Since childhood, Chris had a love for computer games. With self-taught computer programming skills, Chris and his brother Jason started producing game titles after university. 35 years on, Rebellion Developments employs over 400 people across game development, comic book publishing, and movie and TV production.
When Rebellion was just two people, Chris provided the technical expertise writing computer code, and Jason produced the artwork, painstakingly drawing bitmap art with a joystick, one pixel at a time. After being commissioned by various groups to produce games, they discovered that they were better equipped to manage the projects than the ‘middle men’ who took commissions from major publishers then found developers to create the games.
Benefiting from starting at the time when games could be produced by a handful of people working together by mailing floppy disks to each other, they built a solid repertoire of games as the industry quickly expanded, powered by advances in CPU (central processing units) and graphics card processing power. Being at the forefront of the video games industry has meant that they currently employ 400 people across all aspects of game production, including programming, arts, design, and a sound studio.
Fast forward to the year 2000, Chris and the company purchased the rights to 2000AD, with the most well-known character Judge Dredd. Chris said that the purchase was out of love for the comic, but of course also needed to make financial sense. Alongside continuing to publish 2000AD books, Chris co-produced the 2012 Dredd film, starring Karl Urban.
In 2018, the brothers set up Rebellion Film Studios, to further expand into TV and film. Chris explains that although there are many great people in Hollywood, it was typical for authors to have their stories completely changed when written for screen. In order to hold on to the central and most important elements of the story, Rebellion will produce its own screen adaptations.
Fielding a wide range of questions, from gender balance in game development, to ethical issues around violent games, Chris gives extremely thoughtful and detailed responses. Acknowledging there is a gender skew, Rebellion is supporting a women in technology outreach programme at Oxford to encourage more intake of female students in STEM subjects.
With his quickness of wit and depth in exploring answers to audience questions, it is clear that Chris still has a deep love for enjoying games as well as creating new titles. Throughout the evening, if there is one theme to Chris’ talk, it is that his goal is to create entertainment, whichever media the audience might choose.
Report by Marco Zhang and Mathias Rothmann