Feature – GameCityNights: GameCity 7 Launch Special Interview with Ian Livingstone

Posted: May 11, 2012 in Feature, GameCity

GameCity 7 will soon be upon us, and with us this festival launch at the usual hangout Antenna was Ian Livingstone OBE, co-founder of the Fighting Fantasy series of books and co-founder of Games Workshop. Now Life President and CEO of Eidos Interactive, there is no question that this man is a pioneer of the fantasy genre and a legend with video games. On this night he sat across GameCity Director Iain Simons, with chairs positioned Parkinson-style.

I will make one major disclaimer right now. The recording of this night on my camera was of shocking quality sound wise. I’ve listened to the whole interview at least 5 times whilst making this transcript and whilst it’s not 100% accurate, it’s a very faithful representation!

25 or 26? It’s on there somewhere…

We trace Ian Livingstone’s roots back to a school, Altringham Grammar School. Livingstone praised his favourite teacher – Roy Coleman, who recognised and endorsed individuality and creativity in an environment which promoted old fashioned values. Along with the aid of Google Streetview, we saw the school and travelled along to Livingstone’s former flat. There was some confusion as to whether it was 25-26 Bolingbroke Road, but they were next to each other so we had them in the same shot.

Iain Simons: Did this all start at school?
Ian Livingstone: No not really. I had a good imagination, I read a lot of comics, and I read a lot of science fiction. I like stuff of the imagination and being taken to a world which isn’t real life. I love escapism and I love games. I played Monopoly, I was on the chess team. It was this combination of games and books and enjoyment.

Simons: So you and Steve moved to London together?
Livingstone: No, Steve went off to Cambridge. Steve and I moved to London and both of us managed to get jobs and we decided to live together, with a man who was John Peake. We didn’t have much money so we ended up just playing board games. And that’s the idea of ‘how can we turn our hobby into a career?’ began.

Simons: It began as mail order from there?
Livingstone: What happened was John was a very good craftsman, he was an engineer by trade so he started making the wooden models, traditional board games like Backgammon then I’d go sell them which was amazing.

Simons: Where did you sell these games?
Livingstone: There was just one game shop in the area which sold just games and we even managed to sell some in Harrods, we’d go into habitat buy faulty redwood and turn them into solid wooden games and pieces.

Location confirmed. Not 25 or 26, but 15 Bolingbroke Road.

Simons: And so it was starting to gather pace?
Livingstone: In 1975 we decided to communicate to the world Games Workshop existed, so we made Owl and Weasel magazine, worth 10p, made from an old typewriter with random letters since we didn’t have enough letters of each. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson invented Dungeons and Dragons, people ask who did what and it’s difficult to say, Arneson created a lot of the original rules but Gygax created the original game which preceded D&D Chainmail. But it doesn’t matter – they did it together. We were sent a copy in a brown box. Steve, John and I played it, John said it was the most disgusting thing ever created but Steve and I loved it. We loved the escapism. We decided we wanted do this and nothing else. John said he wanted to continue creating traditional board games and sadly left. We ordered six copies of D&D and on the back of that exclusive distribution rights for the whole of Europe for 3 years due to our significant order, and what we didn’t realise was that Gygax was working out of his apartment too and we found out we were two role playing businessmen without a role playing game.

Simons: And that turned into a tremendous success?
Livingstone: We did sell first our six copies quite easily, then ordered more, selling through Owl and Weasel and since we called ourselves Games Workshop people started thinking people thinking that it was a real shop. People were gathering outside our window expecting a shop, much to the annoyance of our landlord with people milling around the street and the increasing parcels being delivered. Since we had no mobile phones and we didn’t have a phone in our flat, we had to use the public payphone on the ground floor. Every time it rang we had to run downstairs in case it was an order for GW. Unfortunately we couldn’t answer every phone call and on Friday, Paddy was normally worse for wear, and when the phone would ring, Steve or I would rush down the stairs but sometimes we were too late “Ooh, you want Games Workshop do ya? Well you can piss off!” and we understood the value of public relations from then on, but it made people even more determined to order from us.

