Derby Graduation – July 2019 – Honorand Chris Shrigley

Derby Graduation – July 2019 – Honorand Chris Shrigley

November 11, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


PRO CHANCELLOR AND CHAIRMAN: I now have great
pleasure in inviting Dr Chris Bussell, PVC Dean of the College of Life and Natural Sciences,
to give the commendation for the conferment of the honorary degree of Doctor of the University
to Chris Shrigley. DR CHRIS BUSSELL: Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor,
honoured guests and graduands, it gives me great pleasure to be presenting today Chris
Shrigley, for the award of Honorary Doctor of the University. Chris has worked in the
video games industry for over 35 years, and has more than 50 commercially published games
to his credit. Chris was at the start of the games industry in the UK, and has made a significant
career out of games, working with some of the biggest names in the gaming industry,
such as Atari, Gremlin, SEGA, Disney and Electronic Arts. Chris is, unfortunately, unable to be
with us in person today. Now living in Los Angeles, Chris suffers from a life-long degenerative
visual impairment which has affected him since childhood and makes travelling a challenge.
But we are delighted that he has sent over a message which we will see shortly. Chris
was born and educated in Derby. He became interested in computer games at an early age,
spending much of his younger days hanging around in First Byte Computers, one of the
first computers shops in Derby. He was 16 when his own text adventure game, Pub Quest
(written for the Commodore 64), was published by Dream Software and became a commercially
successful hit. When he was 18, Chris and his friends wrote an arcade game called Bounder.
This was a massive success when it was published by Sheffield-based Gremlin Graphics who went
on to recruit Chris as a games programmer. In 1988, Chris founded Core Design with colleagues
from Gremlin Graphics who went on to design the hugely popular Tomb Raider series. He
also founded Eurocom a year later which went on to design games for the Nintendo Entertainment
System. Eurocom also developed a successful business model creating games for film franchises
including James Bond, Lethal Weapon, Mortal Kombat, Harry Potter and Ice Age, to name
a few. Both companies were based in Derby, and both became huge successes. Chris moved
to California in the 1990s, and worked for companies like Sega, Nintendo, Electronic
Arts, and Disney, eventually becoming Technical Director at Disney Interactive, making massively
multiplayer games for kids. Chris gave up his position at Disney seven years ago to
return to his true passion, indie games. Today, he is mostly retired but is still very productive
in the industry, and runs a small game development studio in Los Angeles. Chris’s companies,
games and reputation are fundamental to Derby’s international reputation for gaming. His work
has left a huge legacy in the city. To have achieved all this while dealing with a significant
visual impairment, in an industry which is so visual, is an amazing personal achievement
and hugely inspirational. Chancellor, in recognition of his international career and his impact
in the world of computer games, we are delighted to award Chris Shrigley the honorary degree
of Doctor of the University. Chris has sent a few words in response which we shall now
play for you. CHRIS SHRIGLEY: Chancellor, Pro Chancellor,
Vice-Chancellor, Honoured guests, ladies, gentlemen and graduates of 2019. Through the
wonders of modern technology, I’m delighted and honoured to be with you today to receive
this award. Way back in 1982, my mum bought me my first computer. It was a Commodore 64
and I was completely obsessed. I spent every waking moment on it, teaching myself how to
programme, and a year later had my first game published. A simple text adventure game called
Pub Quest. A second more sophisticated game called Bounder followed and in 1986, I got
my first real job in the game industry at Gremlin Graphics, where I spent several dizzying
years learning to be a proper games programmer, making games mostly for my beloved Commodore
64. But in 1988 the UK game industry hit a rough patch and Gremlin had to close its Derby
offices and lay us all off. A week later, we reopened as Core Design and barely skipped
a beat. Now Core Design, as you may know, went on to create some iconic games including
Tomb Raider, immortalised here in Derby with our Lara Croft Way. I eventually left Core
Design to start another company called Eurocom, making games for the then brand-new Nintendo
Entertainment System. Eurocom went on to become one of the biggest independent game developers
in the UK and was influential in the UK game industry for many years. And then, in 1991
my life took a strange new turn when I was headhunted by an American company to make
games for the newly released Sega Genesis games console. I landed in Los Angeles bright-eyed
and bushy-tailed with a few hundred dollars in my pocket, two suitcases, my wife and a
one-year-old son and started a new life in the sunshine. I’ve been here for 28 years
now and over the years I’ve worked for some really cool companies like Disney, Electronic
Arts, Blizzard and Nintendo. But best of all I’ve worked with some of the most extraordinary
creative and talented people you can imagine. Over my career so far I’ve made games that
have generated millions of pounds in revenue and entertained hundreds of thousands of people
– not bad for a lad from Derby. Now despite this heady state of being, there has always
been something overshadowing and insinuating itself on everything I try to do. My disability
was always there as far back as I can remember, tapping me on the shoulder whenever I got
ahead of myself telling me I couldn’t do this or that. My disability is called Retinitis
Pigmentosa, or RP for short, and the disease is slowly taking my eyesight. RP is actually
a collection of genetic mutations that can affect both vision and hearing and is one
of the most common causes of blindness worldwide, estimated to affect around one in 4,000 people.
It’s entirely possible someone here knows someone who is living with RP, so I’m not
so special and in fact I know lots of people with RP doing amazing things every day. People
ask me how I manage to doing the stuff I do with my disability and it’s quite simple – my
disability is also my superpower. It’s had a profound effect on my life, shaping aspects
of my personality and character and influencing my life choices. It’s made me resourceful
and strong, it’s made me stubborn, determined, tenacious and doggedly independent. And these
are all superpowers. I’ve always believed that life is for living and living is about
experiences, and experiences are about being aware and engaged in the moment. It’s about
relishing everything in between the beginning and the end of something, good or bad, and
squeezing every drop of insight, learning and perspective out of it. It’s about the
things you do, big and small, and what you take from them to add to yourself and grow,
and it has to be about passion and energy, and movement and growth, and the pursuit of
happiness whatever that may be. And I found if you live your life this way you’ll always
have purpose and worth. You’ll be a creator, a doer, you’ll never stop creating and making
and improving yourself and the world around you, and this is how I try to live my life.
I wrap this up with one of my favourite quotes from Rumi, the great Sufi mystic and poet
– “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”
Thank you. PRO CHANCELLOR AND CHAIRMAN: Well thank you
to Chris for joining us from the US. I think you’ll agree that’s a terrific story of
courage, determination and ambition, and I think something that we can all learn from
here today. Indeed, I’m sure there are many people in this room who’ve actually played
his games so I hope you’ve enjoyed them. A very well deserved award.