The co-founder of Rockstar Leeds and ex-Creative Director at The Blast Furnace, Gordon Hall, sadly passed away on Monday 8th March 2021 aged 51. Gordon was a charismatic, influential and inspirational figure in the Yorkshire games industry and was a regular at Game Republic events, including supporting the Student Showcase as judge of the Best Team award, offering dozens of graduate placements and full-time jobs at Rockstar Leeds (see photo below).
Gordon began his career in the games industry in 1987, when he sold his first game, a Commodore 64 shooter called Force One – the publisher Firebird offered him £1000, but Gordon (still a teenager and living at his mum’s house) refused and held out for £2000! (see photo).
“I could fill books with our tales of our adventures – and the crazy thing is so could hundreds of others too, his heart was so big,” said Jason McGann, co-founder of Möbius Entertainment and Rockstar Leeds. “For me the time I spent living with him in Harrogate through the mid-to-late 90s are my fondest memories; we were both broke, young, free and hungry for success. We’d work hard and play hard – we’d make our plans, and with someone like Gordon, we always got them done (one way or another).”
In 1997, Gordon with Jason, Dave Box and Ian Bowden set up Möbius Entertainment in Leeds, and after producing spectacular, technical masterclass Game Boy conversions for games such as Remedy’s Max Payne, they were eventually acquired by Rockstar Games, who formed Rockstar Leeds in 2004.
Studio Director Alastair Dukes, with Gordon as President of Rockstar Leeds, worked with the incredibly talented teams at the studio to produce a series of outstanding Grand Theft Auto games for portable devices and consoles. These games included GTA: Liberty City Stories and GTA: Vice City Stories, and the run of success culminated in the fantastic GTA: Chinatown Wars for Nintendo DS in 2009 – still the No.1 highest ranked DS game on Metacritic. Gordon also spent a year in the USA, with colleagues from Rockstar Leeds, helping Rockstar San Diego deliver the superb open-world Western game Red Dead Redemption.
Between 2011 and 2013, Gordon left Rockstar Leeds to pursue a passion for research in player psychology and microtransactions strategy, which he used to the full when returning to the games industry as chief creative officer for Activision Blizzard Mobile at The Blast Furnace in Leeds.
When he left The Blast Furnace and the games industry in 2015, Gordon spent his time pursuing various interests, businesses and hobbies (music was also a great passion), but was always ready to advise games businesses or a chat to give essential help and support for friends. As well as the legacy of Rockstar Leeds, Gordon inspired the formation of numerous game studios in the region and beyond including Double Eleven, Fierce Kaiju, Red Kite Games and Ant Workshop. Gordon Hall will be greatly missed and our thoughts and love go out to his son James at this difficult time.
We are publishing here some of the messages we have received about Gordon Hall from Game Republic members and friends in the games industry.
“Gordon was simply brilliant to be around, incredibly motivating and ever positive. An absolute one off for whom it all came naturally. I saw many times first-hand how he worked with people and lifted their capabilities above and beyond, driving his team, project and company to unbelievable heights of success. His pursuit of excellence was staggering and he formed a great, trusting bond with those who chose to work (hard) alongside him. As a close friend, he was truly inspirational and socially speaking a real energetic one-off who could endlessly entertain at the drop of a hat, holding everyone in the palm of his hand. Gordon will be very sadly missed.”
Martyn Brown, Business Development, Five Aces Publishing LTD
“Always the life and soul of a night out, life was never boring with Gordon around. He was an incredibly generous person who looked out for his staff not just in work but at home as well; “we’re family” is a cliche thrown around at companies but with Gordon it was true. He was a good friend, a great boss, and a fantastic mentor – although we haven’t worked together for years now, I think about Gordon all the time and learned a lot about running a company and being a good boss from him. He will leave such a big hole in so many lives.
Tony Gowland, Founder, Ant Workshop
“I first met Gordon in 1990 and we quickly became friends. In ‘94 we began working together full-time, we spent our next 13 years together navigating through the countless ups, downs, disappointments and elations of game development. Ultimately we succeeded, by then we were brothers and knew each other’s soul; Gordon’s is truly golden, I shall love and miss him forever.”
Jason McGann, Co-Founder Mobius and Rockstar Leeds.
“Gordon Hall was important to many people, such was the measure of the man. To me, he was my friend and my mentor. He always looked to give opportunities to those who otherwise might not have had them, myself included. But he didn’t stop there, he would support and nurture our development, raising up everyone around him.
Gordon believed in all of us, he pushed us to pull off incredible things. From more humble beginnings working on Gameboy Color titles at Möbius Entertainment, to establishing Rockstar Leeds and releasing world beating AAA quality content.
I can never repay what that man did for me, but I know all of his many friends and family will ensure he’s never forgotten. A true legend of the games industry, saying that Gordon will be missed is a huge understatement but it’s no less true.”
Paul Colls, Design Director at Sumo Digital
“Gordon was a person whose life theme was to stimulate encourage and support all those who knew him. He helped me and all those who worked at PitStop. Far too soon to leave us – this will take a long time to sink in.”
John Sanderson, Founder and MD, PitStop Productions
“Gordon was a real inspiration to me in his drive, optimism, and desire to ensure that everyone was happy and having a good time. Seeing his success was a real signal of what was possible through working smart and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. While we never worked directly together, we had many great chats over the years, and it was an absolute privilege to have known him. He will be sadly missed.”
Simon Barratt, CEO, Cooperative Innovations
“Totally devastated and saddened to hear the news of the death of a dear good friend. One of the most amazing and inspirational guys you could ever meet and a true Rockstar legend. In the 20 or so years I have known Gordon he was always generous with his time and curious to find out more about the latest projects we were working on. He helped me with my mindset after my illness and even inspired my young niece to get into digital art by teaching her something she will never forget (ABD) – “Always be Drawing”.
Honoured to have known him as a friend. Gonna miss you Sir – RIP my friend.”
Tas Hadjisavva, Founder and CEO at Clubit TV
“I first met Gordon in 1998 when he came down to Oxford to pitch “Titanium Angel” on PC to me when I worked at Grolier Interactive. A project I turned down. Many years later I was sat in his house drinking a coffee, he looked at me and asked why I’d turned it down. I was honest and said it needed a lot of work and wasn’t that great. His reply said it all, “yeah, you’re probably not wrong”. Gordon was a friend to me after he left games and I spent hours in his house talking about anything and everything, including his impressive guitar collection. Gordon was one in a million, a wonderful friend with a massive heart, and I’ll miss him. See you on the other side Gordo.”
Stewart Gilray, CEO, Just Add Water
“When I was introduced to Gordon on my first day having invited me to join his wonderful game making family, little did I know how much of an impact he’d have on my life. Gordon was an inspiring boss, a caring friend and one of the most generous human beings that you could ever hope to meet. It’s an understatement to say that you were never bored in Gordon’s company and I’ll certainly cherish the many, many fun times that we shared together. Gordon, you’re going to be deeply missed by the people who loved you – thank you for taking me under your wing.”
Simon Iwaniszak, CEO, Red Kite Games
“Gordon was a hugely talented developer, and a lovely man – he was generous, thoughtful, and despite being hugely successful, always modest. We, and the industry as a whole, have lost someone of whom we were all proud.”
Charles Cecil MBE, Founder and CEO of Revolution Software