Simons: And the way you communicated this turned into White Dwarf?
Livingstone: After 5 issues of Owl and Weasel June 1977, it became White Dwarf.

Simons: Since there was no Twitter and the like back then, can you give an impression of scale of such a project back in those days?
Livingstone: At its high point Owl and Weasel had 200 subscribers, for White Dwarf we had originally ordered 4000 copies which was a big risk for us. By 1977 there were individual shops selling D&D and other things we had imported, went to Gencon ‘76 with other people from Judges Guild and Fantasy Games Unlimited, we found out a lot. It was a funny time as had been thrown out of apartment prior, so I stuck all stock into the girlfriend at the time’s flat and went to the bank to ask for a loan. But the man at the bank didn’t understand games and when asked about funding for something like D&D he looked at us like an Alsatian watching TV. Steve and I had to live in van for 3 months; we had found a small office round the back of an estate agents next to a squash club which we joined. Out of van at 7:30 and straight into the squash club for shower, shave and whatnot, became very good at squash by default. Afterwards it was into the office for 12 hours and then into the back of Steve’s stinky van to listen to the rain tipple down. That was OK, since I was 26 at the time and when you start a business you don’t care, it’s not seen as hardship. It’s all part of fun and controlling your own destiny, at least you’re trying. It’s better to try and fail than not try at all. I’m absolutely unemployable now as I was back then as I had no desire to work for other people.

Simons: Did you have a sense of what you were trying to build?
Livingstone: No, we were following a dream turning a hobby into a business, and we were creating the market since there wasn’t a market, no one had done this before so we were probably making loads of mistakes and learning from those mistakes, everything was being funded by cash flow as you couldn’t borrow money, especially for this weirdo dragon weirdy thing.

The first Games Workshop. Actually a shop to avoid confusion.

Simons: You couldn’t take it to retail as like the banks, retailers just didn’t get it?
Livingstone: Some did, but not enough which precipitated us making our own shop, the mail order was round the back of the estate agents had become too small so had to find a shop and in April 1978 the first Games Workshop opened.

Simons: Tell us about GW early days, the sense of community and the feel of an open educational opportunity.
Livingstone: We felt a sense of community as we were gamers ourselves, it wouldn’t work if we sold frying pans – we’d hire traditional retailers work in our shops. Since games require certain amount of knowledge we hired gamers, they may have looked crazy and weird and gothic but that didn’t matter since their passion, knowledge and experience was so great that it kept people coming back and learning, eventually buying into it. They were brilliant retailers due to passion of the subject and building this community, it felt comfortable using gamers, as using non gamers to sell our stuff it would be awkward and it was better to create this community.

Simons: Did you find yourself doing vertical integration and controlling the manufacturing and distributing and the retail, that wasn’t by design but a matter of necessity?
Livingstone: We took the glory for that but it was absolute tosh, it was by necessity. We had a fantastic business plan and promoted our own product by our own newsletter. We did it only because we’d been rejected from all quarters. We created White Dwarf since no one wanted to write about role playing games. We opened our own store since no one wanted to sell role playing games and we created own miniatures as the US ones were too expensive to import so everything was done to serve our own purpose.

Simons: Obviously the store was successful, at what point did investors show up?
Livingstone: We did manage to secure a bank loan, but the banks still didn’t understand the content and they only lend money when you can categorically prove you don’t need it. So we got small loan, which helped to fund expansion, published under license and publish D&D – that was only a 3 year deal in 1978 and we had to make a big decision. After the 3 years Gary Gygax said they wanted to merge TSR and GW, as one unit. Steve and I were violently independent as people from the UK are and realised if we wanted to survive and remain independent they would need a new IP which gave rise to getting the guys from Citadel to create Warhammer, led by Brian Ansell, Richard Halliwell and Rick Priestly created Warhammer to replace D&D, we continued to distribute D&D but lost exclusivity as TSR set up their own UK operation.

