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Tête-à-Tête with Ian Livingstone

Ian Livingstone the fantasy author and entrepreneur was in the city and Exhibit caught up with him for an exclusive interview. Being ranked 16th Most Influential Person in UK’s digital Economy, he is currently the Life President of Eidos. Some of the accolades he has received include, In 2002, the BAFTA Interactive Special Award for outstanding contribution to the industry in 2002. appointment as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2006 New Year Honours, and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours, both for services to the computer gaming industry. In 2011, Livingstone received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Bournemouth University. In a candid conversation, we spoke to him about everything from his favourite video game to issues like piracy.\n\nHere is the exclusive interview.\n\n1. In general, what is your opinion on the gaming industry today?\n\nThe gaming industry is growing at an incredible rate with annual sales of US$ 50 Billion. It has been predicted to grow to US$ 90 Billion by 2015. It is mass market entertainment. It is no longer an entertainment choice for children, now everyone plays games. If you want high end cinematic experience in gaming you have games like FIFA, Tomb Raider, etc for hardcore gamers. Other game enabled platforms like Smartphones, Facebook, etc have created something for everybody. It has grown because of the active involvement of a gamer rather than a passive involvement like watching a movie. A player is in control of the action in a game whereas a director is in control in case of a film.\n\n2. Do you think gaming giants like Electronic Arts, Sega, Eidos, Rockstar, etc are dominating the market or is there still room for new players?\n\nYes. I think we are witnessing it right now. There is an explosion of independent companies making games on several platforms. Flash based games over the web, smartphones, etc and on operating systems like Android and iOS. Some major players are emerging from Asia. The games have moved from a box product to a service, from analogue to digital. These things are giving opportunity to a lot of new players. Social games on smartphones and over the web are growing phenomenally.\n\n3. As a child, which was your favourite video game?\n\nAs a child, most of these gaming technologies did not exist. I have played several board games but with the changing times I moved to digital gaming. Over the years, since 1996 I have been a fan of Tomb Raider. Apart from this, I like playing Championship Manager. I am also fond of playing Clash of Titans on my tablet. I have played Facebook games like Farmville and Village Life. The amazing thing about gaming today is that there is something to suit every mood.\n\n4. Tell us something about Games Workshop\n\nI started Games Workshop with two school friends Steve Jackson and John Peake. We first started distributed Dungeon and Dragons in UK. Then we also launched War Hammer. It continues throughout the day and we sold the company in 90’s and now it is public company. The magazine has a monthly circulation of 2,50,000.\n\n5. You have been involved with Tomb Raider, what is the groundwork and pre planning that goes behind creating an extensive game like this one.\n\nIt is a huge team effort. You can imagine that it is a huge team and it takes number of years to create a game like Tomb Raider. The team comprises of highly skilled computer artists, animators, programmers, artificial intelligence programmers, designers, storytellers, script writers, musicians, etc working together to bring out this wonderful cinematic experience. So the skills required to making a game are huge. In a game you have to create a game engine on which the entire structure will sit. These are wonderful alive worlds being manipulated by the player in real time. It requires expertise and creating that code is phenomenal.\n\n7. How important is character creation in fantasy games? Lara Croft has became a phenomena and as a character it immediately rings a bell.. Can you throw some light on that?\n\nThe character has to resonate with the human spirit. Lara Croft has survived the test of time in a similar way like James Bond has. Males like Lara Croft and females like Lara Croft and you can be Lara Croft in the game of course. In the new Tomb Raider, it plays to the core strengths of the original franchise. Its core strengths are exploration, adventure puzzle solving and combat. In this game, it is all about survival. There is an element of gritty realism. All this makes the new Tomb Raider a wonderful experience.\n\n8. Having been ranked as the 16th most influential person in UK’s digital economy, how does that feel?\n\nIt feels great. What I have done is managed to convince the secretary of the state for education in Computer Sciences. It is a very important skill to have. 2 years ago, we looked at the whole scenario of computer science and figured the problem lied in the education and the curriculum. Children were learning how to use word, powerpoint and excel. But they were given no insight on how it was made. They were users but not makers of technology. Which was sad, as they could read but they could not write, they could play games but no create them. We realised that computer science was an important aspect that needs to be added to the school curriculum. The secretary of state took it into consideration. This is one of the reason why I received the title of being the 16th Most Influential Person in UK’s Digital Economy.\n\n9. According to you where is the gaming industry headed? With the growing piracy concerns, how can gaming companies tackle it?\n\nPiracy is a major issue that does not occur to people that they are doing a crime. One is not paying for something they are using. It is no surprise that people are doing whatever to tackle piracy. We have copyright laws but people ignore the law. So they have to be challenged in other ways. If you pirate a free game, that is still good for the game manufacturer as the revenue models still exist. Tons of game console makers are taking precautions too. Microsoft recently announced that the XBOX 720 will have a system wherein each CD will be watermarked in such a way that CD’s would work only on one dedicated console.\n\n10. RPG’s, Sports, Arcade or Simulation, which of these genres appeal to you as a gamer?\n\nI am too old to be good at FIFA. My dexterity is going down. Although I do love the game. I like simulation gaming.\n\n11. What is your opinion on the Indian Gaming industry.\n\nI think there similar talent here and the ability to make games. The domestic market here is very big. Everyone is equipped with a certain gaming device like a smartphone or something. A 1.2 Billion user market is a potential one. If one wants faster growth, they have to look at the global market. One has to also look at the cultural issues. Indian companies are looked upon as outsourcing houses, not full production but that will change.\n\n12. In one word, tell us what do you think about the following:\n\nGaming: Fun Writing: Creativity Indian Gaming Industry: Potential Gaming industry abroad: Exploding Eidos Interactive: Passion Sega: Sonic Electronic Arts: Power House.

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