CV: NIGEL KENT PRESIDENT OF EPIC MEGAGAMES

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Nigel Kent, 35, should become a millionaire when his computer game company's long-awaited new title, Unreal, comes out in June. But his business skills were honed in the rather less high-tech world of catering.

I used to live in Bournemouth, running a hotel with my wife and parents. I suppose some people might say I had a cushy life, but in 1992 I gave all that up to get into the computer business.

I grew up in my parent's hotel, The Windsor, and thought my future lay in catering.

When I was 23, I got married and bought another hotel, with my parents as co-partners. Then something sent everything crazy - we bought a PC computer.

We got it to help with the business, but it broke down. When we got it repaired, it came back with this computer game called Commander Keen.

I had no idea that games could be so good. I became a bit of a games addict. Guests used to see me at reception on the computer and would say, "Are you still working, this late?", I was probably trying to finish a level on Commander Keen.

With these games, you always want to go further, so I bought sequels from the company that got them from the US. I started talking to the guy who ran the company and decided it was an industry I wanted to get in to.

It was the biggest step in my life, but in 1992 I took a job in his company and moved with my family to Bedfordshire.

I had a falling out with the man who ran the company and we don't get on now. He sent me to a conference in Atlanta, to see these software people. They offered me a job and I handed my notice in.

Over there, I met Tim Sweeney, who had set up Epic MegaGames when he was 19. He had written a computer game and needed to start a company to cope with the demand. The sum of his involvement was, "Can you set up a UK office?". I did it all from home at first and it grew from there. Now I run the whole company, including the US part, from here.

We rely heavily on the internet. Unreal was partly developed here, partly in Washington DC, and with game designers Digital Extremes in Canada. It was also tested by Epic fans on the internet.

This is a great industry. Even though it involves big money, the business is informal. I suppose I'm a "suit", and people know I'm the boss, but there is a great community feel.

Hopefully everyone will do well out of Unreal's success. We will all get bonuses linked to how well the game does.

We've had a bit of a nightmare getting Unreal out. Last Christmas it got desperate financially and everyone involved put everything on the line to keep us funded.

But that's all over now. I sometimes groan because my job is often 9am to 12pm, to match the US time difference. But I do get to play computer games - for R&D purposes, you understand.

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