Simons: So over 4-5 years how many stores opened?
Livingstone: We opened around half a dozen quite quickly in Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Birmingham and in further places such as Edinburgh. The manufacturing headquarters was based in Nottingham, the distribution was still in London as we had a large warehouse, when Ansell joined the company he was based in Newark, and had own miniatures company previously. He said he’d run Citadel and it made sense to keep it there than get him coming down to London which wasn’t geographically great for distribution and the labour wasn’t cheap. We eventually moved distribution to the Midlands for same reasons.

Simons: As the business started to grow, you must’ve needed to hire hundreds of staff and the culture was rapidly growing, did you find yourself doing more day to day more executive work?
Livingstone: I suppose it was more executive, I always enjoyed being on the creative side, I did enjoy being on marketing side, way people use social media today is interesting and we wish we had that back then. I was mainly concerned with opening new stores, marketing new products and ideas for expansion.

Simons: Games Workshop continued to grow and then whole project came to attention of Penguin who wanted to publish book about it?
Livingstone: Yes, we used to run game days and in 1980 other companies such as Penguin were there and didn’t understand why they were there but editor Geraldine Cooke was amazed that 5000 people were in one hall over just for D&D and other role playing games. She asked if Steve and I would write book about role playing. We thought about it and wondered that wouldn’t be better to write book which is role playing rather than writing about it. We thought about it some more, and expanded that adventure it until it became a full book, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. We’d written to George Allen in London about writing an adventure title on Lord of The Rings and got a very quick rejection letter, which was a relief otherwise we would’ve created material for other company who wouldn’t have the IP as we do in Fighting Fantasy, after a year of deliberation, Cooke said let’s do it. Then the question came of whether to publish with Puffin or Penguin book – It was decided that it was more suited for children and we published The Warlock of Firetop Mountain with Puffin in August 1982, and they didn’t do any marketing whatsoever. The big developers and marketing people didn’t get it, it looked like normal book but wasn’t when you opened it. They’d never seen an interactive book before. Warlock didn’t do well in its first week, so Steve and I mentioned it in White Dwarf and sales grew. It started in one or two schools, and the power of word of mouth went from playground to playground and it eventually went out of print. Penguin still couldn’t get their head around it so reprinted and reprinted, about 10 reprints of small numbers of 5000 each.  The editor said we’d need 2 more. Since it was a nightmare writing first one together, Steve and I wrote our next ones separately. It became a phenomenon.

Simons: And at one time even outselling Roald Dahl. Did this give you time to create a whole new IP?
Livingstone: We had been running GW between 1975-82, tried to carry running between 1982-85 but they were hectic days, GW was expanding like crazy and then going home after a hard days’ work and writing books, we were only young people. It doesn’t seem that hard but it was starting to have an effect so we got someone to run GW. In 1985 Ansell became managing director.

Simons: The Fighting Fantasy books were phenomenal and came to attention of Mark and Dominic and Domark, who were very excited.
Livingstone: They were two young buck marketing executives who decided they wanted to make career in video games, I’m glad they did because this is really how I became involved with video games. We also licensed our Fighting Fantasy books into Commodore 64 games.

Simons: Did you play these games?
Livingstone: I had a Commodore PET 8000 with zero memory and it seemed great at the time, my next computer was an Amiga.

Simons: So you were aware games were becoming popular, were big board games still a passion?
Livingstone: Yeah we’d licensed our wares and I still liked the social activity, the ability to look people in eye and then stab them in the back, it’s a great thing.

Simons: Domark came to you with the proposition which was Eureka!
Livingstone: With Desktop Dungeons at the top of charts Domark wanted somebody like me to create the first game for them. I wasn’t, and I’m still not a programmer, so they found a team in Hungary.

Simons: And this was on the back of the Kit Williams Masquerade book?
Livingstone: Yes. There was a prize of £25,000 to whoever solved the mystery in the game. There were clues hidden in the game and the programming and even in the illustrations in the rule book. Once you found all these clues it gave you a phone number, which you dialled. I remember on national TV handing over a cheque.

