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Shannon Pickles, CEO of Lightning Rock

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background? Is it your first business?
My name is Shannon Pickles and I’m the CEO of Lightning Rock. I think I have probably come from a somewhat different background to most people in the games industry, I have worked for the last 15 years in senior management and executive roles in the not for profit and charity sector, primarily operating programs supporting those experiencing homelessness or living with chronic mental illness. I have always had a life long passion for technology and gaming however, and I am very lucky that I have three good friends with similar passions that are very talented in terms of programming, graphic design and general game development. So together we came together to form Lightning Rock. Most of the team including myself have operated our own small businesses for use in terms of small contracting jobs. This is the first time however that any of us have actually started an actual ‘company’.

Write 2-3 sentences about your business. What problem is your business trying to solve?
Lightning Rock is a small software development company. The company has done some interesting side projects such as working with a local science and technology centre to develop some software for virus simulation. Our primary focus is to develop interesting, fun and challenging computer games for people to enjoy. The team has a particular interest in the re-emergence of Virtual Reality technology, and our first commercial title released offered full VR support.

What are your business growth plans?
At the moment we are really still in the startup stage. We are trying to make the transition from really being just ‘hobby developers’ into an actual indie game company with full time employees. The biggest hurdle has already been overcome, as we have released our first commercial title and have started building a name for ourselves and making some great contacts. We have another few titles in the pipeline and our plan is that within the next 12 months to have all 4 of the Directors working full time in the company.

What excites you the most about the possibilities of VR? In terms of transformative technologies where do you see VR on the spectrum? Fire, the wheel, the automobile, phones, airplanes etc.
For me I think the most exciting thing that VR offers is the ability to enhance any experience it is applied to. I don’t think you can really compare it to, or consider it a transformative technology similar to phones or cars, rather I believe initially it will build on what already exists and make it better. Whether that’s enjoying computer games, watching a concert at home or remote control of drones/robots.

What industry do you think will be most impacted by VR? Education, HealthCare?
In the early stages mainstream adoption I think will just be in the computer games field. I know there is a lot of different fields and disciplines currently looking at ways they can use VR, but to my mind it will be the gamers that subsidise mass production and distribution. What hopefully you will see is all of those gamers then looking for and asking what are the different ways I can know use this fancy headset sitting on my desk, and new areas in terms of education and entertainment are developed.

Will VR unite or divide the world?
I can’t see it doing either really. Those people that already raise concerns about people spending to much time playing computer games/living sedentary lifestyles will use VR as another example of their concerns, those people that embrace/enjoy technology and computer games will praise VR as a new opportunity to enjoy their passions in a different way.

What will your children be able to experience with VR that is currently not possible?
Given that I have a 5 month old son sitting at home at the moment this is actually something I have thought of a lot recently. I do really hope by the time he is attending high school that VR has become mainstream and he can use it in really interesting ways to experience and interact with concepts he wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. I wouldn’t want VR to replace the idea of him experiencing and learning life physically, but there are some things – for example the deep sea VR 360 experience – that offer amazing opportunities that most people would otherwise never be able to do.