Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Childhood dreams

When I was a kid, I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to write novels or write games.
Neither was likely, I thought, and by the time I was in my twenties I was pretty damn sure I didn’t have what it took to do either. Writing prose, I discovered, was tough, and I didn’t have the discipline. Meanwhile, the games industry only had room for the supremely talented, the ones who lived and breathed coding.
By the time I hit thirty, though, games were big, and the studios had grown. A coder no longer needed to be an obsessive genius, the studios needed us ordinary folk too. I thought: what the hell. Why not give it a try?
Half a dozen interviews later, I had a job at The Creative Assembly, a studio that had just released Shogun: Total War. I would stay there for the next thirteen years, and I loved it.
I worked on Rome: Total War, and the BBC and History channel programme Time Commanders; Empire, Napoleon, Shogun 2, and Rome 2 followed. I was lucky enough to be one of those who picked up a BAFTA, representing the whole team, for Shogun 2.
There was something else, though. Landing that job, and fulfilling a childhood dream, had made me try my hand at writing again. It was in 2004, just after the launch of the original Rome: Total War, that I started writing Reviver. It took me a while, but in June 2013, it was published, and I had a further two novels in the series to write. Thing is, working in the games industry isn’t easy. It’s hard work, and it needs dedication. At times, it takes every piece of spare time, and every drop of energy you have. It was nine years from starting on Reviver to publication, and suddenly I had to finish a book in a year.
Then, last October, Legendary Pictures bought the movie rights to the novel, and things changed. I handed in my notice, with the longest notice period they’d ever had: I’d see Rome 2 through to release, and then I would go full time as a writer.
It was all a bit of a whirlwind, of course. The ‘every piece of spare time and every drop of energy’ rule had come into play for Rome 2, and as a result Reviver Book 2 was running late, but then, suddenly, it was time. My last day was Friday 13th, exactly thirteen years after I’d joined. No omens there!
I bade a fond farewell to my colleagues, and wished them the best of luck with all future projects. As a leaving gift, I got a giant bag of jelly babies and a bottle of JD the size of my head.
I wasn’t a game developer any more, but one childhood dream had been replaced with another: I was a full-time writer.
And I had a bottle of JD the SIZE OF MY HEAD.
This may not have been a childhood dream, but... maybe it should have been? There can be no downside to that one.