The screen behind displays a recorded message from an old friend of Ian Livingstone, Robert Bond, Partner and Notary Public at Speechly Bircham.

Robert Bond: Congratulations on being interviewed this evening on what I imagine will be a very successful event; we worked in 1984-5 on Eureka! a fantastic game from Domark which you designed and whoever cracked the code got a phone number to an answer phone of mine, I used to come home each day waiting for the message and one day I did, only to find it was a heavy breather who had the wrong number by chance. Then a few weeks later a little chap called Matt Woodley claimed the prize, who was a young teenager at the time. You somehow took him under your wing at Domark on bringing in new ideas on what kids wanted in their games. You thought he was so good you offered him a job at Domark, he went to become director of Domark, Domark became Eidos and the rest is history. Your mentoring and your commitment to the industry means it’s an honour and a privilege to be talking with you today and long may you continue to serve the industry.

Simons: Eureka! was a pretty big success.
Livingstone: It did put them on the map and since it was early days for computer games at the time it made people pay attention to Domark. Since they were also marketing people they did good deals and their vision was to get lots of licences. Domark got Bond, Formula 1, Prince of Persia and Trivial Pursuit. Which was odd for me because I was always interested in creating my own IP, from the early days of D&D we were like if it doesn’t belong to you, you’re no more than a parcel forwarder. And if you want to create real value and determine own destiny which I’ve always wanted to do you have to create retain ownership of own IP. So for me it was Warhammer and Fighting Fantasy and Eidos wanted to create new and original content, which is their own IP such as Tomb Raider, Hitman, Just Cause, Deus Ex, Thief and Championship Manager.

Simons: Tell us bit about 1991 you ended up leaving Games Workshop…
Livingstone: Nah, I’m going to leave that… Yeah 1991 was selling GW. We’d been in GW for long time, in hindsight I don’t think I should’ve sold out completely, maybe retained ownership a little of what once was our baby. But I have no serious regrets. It’s like a child leaving home, you start them off in life and they start doing their own thing. It’s good to see GW is not doing much different from what we set out to do, except now it’s on a larger scale due to larger funding. It’s still basically the same thing, there’s still Warhammer, still in their own shops, there’s still White Dwarf, they still have games days and painting demos and creating a uniquely hobby atmosphere. And it still lives on, I don’t have financial interest but still delighted about it being around.

Simons: As an entrepreneur, do you feel that when you’re getting to a certain point, is it acceptable for others to be taking over. Do you think this is a British thing, that kind of separation of business and creative talent ?
[Derek Note: I could only make out a few words of this question so filled in the blanks based on the answer given. Sorry readers!]
Livingstone: I think UK is uniquely creative, not just in games but in film, music, TV, fashion, architecture, advertising, whatever. But we’re not always great at business. I believe that you should do what you’re good at and not what you’re bad at, if you’re good at creating content you have no business selling toilet rolls, doing VAT, cash projections,  you should have understanding but shouldn’t be forced to do it, have a partner who has business dealings to grow your business. Don’t be so protective as to let any equity go as you’ll need that person for the company to grow, how would you grow a Google or a Twitter without it? You have to make sure there are business skills so the creative people can create, you don’t lose complete control or the kudos of what’s still your business.

Simons: We’re going to bring in a special guest, we normally do this sort of thing. It’s someone you may be familiar with.

