More About the Author
I was born in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and raised in East and West Africa.
One of my earliest recollections is of singing and acting out ‘ ten little elephants bal~an~cing, foot by foot on a piece of string….’ at a kindergarten (literally a collection of children in a garden) in Kampala, Uganda, and being very concerned about how elephants (those huge four legged animals I had often seen crashing about in the wild) could possibly balance foot by foot by foot by foot on a piece of string.
From this verdant tropical garden in Uganda, I moved to a granite-built convent school in Kenya where I vividly recall an Irish nun reading us the children’s classic, ‘The Wind in the Willows’, which is all about grumpy badgers, and law-breaking toads driving too fast through the lanes of Oxfordshire. Though I had never seen a badger or any other British animal; that they might behave this way was as incongruous a concept to me as was those balancing African elephants.
A year or two later, I found myself at the American army school in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Here my fellow pupils, and I sat in a jungle-hot classroom, eating freshly roasted peanuts out of little paper cones and reading aloud ‘Little Women’ and ‘The Little House on the Prairie’. All the while, torrential African rain hammered down on the building’s thin, tin roof. I might have learned the difference between fantasy and fact by that stage in my life– yet, those little American women, or that little prairie house are forever associated in my mind with steamy, tropical Freetown.
And then one January, when I was just thirteen, I was sent ‘home’ to attend a boarding school in gray, icy-cold England. For five years, I would fly to London three times a year and catch a train at Paddington Station which delivered me down to the well ordered, well-mannered, market town of Taunton, lying at the foot of the Quantock Hills. And three times a year, I would reverse that journey and travel back to Africa’s wilder terrains and flamboyant peoples – back to the continent where I felt, and still feel, truly at home.
But having grown very fond of Britain, from school in Taunton I moved on to a college in Oxford where I dropped out…to land on my feet with a fantastic job at the fledgling UK headquarters of the Californian electronics giant, the Intel Corporation.
The unique hands-on marketing experience I gained with Intel gave me the confidence (over-confidence perhaps) to venture into business on my own. In 1982 I quit my job to put my first game, Jenga, on the market.
And the rest, as they say, is history – a history I recount in detail in About Jenga: the Remarkable Business of Creating a Game that became a Household Name.
A history that includes the stories of how and why I designed and marketed Jenga, and of how and why I became an entrepreneur and a professional game designer, founding Oxford Games Ltd and designing, publishing and marketing many, many other games.