of over fifty companies returned my call:

1. Epic, to say “sorry, you have no experience” (and I’ve always respected them for replying).

2. Big Blue Box to say “try again in a few months” (they later merged with Lionhead).

3. Free Radical Design to say “hey do you want to make AI on the next Timesplitters?”

I’d applied to non-games industry jobs too, and ultimately it boiled down to just two offers. One from the secretive government agency HMGCC (I could tell you what they do, but men in black suits would descend from helicopters and take me away), and one from Free Radical. The obvious course of action was to draw up a list of pros and cons, a list which I randomly found in a box a few months ago; click below to see the full thing.

gamble

Ten years, five blockbuster games, four companies, two countries and a baby later, it seems like a distant memory. I’ve had the good fortune to work with and become friends with brilliant people, two of whom deserve a special mention: Hasit Zala was my boss at Free Radical and threw me in at the deep end making the AI for Timesplitters 3, teaching me more in the first six months there than I learned during my entire Masters degree; and Damian Isla was my boss at Bungie who taught me how to think about AI analytically.

And now I’m living in beautiful California, with an amazing daughter who surprises me daily, working with people I love on projects that challenge and excite me, with great friends not only here in Santa Monica but at a distance; from Orange County to Seattle and across North America, back in the UK, and even over in Australia. I don’t think  I would have predicted this transition in a million years.

changes

I’m not one for profundity, but my friend Nelly made a post on Facebook recently that I thought I would echo.

I would not consider myself to be the most adventurous person but the risks that I have taken in my life have led to such amazing experiences, locations, and connections with truly amazing people.

Don’t settle, take chances and get off your ass! You’ll love it!

- Nelly, 25th Aug 2013

And sorry mother, but I don’t think games are just a phase I’m going through any more.

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