Livingstone: Oh no… It’s the man with the can

Simons:  Say hello Peter
Audience: Hello Peter!
Molyneux: On my screen I’m frozen in a Simon Cowell face looking down on Ian Livingstone, which I’ve always thought it’s the way it should be. This is my home, I’m in the office.
Simons:  Everyone here is excited that you’re coming to festival.
Livingstone:  I tried putting them off having you by the way Peter.
Molyneux:  I can imagine it went swimmingly until you put your tuppence in.
Simons: We were just talking about Ian’s career and his contribution to games, before we get into an overview of it, one thing we were talking about is the relationship between creative and business people, ideas and units of IP which can generate brands, money and jobs and the difficulties in British business culture in this respect. You’ve had some experience of this in your career; do you have any reflection on this?
Molyneux: Yeah it’s an interest thing, there’s no doubt in my mind that the British are wonderfully creative and we have crazy ideas, statistically for a long time a third of games started off with British ideas, and they were probably all from Ian. We are awful of not having confidence to exploit those ideas. It’s frustrating that other talented people leave for other countries, especially Americans who come in and buy various companies, like two of mine – not that I’m complaining. But it’s sad that there’s not much of British talent and that’s one thing Ian did do, he was at the helm of a hugely successful franchise of Tomb Raider, and his ability to match creativity with that business is astounding. That said he cheats at board games. He always stabs me in back.
Livingstone:  In the games night league table who is at the bottom? Last time I looked I think it was you.
Molyneux: That’s exactly right, but who writes the table?
Livingstone:  Me.
Molyneux:  Need I say more.
Livingstone:   I’m not a hardnosed businessman, I’m more interested and involved with content creation and direction, I’m not the guy to cut the best deal or do the distribution or scale of a business like the Americans are able to scale a business to the size of Twitter or Google or Facebook. You need a certain driven mentality to become global on a massive scale, I think we have different ambitions in the UK.

Simons:  Have both of you have come to point where you’re both involved with big global companies and taken step back?
Livingstone:  Everyone can make difference. If you write a book, clearly you’re making a big difference as you do it all. When working in small agile teams to be able to reach global audiences today, this second golden age of games everyone’s migrating to in a hurry to get the satisfaction in a short amount of time, and get quick feedback. If someone writes one good thing about something I’ve created that makes me happy. If I’m part of small team doing a small job over a period of 3 years and 200 in that team and it may or may not be successful for me is less rewarding, but I’m thoroughly proud with Tomb Raider but it was a big team effort. There is a different criteria but I like being on the creative side in smaller team.
Molyneux:  It’s the same with me with the path of least resistance, I’m lucky as I’m in a position that people listen to an idea I may have and in a small development team of around 20 people, it’s the best place to nurture into a successful product, all working passionately on one thing.
Simons:  Peter, one thing we’ve been working out is reflections on what Ian does, and possible to distil his talent into few specific things.
Livingstone:   Remember what you say Peter as I write the newsletter.
Molyneux:  Don’t worry I’m fully aware, and I also remember and you can’t get any worse than bottom place! But honestly Ian has had this amazing talent to bridge the gap between crazy people like myself and business, government and people who run scared from people like myself and he understands that creative process and adds to that process and is a fantastic intermediary and seen him spot opportunity in a super way to make things better and it’s a very rare talent and it’s a rare talent to be able to cheat at a board game without having been spotted, I’m sure they’re connected. I’ll mention one word: Africa, a board game we played once and Ian managed to stab everyone simultaneously at the same time and still come out the good guy. And to this day I don’t understand how he did that.
Livingstone:  That wasn’t cheating that was just pure skill!
Molyneux:  It probably was skill but it confuses me to believe it was more than just skill.

The floor was open for questions from the audience. One awesome person managed to get the first one in.

