Entertainment – Fergus McNeill

Fergus McNeill – Award-winning interactive entertainment developer & Author

Fergus McNeill was born to Marian and Duncan McNeill in 1969. Although born in Glasgow, Fergus grew up in Helensburgh until 1975 when the family moved to Fintry.

When he was 11, Fergus’ family moved to Hampshire, England, where he attended Swanmore Secondary School.

It was around this time that Fergus’ parents thought there would be “no harm” in buying him a ZX81 and, seeing as that it appeared to entertain and keep him “quiet for a while”, his parents upgraded it to a Spectrum 48k. His first gaming purchases were: Hungry Horace, Psion Flight Simulator, Greedy Gulch and The Hobbit.

It was playing the Hobbit that led Fergus to knowing that he wanted to pursue the world of gaming as his career.

He began creating and writing games in his spare time when he was just 14. His passion for gaming led Fergus to take Computer Studies O Level at School and he created a text adventure (in BBC BASIC) as his course project. His displayed an early entrepreneurial spirit and began selling games via mail order under the Delta 4 brand. His first games attracted coverage in the specialist computing press and it was not too long before he came to the attention of companies.

Fergus did enter college but dropped out after a few weeks when he was offered his first proper contract to develop games for a commercial publisher. Over the following years he became well-known in the industry, both for his own content, and his adaptations of other authors’ material, including working with Terry Pratchett to create the first Discworld game. Along the way Fergus has picked up several awards and was even named runner up in the Golden Joystick Awards.

During his career Fergus has designed, directed and illustrated games for all sorts of systems, including the BBC Micro, the Apple iPad, and almost everything in between, working with companies such as CRL, Silversoft, Macmillan Group, Activision, SCi Eidos and EA.

Moving from interactive fiction to interactive movie adaptations, Fergus set up and managed the development studio for SCi (now Eidos) where he co-wrote and directed voiceover scripts for a number of games including the award-winning Kingdom O’ Magic and co-produced titles including the infamous Carmageddon. Fergus moved on to become creative director for Smoking Gun Productions, creating club-specific football management games for teams like Celtic and Rangers, as well as a range of interactive DVD products.

In 2005, he joined InfoSpace to manage their mobile games studio, and then worked with colleagues to conclude a successful Management Buy Out (MBO) re-launching the studio as FinBlade in 2007.

Now CEO at FinBlade, Fergus continues to develop games and apps for phones, tablets, and social platforms. Clients include EA, Nissan, BMW, Cambridge University Press, Vivendi, Liverpool FC, Eidos, and many more. Fergus also sits on the Board of Fizcast (a company specialising in mobile animation broadcast technology) and AppyNation (a developer-run mobile publisher).

Fergus second career as a novelist, represented by Eve White, who secured a 3-book deal with Hodder & Stoughton, has been born out of his fascination with his people and his gift for storytelling, developed during the creation of his games.

His first novel, the contemporary thriller Eye Contact published in 2012, grew from a conversation with a friend, where they were speculating about strangers who glance at you in the street, and how difficult it would be to find one of them again. Eye Contact’s plot involves a serial killer who kills victims at random, based on the first person to catch his eye. Fergus’ second book “Knife Edge” will be published in hardback in 2013, and his third book “The Man who Lives Upstairs” is due late 2014.

Fergus is a founder member of TIGA, the trade association for the UK;s Gaming Industry, and is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association and BAFTA. His awards include: Golden Joystick Award (runner up, 1985), CGR Golden Triad Award (1996), Sinclair User Classic Award (5 times), Amtix Accolade Award (1986) and the Crash Smash Award (twice). 2008 TIGA Best Mobile Game – Tomb Raider, 2008 Nominated Develop Industry Excellence Awards – Best New UK/European Studio, 2010 MobileVillage Superstar Award – Consumer App: Game – Deadliest Catch.

Fergus lives in Hampshire with his wife and son.

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