Kingsley and his brother Chris struck gold when a major company chose them to develop a new video game in the 1990s. Today, their own games empire, Rebellion, has an annual turnover of more than £12m. He reveals what inspires him…
My passion for games began with Monopoly. I was eight and wanted to make the board game more exciting. So I invented Nuclear Monopoly. My brother Chris and I used wooden pegs as nuclear bombs, which you could buy and then use to blow up your opponent’s houses or streets.
I was fascinated by animals and science. There was no such thing as a computer games degree when I was a student, so I studied zoology at Oxford instead. It has helped in every area of what I do now as it taught me how to analyse data and statistics, solve problems and also not to take people at their word.
Our first break was a huge one. Chris and I set up Rebellion in 1992. We’d worked on some ideas over the years and took a demo to Atari in Slough. They didn’t want to commission our game but asked us to work on another instead. It was Alien vs Predator, which became a number one hit. That was about the best springboard we could have had.
The biggest lesson I’ve learnt in business is caution. There are good people and bad people. When you start
a business you assume that everyone will play fair but they don’t always.
Ideas can come from anywhere. From things you read, things you see, conversations you have, and even from your competitors. I play other people’s games in my spare time so I can consume their productivity.
I switch off by talking to my horse. Yes, seriously. After a long day at work there’s nothing I love more than jumping on my horse and going for a ride in the countryside. It gives me a break from technology and I offload by chatting to my horse, which is great as he doesn’t answer back! It also puts my brain into neutral and helps me process things.
Jousting is a big passion of mine too. I have been doing it for seven years now and am a trustee of the Royal Armouries. It is one of a few extreme fighting sports where there is no defence. You just need to look after what you can do and if somebody is going to hit you, they are going to hit you. Business is like that – you can’t account for whatever other people are going to do, you roll with the hits.
I haven’t had a holiday for 20 years. At least, not the kind that involves lying in the sun and doing nothing. It’s my idea of hell. I have to be researching something or exploring – otherwise it seems like a waste of time. I last went to Petra in Jordan to research game ideas.
Mum is our mediator. Working with my brother, Chris, is brilliant but we do occasionally have differences. If we can’t resolve them, we ask our mum. She usually says, ‘Boys, sort it out and stop being silly.’ But it rarely happens as we are mostly grown up about things.
Walk softly and carry a big stick. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learnt in business and in life. Do the best you can and be a nice person but always be prepared to defend yourself when you need to.
Read how adventure made Jason Kingsley a better leader here