Lecturer Mike Reddy: I get to play games for a living

Mike Reddy

Dr Mike Reddy FRSA teaches computer games at the University.

I'm an independent game designer - most recently card and board games, because their simplicity teaches a lot about clean design - and a BAFTA judge and games journalist, which also means I get to play games for a living.

How did you get into it?
I sort of fell in and out of it, starting in the very first video games boom in the 80s, but (stupidly) listened to my school careers officer, who told me it was just a fad. So, I went and got a proper job after university, working as a teacher, but I missed computer programming and went into Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) research. Years later, I was asked to help create the World's first ever BSc in Science Fiction, which took me all over the globe helping children in over a dozen countries to build robots. After that impossibly cool task returning to video games seemed quite obvious. I think I've always seen play as important.

What was the most useful learning experience?

Did I mention NOT listening to people telling you that your dreams are impossible? Other than that, I'm afraid to say it's how important Mathematics is. I used to teach children with special educational needs in Leeds, and that made me aware of how useful number skills can be. If you can master Maths no one can cheat or trick you. How important is that?

What do you enjoy about it?
I've rubbed shoulders with some of the giants of the video games industry - Kim Blake (UKIE), Ian Livingstone (Eidos), the Oliver Brothers (Blitz), Richard Wilson (TIGA) and others - but the most pleasure has come from helping graduates start up their first companies, or release their first titles, and having them say 'Thank you'.I spend most of my time helping students to complete their own projects. I love working with creative people. I'm constantly surprised by how clever and innovative they can be, and expect me to be too. It sets a high bar and keeps you on your toes.

What has been the career highlight?
The funniest was when my boss came into my office once and said: "If I ever come in and don't find you playing you're not working." (This really happened!)
However, there have been many times when my ex-students have got great programming jobs, released hit games or won awards, and I have thought: "I had a small part in that."
Advice to people considering this career?

Making games (video or cardboard) is very hard work, with more Maths than you realise, but it's the fun kind. The kind that tells you which pack of cereal is the best value. Or when a deal is just too good to be true. Or whether it is possible to get that sofa up the stairs.  However, it's also massive fun, but massively fun things are always hard work.