No doubt you really deserve it. Here's the link to Frankenstein.
Who has learnt more from the other? Did your wife teach you something important for your career? Did you teach her?
I’ve been doing it longer, so I taught her to begin with. But writing is one of those crafts where you are always learning. The jujutsu 3rd Dan sees a toddler take a tumble and get up unscathed and he thinks, “I need to learn to fall like that.” So I teach Roz, she teaches me, and we both learn from everything we see and do.
Can you imagine how much envy you unleash? I mean, you’ve made money writing RPGs, videogames, gamebooks, writing about fantasy, game systems… Probably you are the dream made flesh for every geek on this planet! You are 57 years old and keep playing RPGs and board games with your friends. That’s something that just a few from the elite can say… We could say that you made a career with your hobby, and this is the dream of so many. But have you ever felt like, you know, "now this is not just a funny hobby but a job, and it’s not so funny since it's a job..." Have you ever felt affected due to the "job factor", the "this is now something serious factor"?
It’s true that a lot of people who make their hobby into a career end up hating both. I’m definitely lucky there. I guess I’ve managed that by keeping creative control – not on all the things I’ve worked on, but most. I don’t work well if I try to jump through someone else’s hoops. By choosing to work mostly on things I love, I’ve continued to love the work.
Imagine you can drive a DeLorean back to your teenager years. Would you do the same? What would you like to say to the 70s Dave Morris? Maybe “forget RPGs dude! You should study economics and become a broker!”
I could have a thousand lives and never want to become a broker! I have friends from my college days who took that route and – okay, if it worked out for them, fine, good luck to them – but for me it would be like signing away my soul.
What I probably would say to my younger self would be, “Write comics much sooner, you’re going to really love doing that,” and, “Get into videogame design a bit later.” The reason for that is when I started in games in the mid-90s, nobody knew what the designer was for. Games were being developed with no spec, no change control. So I’d spend most of each day fighting for the role in the team rather than actually doing the creative stuff.
That had an upside, though. By forcing me out of my comfort zone into management and development methodology I got to understand the end-to-end process – which you have to if you’re going to fill that creative director role. But it was a slog in those days, and at Eidos we were based at corporate HQ and there was a quagmire of politics to contend with. When I got to Elixir Studios in the early 2000s, that was like, “Oh boy, where has this been all my life?” The process there was so fully evolved, thanks to Demis Hassabis and his co-founders, that you could just get on with the job we were all there to do: making great games.
Actually that’s my one big regret. I wouldn’t take the DeLorean back to the ‘70s, I’d go back just a few years to when Demis was setting up a new company after Elixir had folded. He asked me to join but I was tied up with Fabled Lands. On reflection, I allowed a sense of duty to over-ride my heart – and that’s always a mistake. Trust your intuition.
You have a degree in physics and you were (and are, I suppose) interested in subatomic physics. Do you think that the day when subatomic physics will be applied to physics will arrive? You know: someone that’s able to be in two places at the same time and all this crazy stuff that is mentioned in that questionable documentary where a guy is able to emotionally affect to water and so on… something about a rabbit’s hole or so (I thought there were too many charlatans there…)
Hmm. I’ve met bottles of beer I’ve been pretty fond of, but talking to water, that’s plain daft.
I’m pretty wary about any attempt to map quantum effects, which occur on the smallest scale imaginable, into everyday life. To put it into perspective, we live our lives on Earth about midway between the quantum scale and the size of the observable universe. Quantum processes do have an aggregate effect, sure, but we call that aggregate classical Newtonian physics!
However, Jim Al-Khalili has just written a book, Quantum Life, and I’m going to read that because he’s not one of these hand-waving “quantum magic” tricksters. He’s a bona fide theoretical physicist, highly respected in this field, and so if he’s arguing that quantum effects are significant enough in the macroscopic world to be exploited by evolution, I’ll listen. He’s still going to have to come up with some impressive evidence to convince me, though. Nobody gets a free pass from me just because of who they are.
You’re not just an avid writer but an avid reader too. Which is the last book you found remarkable?
That would be Titus Groan. I began reading the Gormenghast books when I was 20, but gave up after a few chapters because I found it hard going. What a shame that was! If I had read them back then, it would have changed everything I wrote. Maybe I’ll mention that when I take the DeLorean trip.