'Put yourself in someone else's shoes'

David Braben, the video-games programmer, is best known for co-writing the classic space trading game 'Elite' while still an undergraduate. He is the founder and chairman of the games development company Frontier Developments.

What did you want to be as a child?

An engineer; I loved making cars and cranes out of Lego.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

An engineer, of course! I was only five; I didn't doubt it for a second. But then as I got older and more cynical, I thought engineering might be quite dull, and I was really captivated by the idea of making films.

You studied natural sciences at Cambridge University, was it worth it?

Is anything in life worth it? I enjoyed it and it was at Cambridge that I teamed up with Ian Bell and wrote Elite. That was my first commercial game, although I'd been writing games since I was 16. I got a computer before I went to university and I thought the games would be great and they were rubbish, so I wrote my own. Elite came out when I was 20 and did really well – it was silly money, really.

How much did you get?

I'd rather not say, but I bought a flat. It really opened doors so that we could call any company and they would take our call.

You then did a postgraduate course in computer science?

Yes, and that wasn't worth it. Academics sneered at what they saw as my back- bedroom programming skills and at the whole idea of writing games, but their expectations of their students was low and they were teaching really outdated things.

What happened next?

I wrote more games! Then I founded Frontier Developments because with a company you can build up relationships over several projects, rather than the relationship ending once the project is finished.

Do you consider yourself successful?

I think so, yes. I do what I want to do. How many people get to do that?

What's the best decision you've made?

When we sold Elite, we wrote into the contract that we reserved all the rights, including film rights, and there was a lot of argument about that!

Any interview tips?

Enthusiasm is the most important thing: you need to be excited and know your subject. Find out as much as you can during the interview. Ask questions, because it shows that you've thought about the job and why you want it.

And your CV tips?

Put yourself in someone else's shoes and pretend you're looking at your CV for the first time. If there are gaps, then explain the reason behind those gaps.

What motivates you?

Coming up with creative solutions to problems, like getting across a puzzle to someone without explaining to them how to do it.

Who are your heroes?

George Lucas, who got into the film industry from the outside and made an impact.

How do I get to be where you are?

If you want to make big-budget games, work your way up in a studio. It's much harder now to start from scratch the way I did.