Derek Wheatley: You mentioned you were passionate and involved with your creations, how you still doing that now, are you playing games like Tomb Raider games?
Livingstone: You have to play the Tomb Raider games to make any worthwhile comment. I was involved with this reboot creatively, and people afraid of sequalitis so wanted to make a prequel to show how Lara became a Tomb Raider and you’ll find she’s not Teflon coated anymore and she can suffer injuries and is more fragile and create a more emotionally engagement to the character. I’ve spent the last two years writing new Fighting Fantasy books, not because they’ll sell millions of copies because they won’t, the market for it has virtually disappeared. Again it’s for the passion and doing something right. I hate mediocrity, I always try to put my best into everything and in a competitive world you’re almost obliged to do so. I certainly try to do best to win board games with Peter Molyneux and my skill try to engage people in an intelligent and emotional level, if you have a vision you’ve got to engage with people and get them to buy into your dream and make it happen and that’s why I’ve had such success with the next gen campaign and getting everybody on your side, not by telling them but inviting them to share your dream and ambitions.
Wheatley: Have you played Canal mania? [This provided the audience with some laughs]
Livingstone: Is that root canal?
Wheatley: It’s something to do with the amazing waterways of the country.
Livingstone: I’m afraid not but it’s something I’ll look for in the future, did you create it?
Wheatley:  No this is a real game; the other Iain will be able to tell you more brought to our attention at the last GameCityNights.
Livingstone: Iain, are you offering me a free narrowboat holiday?
Wheatley: In hexagonal square form!
Iain explained one of his colleagues run a board game night monthly, the next one was the next day but sadly Ian was having breakfast with the Prime Minister so wouldn’t be able to attend.

Read more about Canal Mania here

Livingstone: I’ve got over 1000 board games but not Canal Mania.
Simons: You want to buy it? Because he’s got it.
Livingstone: I’m not sure if it merits a place on the shelf; (some small boos from the Canal Mania fans) is it good? Is it six players as our group is six, but sometimes one is sick or on holiday so we could cope with five, sounds like I need to have one, OK I’ll buy one!

Question: What do you think of old school revolution of D&D coming back, Fighting Fantasy – I’m looking forward to new book – basically you brought D&D to this country and back then as you stated  you couldn’t get feedback, now we got Skyrim, Game of Thrones are just two examples of epic fantasy, how does it feel to be one who created those things which have now been brought forward i.e. Tomb Raider and GW,  what’s it feel like going from that bedroom, making the wooden games to all these opportunities now, from “go to page 10-20” to magical worlds you can lose yourself which you created as a child.
Livingstone: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my career turning hobby into a business, it’s been a privilege and a luxury, the fact that I’ve been associated with something which has been successful and had an impact on gaming world makes me feel very proud, a little embarrassing to talk about, but fundamentally very proud. It gives a great sense of achievement and knowing people enjoying what I enjoyed is great. A lot of credit has to go to D&D and Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Sadly both of them are no longer with us but without D&D would we have World of Warcraft? I Doubt it, would we have Fighting Fantasy? Perhaps not. The debt really goes further than Steve and I, we’re both pleased with what we’ve done in the UK and help with the building an industry which has always been seen negatively by the press and I’m proud of the games industry and I focus on the positives, things where games are used as a learning tool, a training tool or simple entertainment, and it leads to social engagement interaction, it’s a much more fulfilling and rewarding experience than watching traditional linear entertainment, as you’re solving puzzles and problems and learning intuitively, improving social skills and understanding technology. There are so many good things about games and some of the stupid headlines in the sensationalist press, that’s going to disappear and I’m glad to be helping these stupid opinions go away, as it really is a great industry. There has been success in the UK, you guys are the future, we’ve done our bit and we want that heritage to continue and we want the UK to be the best country in the world in creative content and maintaining ownership of that content and games have been my life and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Question: It’s fair to say you’ve gone from rank outsider to influencer of cabinet policy, with the recent Raspberry Pi initiative with Eben Upton and his team trying to get computer science back into the classroom to get back to basics with programming as a core concept, what are your feelings in that issue and around trying to engage youth of today with programming as more of a relevant concept?
Livingstone: With the Next Gen. skills review I had with the Culture Minister in February last year we launched our report. My main recommendation was adding programming to curriculum as essential discipline. There were so few graduates coming out of university with hard skills and could make games. So many graduates were coming with soft skills and philosophy of games and the social relevance Grand Theft Auto in society, but with no clue how to make them. There are approximately 144 courses in the UK with the word games in them, and they’re simply media courses with media crossed out and games put in wrongly, as it’s not offering true games course. Without designers – for me most important thing – graphics and technology support that experience the design envisages. The Next Gen. report wants to know why there weren’t enough children coming out of schools more wanting to take computer sciences at university, the root cause was it was the ICT being taught in schools which was simply nothing more than office skills and secretarial skills. You were boring kids to death with Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Whilst they were useful office skills they won’t get you a career in creating content, especially not to the games industry. The Next Gen. report was talked about in the games press and a little in regular press but didn’t gain national attention until Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google referenced the report in a lecture. ICT was teaching kids how to use an application but no insight on how to make one. We were effectively teaching children how to read, but not write. The Raspberry Pi is a great help initiative. For £22 you get a Linux OS, educational software in autumn, 256 RAM, iPhone quality video playback. If the kids lose it – who cares just give them a new one. It’s a huge opportunity for the UK to re-establish itself as a leader of creative technology, we are a creative nation but if we don’t we don’t empower our creators with these skills are living in a digital world we are depend on digital economy. Code touches everything, inflates all, not just games, designing cars, financial services, architecture, but cannot build a digital economy by those who are digitally illiterate, we first used brawn, now we’re using our brains, and we are moving going from analogue to manufacturing using code. Wake up.

