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5:30pm on Friday, 3rd November, 2017:

Past and Future


Christos visited me today!

Christos is one of my former students. I mention him in lectures to my current students, where I indeed refer to him as my best former student. I have had (and indeed still have) some absolutely world-class, outstanding students, but Christos shades it because he's the only one of them who WROTE AN ACTUAL MMORPG as his final-year project. He must have spent every waking hour on it outside of his other lectures. Gawd knows how he managed it.

As for why he gets mentioned in my lectures, hmm, well actually also he's mentioned in my book MMOs from the Inside Out, so why don't I just cut and paste what it says there?

One of my students once dropped into my office at a moment critical for the completion of his final-year project. He was supposed to spending every waking moment finishing it in time for the deadline, but instead he'd invested six crucial hours indulging a sudden fascination with the inner workings of the Palestine Liberation Organizsation in the 1970s. He was frustrated and angry that he'd allowed himself to do this, because how was he ever going to become a designer if he could so easily be distracted at a time when he should have been directing all his energy towards his project? As a Greek, he didn't have any connection with the Middle East and had no idea why he'd suddenly felt compelled to learn about the PLO's management structure of decades earlier.

I told him that, quite to the contrary, it meant he was absolutely designer material. When I myself was an undergraduate, and was supposed to be revising studying for a programming examination, I spent two (it might even have been three) days reading about pagodas in the library.

That student was Christos.

Sadly for the games industry, he was recruited by a start-up (Vivino) doing a mobile app for wine comparison, which sounds rather niche until you find out they have 26m users who have scanned 473m wine labels to get instant ratings from a database of 12m wines. The company employs over a hundred people and is based in Copenhagen; I suppose it makes sense that it would be started in a country that has no wine-producing industry of its own, because no-one there will know the slightest thing about the subject and will therefore be more likely to explore the possibilities. Of course, I don't know the slightest thing about the subject myself, but that's because I don't drink alcohol and would only explore the possibilities of using it as a cleaning fluid or something with which to start fires. I'm somewhat in a minority, though.

Christos was back in the UK to pick up an award at the London Business School. He was allocated a minute to give his acceptance speech, along with a very strict set of guidelines on whom he was allowed to thank and how many times he could mention his company. He instead used his minute to get the audience to install his app. I suspect the guidelines may be changed as a result of this, but I can't tell you how pleased I was to hear what he'd done.

Once a game designer, always a game designer.

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Copyright © 2017 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).