John Beech – a LittleBigStory
The games industry is full of interesting people with fascinating stories, right? We hear it so often that it becomes a cliché, but here we have a story that demands attention. It is the story of John Beech, a level designer on Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet 2, whose path into the industry was a little different from most.
Each working day, John gets into his kayak at 6am and sails to Media Molecule’s offices at the heart of Guildford, where he’ll spend his day playing with all the same tools that you do when you create your own levels in LittleBigPlanet – the big difference is that he gets paid to do so. The other difference is that he is more talented than most at what he does, which is no mean feat, considering LittleBigPlanet has seen over 3.7m user created levels.
He was just one of the many bedroom designers when he created his famous level, Future Warzone – a fast, chaotic and devilish level featuring fire, blasters and warships (check it out on YouTube). Future Warzone became an instant hit, becoming the highest rated level within a matter of days. His talents were recognised within LittleBigPlanet’s vibrant community, but unbeknown to him, he also had fans at the studio, who would later give him a job.
Before joining Media Molecule, John worked as a builder back in Devon so life wasn’t always glamorous. He also had to juggle real life with his hobby, an issue all gamers/would-be-designers face. When he got home he wanted to work on his levels, but he also wanted to spend his time with his girlfriend. His way of compromising was to wake up at about 3am every day and spend a few hours huddled in front of the TV under his duvet (so not to disturb his girlfriend), before having to leave for work. His girlfriend naturally found this behaviour peculiar.
He’d carry his creative spark on to the site, where he’d try to solve the job at hand in the most creative way he could, even if it meant taking longer than anyone else would. Not an efficient builder, then, but this environment probably did much to nurture his level-designing talents.
While John enjoyed being creative on the building site, his heart lay elsewhere. He wanted to work in the games industry, and it took a serious near-death situation to focus his mind upon this objective. While on site, a trench caved in on John, burying him underneath a pile of concrete. The paramedics who treated him at the scene said he was lucky to survive.
It wasn’t his first near-death situation; he says he’s had 12. He’s been in two head-on car accidents; he’s been stabbed by a pool cue; he had his throat cut open to remove a bottle cap; and he’s had a garden cane driven through his mouth and out the back of his neck. John is clearly unfortunate, and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near an open fire – never mind a hazardous building site. Thankfully, he thought as much and decided to chase after the level designer position advertised on the Media Molecule website.
He rallied his followers on the PlayStation Network to leave comments on the LittleBigPlanet community forums, to which they duly obliged in their numbers. The studio picked up on this and then invited him over to their offices and ushered him on to their development floor (carrying his PS3 in his bag), where he then went on to demonstrate his talents. Alex Evens, co-founder of Media Molecule, said: “he was bending up our LittleBigPlanet in ways that we didn’t think possible”. Everyone stood up at the end to give John a standing ovation. He got the job.
There’s a touch of Edward Bloom about John’s life. Going from nearly dying on a building site to sailing to your dream job on a kayak just seems almost unbelievable. It probably could only happen at Media Molecule, a studio that’s come out of nowhere to give the world something pretty magical in the form of LittleBigPlanet. We suspect there’ll be more LittleBigStories to come in the future.