Question: With the inspirational aspect of the Raspberry Pi, do you have one or are you getting one?
Livingstone: I’m not an educationalist or a programmer. I can’t write a line of code, so if I see that little blank screen on a Raspberry Pi when it’s plugged into a monitor, I wouldn’t know what to do. But I hope you guys can benefit from it and I hope this device is going to help transform the nation. I will be getting one of course.

Question: What is your favourite game?
Livingstone: I don’t have a particular favourite. Like I can’t decide on my favourite movie or restaurant, it depends how you feel at time, whether you’re playing on a console, or on an iPhone, single player or multiplayer and it’s the same when talking board games. At our games night we play what we call a game of substance, it’s usually a big game ending with a battle game for fun, but the type of games I do like playing are games such as 7 Wonders, the old games such as Puerto Rico and strategy games with building stuff and lots of negotiation.

Question:  When you were saying the difficulty in UK creativity, and people growing businesses and seeking investment, there is great tradition in Britain of gentlemanly descent which is a great spur to all this innovation we’ve achieved and your own story speaks to that. Isn’t there a tension between character of descent and need for certain games to grow as a business and do you think it will always be the case that British creativity will have to partner with foreign businesses like US investors and Far East investors like with Eidos to grow beyond a certain scale because our culture will never have that attitude?
Livingstone: You may well be right; I hope we can understand that businesses shouldn’t be seen as a vulgar trade that people shouldn’t have the skills to build and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. If you make a game and get the whole world to play that game – fantastic, but we have to bond here, we can’t expect the creatures to do it themselves? Same with GW, in hindsight I didn’t want to let it go; don’t be afraid to let a little go without losing control. Don’t let others drive you away.

Question: There is talk about combining games and books and games and board games. Now you see games mimicking films such as Heavy Rain, what’s your opinion on films and games coming together and should there be a line drawn in this regard?
Livingstone: That’s the beauty between games industry, you can have so many ways of presenting the proposition, whether an interactive cinema experience for a simple puzzle game on a mobile device, it’s up to the individual and there’s room for everything the industry grows with more diverse content, more socially inclusive, with people young and old playing games together in the living room or connected over the internet, technology grows with innovation in games and that for me makes it so much more compelling than traditional linear entertainment because of the variety of different ways of consuming and enjoying this interactive media we love so much I don’t think any line should be drawn, people should make what they want to make and let the public decide.

Simons: That’s an excellent and very optimistic answer, thank you do much for coming tonight, hope you’ve had an enjoyable night
Livingstone: my pleasure
Simons: Ian has about 20 minutes left to sign copies of some fighting fantasy books, once he’s signed mine.

I didn’t have anything to sign, but I went up for a picture anyway, for opportunities like this don’t come along often.

Ian Livingstone and myself. Drunk and awe in equal measure.

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