Jon Hare, the Rock ’n’ Roller
Jon Hare, founder of Sensible Soware, is one of Britain’s most eminent game developers,
responsible for the terrically successful Sensible Soware series as well as Cannon Fodder
and dozens of other classics for the Commodore 64 and Amiga platforms.
Before I interviewed Jon, I’d assumed—quite wrongly—that game development was a
similar process on both sides of the Atlantic. Aer only a few minutes, though, I realized
there was (and likely remains) a stark contrast, at least for those of Jon’s generation. In
short, American developers are much less concerned and impressed with “tight coding,”
that is, doing the most with the least possible amount of memory and processor power. Jon
sets the bar high for programmers; they’re either geniuses or they’ve got no business in the
industry. More shocking, perhaps, is his obvious regret that gaming became a mainstream
hobby; it was much better for him when only nerds played videogames. And don’t even get
him started on big publishers like EA and Activision!
But how much of Jon’s antipathy toward the status quo is merely sour grapes? Aer all,
his last truly epic project, Sex ’ n’ Drugs ’n’ Rock ’ n’ Roll, was eventually canceled when the
team found itself simply overwhelmed with the demands of 3D programming. Likewise,
his popular Sensible Soccer game was eclipsed on consoles by products from rival compa-
nies, a fact Jon attributes to shady double-dealing on the part of Sega.
John Romero has described his team as functioning like a rock band, but Jon Hare’s
team literally was a rock band (see Figure 9.1). Simultaneously playing gigs while making
games, Jon and his friends only became full-time game developers when it became clear
there was a lot more money to be made with their keyboards than their guitars—it was
just the sensible thing to do. Nevertheless, his connection to the music industry gives Jon
a unique perspective, and in many ways I strongly agree that games would be much better
if their developers had the same sort of close camaraderie enjoyed by so many successful
You seem to be a man of many talents, including art and music … but where are the
sports? I expected to see “football champion” on your bio somewhere.
Well, I do play football, though I’m not the best. I do still play. Aer forty-ve years, I
run slower than an elephant on Prozac, but there you go.