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GSL10: We speak to Jason Bradbury about 3D gaming, mobile platforms and the Gadget Show Live
by Linford Butler

It’s about 1pm when the A-team of technology – The Gadget Show presenters – enter the Super Theatre at the Gadget Show Live. It’s a huge performance space, but it reflects the rest of Birmingham’s NEC arena – the whole place is a gargantuan maze of warehouses, huge show floors and miles of airport-esque corridors. However, it’s not the Super Theatre which we’ve come to see – it’s an interview with legendary gamer and Gadget Show original, Jason Bradbury, which we’re excited about.

The first thing which hits you is that Bradbury is considerably less excitable in real life than he is on-screen. Entering with a cup of tea, he’s cooler, quieter and much more professional than regular viewers of Five’s Gadget Show would expect. That’s not to say he’s placid or dull, however – he’s cracking jokes as the presenters take a photo call, making the press collected at the Super Theatre with their array of cameras laugh.

Bradbury has been a member of the Gadget Show team since the show first broadcast in 2006. It’s a show which has pulled in millions of viewers and critical acclaim across the industry in its six years of broadcast; a feat which Bradbury puts down to mass accessibility. “I understand the need to make the content as easily accessible as possible, and that’s the Gadget Show’s genuine success story: it makes complex stuff easy to absorb, early in the schedule.”

However, Bradbury has become stereotyped for his eccentricity in the show – a notorious characteristic which he seems to want to rebel against more. “I understand the need to make the content as easily accessible as possible. What I wish, though, is that I personally didn’t play the role of ‘crazy dude’ quite so much – actually, I’m serious about my tech and I get less of an opportunity now than in the first few years of the series to do hardcore reviews. That’s the only thing I regret about the way the show has gone.”

“Editorially, I’m a geek, and I’d like to delve under the bonnet a bit more. But I understand that there isn’t time at eight o’clock on a mainstream channel to do that.”

However, it seems that – as much as Bradbury may not prefer it to hardcore reviews – the easy-access nature of The Gadget Show’s content is what has made it such a success. And it’s that success on which Bradbury’s job, and indeed his enviable access to advanced technology, is based upon. “I really like doing the show: the access it gives all of us to technology is very special. I feel very privileged to be able to go around the world and see the things I see and do the things I do.”

“I love it. It’s amazing, and to be sitting in front of four thousand seats [in the Super Theatre] is humbling.”

We were interested to find out, should he have control over The Gadget Show’s features, what he’d like to see on the show. The Gadget Show has, over its time, had a wide and assorted range of technology in various fields showcased, from personal transport to gaming; gardening equipment to home security – we found it difficult to imagine into what fields Bradbury would like to branch, given the experience he’s had in a wide number of fields through The Gadget Show.

“Medical. And eco. There was a show called Tomorrow’s World which used to be on, and one of the things they did on Tomorrow’s World was medical tech. Some of the most amazing technology I’ve ever seen is medically related. Robotic surgeons, and things like that. Amazing stuff. And the fight to cure cancer – the way gaming is being used to enable children to visualise the cancer cells and kill them. If I had the choice, I’d include that – we’d have a medical special.”

All the same, it’s difficult to imagine Bradbury being as excited over new medical technology as he might be over a release of a much-hyped new game as, at heart, Bradbury is famously a hardcore gamer. Tweeting on a regular basis about his hobby, and working gaming into as many Gadget Show challenges as he can, Bradbury’s love for the field is well-known.

“I was there from the beginning. 1969, when I was born, I saw the first ever videogames happening. My dad used to work with the Clive Sinclair, so I was there with the Sinclair ZX80, one of the first personal computers in the world ever. Or, the first videogames that were so small, they were printed on a magazine and you’d copy the code by hand into the computer. If it was advanced, you’d be using a cassette player to play digital sounds into your computer. It’s incredible.”

“With the advent of iPad, and iPhone and the apps, the pocket nature of gaming now is really exciting. It means that on the one level you’ve got 3D gaming, $30 million budget games; and then you’ve also got bedroom coders doing their own thing through app stores on the various platforms. It’s an incredibly vibrant time for gaming.”

The idea of mobile gaming is an interesting one, and one which has been gaining ground rapidly in recent years with the release of platforms such as the Apple ‘i’ products, Google’s Android and an increasing number of Symbian platforms. With developers warming up to the idea of on-the-move gaming, it’s an aspect of video games which could see formidable growth in the future. However, the industry is still unsure as to the strength of mobile gaming as a platform.

“It’s definitely not for hardcore gaming, that’s for sure. The iPod, iPhone, iPad platforms; they’re for casual gaming, a bit of quirky fun. Most first-person shooters don’t really work on the iPhone. I think Eliminate Pro does, actually, and the networking of that game – the way you can alert your friends that you’re in an arena and the way it uses iTunes to upgrade your weapons and stuff – is brilliantly well done. It’s definitely not about the hardcore, but that’s what’s good about it in a way – the consoles are still there, and the PC is still there, they’ve not gone away; it’s just an additional environment for coders to make money and for the industry to support itself.”

Bradbury, however, is an advocate of mobile platforms – he’s proudly announced that he’s ordering an iPad in from America – but when it comes to other growing innovations in the industry, such as 3D, he doesn’t seem so sure.

“I think it’s a complete lost leader; a load of old rubbish. I could rue the day I say this, but I do not feel that 3D will to amount to anything in the home. I just can’t see it; I’m not going to sit there with my mum and my kids with goggles on.”

“However, gaming is another thing all together. Gaming is about peripherals; gaming is about quirky, cutting-edge tech. And that’s where 3D could take off - when the consoles get on-board with 3D, oh my lord. I would pay three hundred quid for a pair of goggles to upgrade my PS3 or my Xbox, just because the experience would be so amazing.”

A member of the industry which can be seen to be killing off children’s reading, Bradbury might be the very last person you’d expect to make a foray into children’s writing. However, his children’s writing series – Dot Robot, a trilogy surrounding the characters Jackson Farley, Brooke English, the Kojima Twins and Devlin Lear and their adventures whilst using technology – has had both appraisal by prolific children’s novelists and has been taken on a tour to schools around the United Kingdom in association with Puffin Books, Bradbury’s publisher.

“You wouldn’t believe the future plans. I want to take over the world. I’ve written the first two Dot Robots: Dot Robot and Dot Robot: Atomic Swarm. They’re going really well: I’ve gone round over thirty schools, literary festivals, they’re selling really well, and I’m getting excellent reviews. Most recently, to publicise Atomic Swarm, I had one of the robots from the book made – his name’s Punk – and then I used Punk in a video on YouTube called ‘Robot Kitchen Rampage’. Please go and look at it, it’s on YouTube and you can also find it through my blog.”

“And I’ve got big plans, man: I want Hollywood. I’m really serious, I want to keep writing the books, I really, really enjoy it. I think it’s such a noble thing to do, because I think you can’t read too much. Kids nowadays need to read. It’s all about gaming, it’s all about social networking, it’s about the very things that take people away from books. I think that’s quite quirky.”

Our sincere thanks to Jason Bradbury for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak to us – we really appreciate it. Also, due thanks need to go to Christian Payne of, for the very generous lend of technical equipment; and to the Open University.


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- Linford Butler

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