Mark Healey is the co-founder and Creative Director of Media Molecule, a position which he says "involves alot of thinking and getting annoyed at people". He is best known in the public consciousness for his appearances as the studio's public figurehead, independently developing Rag Doll Kung-Fu in his spare time, and his grunge-style hair.
Healey initially went to art college, studying a two year diploma in graphic art and design. Coming from a less well-off family, he was given a grant to purchase equipment and food, however spent all the money in one go on a disk drive for his Commodore 64 and consequently had to leave. He described this as the most difficult decision he has had to make; pursuing his dream of making his own computer games, or undertaking formal education and "learning how to design cornflake packets". He has since said that when recruiting for positions within Media Molecule, he is more interested in someone's abilities rather than qualifications.
Healey was also a member of the army cadets for six months, and the air cadets soon after. He never had any real intention to join the army, instead using it as an excuse to "have a laugh with his mates".
First Big Break
At the age of nineteen, Healey was broke and met a girl whose boyfriend was working for Codemasters. After showing him some demos he had made, he was contracted to make a game for the Commodore 64, which took six months to make and became his first published title, KGB Super Spy. He was paid £2000, which he gave to his mother for rent. This lead onto the development of the educational Fun School series for Europress Software.
A few years later he met Peter Molyneux and the pair went on to forge a professional relationship which lasted ten years. Healey says he has learnt a lot from Molyneux, and always thought of himself as working with him rather than for him, describing his greatest skill as propagating creativity within the team by letting everyone have their own input.
Bullfrog and Lionhead
Joining Bullfrog Productions early within its inception, Healey worked on titles including Theme Park, Magic Carpet and Dungeon Keeper, for which he was responsible 90% of the graphics, as well as all the character designs. The Horned Reaper (affectionately referred to as 'Horny') is based on one of his ex-girlfriends. Being a fan of slapstick humor in games, he also came up with the minion slapping mechanic, which later led to the gestures in Black & White.
When Bullfrog became overly corporate and Molyneux left to found Lionhead Studios in 1997, Healy followed and was the first artist at the company. He soon became a senior artist and designer on Black & White, which won a BAFTA for interactivity, and did some late-production work on Fable whilst independantly working on Rag Doll Kung-Fu, an extracurricular project in his spare time.
Rag Doll Kung-Fu
Rag Doll Kung-Fu originally started life as a budget, improvised kung-fu film which was shot in Healey's back garden with four friends. The game itself was a self-tutorial for Healey who wanted to learn how to program in C Plus Plus. The last time he had done any serious coding was using assembler for the aforementioned Commodore 64. He made the vast majority of the game singlehandedly, sitting at his kitchen table in his underwear, including the programming, graphics and design. Portions of the film were later used as live-action cutscenes.
Future Media Molecule co-founders Alex Evans and Dave Smith assisted with the DirectX documentation and physics system respectively. Molyneux was said to be very supportive of the project, giving the three free reign to "make something cool", and even finding time to assist with a small bit of coding.
Publication and Ownership
Upon completion, the game was picked up by Valve and became the first third party title to be published on Steam. It was through this process, which they described as a "business crash course", the three attained the confidence to start their own studio. Another key reason was the ownership of their intellectual property. As creative companies, such as Lionhead, own whatever it's employees create in or outside of work hours, they would have owned the rights to the project, a concept which to Healey "seemed wrong".
When questioned about their use as a gameplay mechanic, Healey disclosed he had experienced magic mushrooms in his youth. He believes many of the industry's great developers have used drugs at some point, and that "some games are designed to be enjoyed by stoners".
Evans was the main driving force behind the foundation of Media Molecule, banking on recreating the magic of Rag Doll Kung-Fu. Healey originally went on holiday to think about whether or not he wanted to leave his job at Lionhead, and found upon his return Evans had already packed up his desk for him.
Healey also became a father the same time at which LittleBigPlanet launched, and was listed as number three in Edge magazine's "Top 25 Game Industry Heroes of 2008".