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Hungry Shark Evolution inventor tells pupils at old Belfast school how he achieved global success

By Allan Preston

Published 22/04/2016

A still from the game
A still from the game
Game on: Ross McCully, Mark Leeson, Ryan Henderson, Blair Robinson, James Donaldson and Roger Wilson head of ICT with Ian Harper (centre) at Inst
Ian Harper with his Hungry Shark game

A video game entrepeneur from Drumbeg in Co Down whose latest hit, Hungry Shark Evolution, has been downloaded hundreds of millions of times, has been sharing his secrets of success at his former school.

Ian Harper (37) visited Royal Belfast Academical Institution yesterday morning to tell pupils how they can crack the multi-billion pound video games market.

His passion for gaming started as a secondary school student in the 1990s, something which, at the time, baffled his mum.

Today she's one of the millions of customers playing Hungry Shark on her phone.

"The very first game I ever made at school was called Horsey Bet which I made on a BBC microcomputer," he said.

"That was quite popular for about a week in computer club in school before everyone moved on. I actually managed to sell about 15 copies for a couple of quid."

Dreaming of turning his hobby into a career, Ian studied computer science at Warwick University.

His first big break came working for games company Code Masters in England as a graphics programmer for the massively popular Colin McRae Rally driving series. He recalled a terrifying moment when the game's star drove off a cliff in real life."I remember one morning we were all sitting in the office very nervous. We were three-quarters of the way through a game and the guy has just driven hsi car off a cliff," he said.

"But the next day he was out on some sort of beach buggy driving around with three broken ribs, no problem at all so we realised he was quite a reslient character. It was great at the time to meet him, see his car and be exposed to the whole commercial side of video gaming and it felt like being part of something really quite big."

McCrae later tragically died in a helicopter crash.

Ian went on to work for Elixir studios in London which specialises in developing cutting-edge artificial reality in games.

Owner Demis Hassabis recently sold his company DeepMind to Google for a cool £400m.

Ian remained determined to make his own games and in 2009 co-founded his own company, Future Games of London.

The company specialises in free downloadable games for smartphones and tablets.

His game, Hungry Shark Evolution, soon became the most popular title in 48 countries and was downloaded 300 million times. "It's fantastic how many people are playing games," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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