The day I met David Braben

Posted by on Jul 8, 2014 in Progress Report

 

kindlelogoDrew’s book as referenced in this blog post is now available on Amazon.

 

They say, never meet your heroes. I’ve not followed that advice.

I’m fortunate to have met mine, and as of Monday the 7th of July 2014, that list is now complete, not bad for the age of 43.

Those of you know me well will know that I attended the Royal Institution Christmas lectures in London in 1977 (I was 7). There was a series of talks given, entitled ‘The Planets’. These inspired me on a lifetime of Astronomical discovery, fanning my early love of science and space. The Lecturer’s name will probably be familiar to many of you  – Carl Sagan.

I was one of those kids in the audience. I can remember it like it was yesterday.

Sadly, no longer with us, Carl inspired an entire generation with his amazing grasp of astronomy, and crucially, his ability to communicate it to others. So many people have gone on to pursue careers in the sciences because of him. A great legacy and something I aspire to.

The second major inspiration in my life has also passed on, though more recently. Sir Patrick Moore, a legend in the UK for his endless promotion of Astronomy and avuncular eccentric style (always loved the monocle!) inspired me to actually do Astronomy. I was lucky enough to be invited to visit him in his home at Selsey a few years ago – he even invited me to play his piano.

Patrick Moore

I met Sir Patrick Moore and even played on his piano (next to the Xylophone!)

With one of his books and my Dad’s help I built a telescope from first principles (using a carpet tube and a tired old camera tripod), understanding the physics of light refraction and the difficulties of avoiding colour aberrations in the design. With that homemade telescope I first looked up into space and saw the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn for myself, my wonder no less profound than that experienced by Galileo four hundred years before.

The third, you’ll not be surprised to hear if you’re a regular here, was David Braben. He created a computer game (video game as it was known at the time), which needs little introduction to those reading this blog. I’ve written much about the effect this game had on me and my peers, how it shaped and moulded a generation of school kids. You all know the ‘Elite’ story, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

Suffice to say that Elite, and its accompanying novella  ‘The Dark Wheel’ together made me realise that not only could you think about space in terms of science like Carl, observe it with a telescope like Sir Patrick, but with the phenomenal power of imagination… you could go there. The first thing I wrote was a story in the ‘Elite’ universe – I still have a scrappy piece of paper with it on. Adventure out amongst the stars, who could possibly resist?

They say that one who doesn’t read leads but a single life, but those who read live a thousand. You won’t be surprised to discover I love a story; escapism and all that that entails – and here was a game that let you find your own path to adventure and riches in space. At fourteen years old, I was lost in it.

As of yesterday (7th July) I had the opportunity to meet David Braben at the BAFTA games event in London, Piccadilly. He, through provision of an Elite writer’s license as part of his Kickstarter drive in 2012, has allowed me to write a book in the universe he created. Given that I’ve been a fan of this game for more than 30 years and it started me on a path to writing as a youth, you’ll immediately understand the significance. A circle closed.

I sat through a presentation on the current game which told me very little I didn’t already know having followed it for so long, but that wasn’t the point of course.

It was a pure and simple pleasure just to listen. Listen to the creator of this wonderful universe speak about it with almost boyish enthusiasm; the game play, the design decisions, the physics and the astronomy. “400 Billion star-systems, really?” “Yes, really! And even I don’t know what’s out there…”

Eager and enthusiastic to discuss the game with his fans, he answered questions which must have been asked a thousand times, over and over without a hint of impatience or frustration, so proud of what he and his team have created in this remarkable game.

He acknowledged the phenomenal nature of the fan base around the game, their dedication, their creativity, their enthusiasm, he even acknowledged me as an official writer in front of the audience. I couldn’t have asked for more. If anyone out there continues to doubt that David, and by extension his company Frontier Developments, doesn’t acknowledge and appreciate the enormous fan-base that these games have created – doubt no more. He knows. He gets it.

I get to meet David Braben. (Photo by Steve Jeyes)

I get to meet David Braben. (Photo by Steve Jeyes)

David took time to answer my own questions and wished me luck with my book, genuinely gratified to see that he’d been able to provide that opportunity for me. A firm handshake; a real gentleman.

I can’t really do justice in words (how embarrassing as a writer!) to how I feel as a result. Suffice to say –  I choose my inspiration well. Thank you David Braben OBE.

Thanks to @BAFTAgames and to @GuyCocker for hosting the event. Thanks also to Steve Jeyes for grabbing photos – Right on, Commander!

 

kindlelogoDrew’s book as referenced in this blog post is now available on Amazon.

 

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    9 Comments

  1. I don’t think you’ll ever meet a more approachable and friendly CEO.

  2. Congratulations Drew – I am both extremely jealous and extremely happy (for you).

    I’m glad DB gets it, gets us – I never really doubted it – except for the little voice in the silence of Witchspace…

  3. It was awesome to be there Drew. You’ve been an inspiration to us with your fabulous blog and it was an absolute pleasure to capture the moment you met your hero! 🙂

    • Thanks for taking the photo, Steve. It was more than I hoped for. 🙂

  4. Really pleased for you, Drew. You’ve been working like a Dervish for eighteen months and it’s great you’ve had a moment that makes it all feel worthwhile.

    ‘Almost boyish?’ Strange, but I don’t get that from David’s developer videos… his enthusiasm for anything astronomical or technological seems undiminished by time; the only difference now is that it’s coupled to a matured intellect capable of creating something containing 4 billion stars, not just a few hundred. David’s boyishness is his creative engine, and at last we have tech fast enough to give him the multi-lane motorway he needs to drive down…

    Watching him share that is a nice way to complete your hat-trick. 🙂

  5. Did you give David his own personal MUG? 🙂

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