My public digitalness:
My name is David Harrison. In gaming circles I go by the nickname ‘trog’. I work for a company that I co-founded in 2001 called Mammoth Media, working on a variety of digital products and services (including AusGamers, one of Australia’s favourite gaming destinations).
I’ve spent a big chunk of time since working with web and gaming technologies. My particular areas of interest include content distribution, web development, online games infrastructure and community integration and management. More recently I’ve gotten involved in the tech startup space and am enjoying it immensely.
Detailed History: (for those that like the long version)
I was born in Brisbane in 1977.
The first six years of my life were pretty uneventful, and aren’t really worth detailing here. However, after that time, I moved with my family to live in San Francisco for a while, which was pretty awesome – ever since then I’ve been a big fan of that city and take every opportunity to go back.
I spent a lot of my early years watching over my dad’s shoulder as he tinkered with PCs. Starting with a TRS-80, migrating to an Apple, then an Apple II, then finally an Apple IIe – playing games, messing around. Then we got our first PC, and things started looking better. Seeing the good old 4.77 Mhz XT, playing Jet in CGA for the first time was one of the founding memories of my gaming life. From there, its been a non-stop roller-coaster of fun.
After many years of fairly inconsequential messing around with computers and games, I stumbled on a little thing by a bunch of dudes called Commander Keen. This was my first experience with an id title, and I was hooked. The smooth scrolling was something that had basically not been seen at all on a PC screen – ever.
I followed all the games from there until Wolfenstein – in my opinion, the first ever First Person Shooter. I was blown away by the graphics, sounds, and the sheer immersion. I played this game non-stop, making new levels, graphics, everything that was to later become the staple id hallmark.
Shortly after the release of Wolfenstein, I heard about a little project they were working on called Doom. A few screenshots were released, showing amazing new features like different lighting, different level floors, walls not at ninety degrees – mind blowing stuff. I eagerly followed the development of Doom until the day it was released in Decemeber 1993. I happened to be in San Francisco at the time, and there was a big PC show on at the time. I picked up the first shareware disks as soon as they came in – went home, played it non-stop, ordered the full game, and did the same for the next few years – until Quake.
From then on I’ve been watching and praising id’s awesome games, and playing pretty much nothing but Quake. Unfortunately, real life has often gotten in the way, but I’ve had some fun times. Playing with Clan Asha’Man, one of Queensland’s first (and provably greatest) Quake clans, winning Armaggedon 2 over TLG. Playing Robin Walker (Bro) of Team Fortress fame and getting kicked in the duel finals competition at Armageddon 3 – one of Australia’s first big competition LANs. Going down to Sydney to Gibcon with clan War to win the Quake team deathmatch competition and come second in the Quake 2 FFA comp. Going down to Melbourne, again with War, to get whupped in Quake 2 team deathmatch but to watch some of my clan members go on and take respectable positions in the duels.
After playing for a few years, I had an idea for something called the Queensland Quake Leage. The original document for this can still be read, though it is somewhat embarrasing and lame. From there though, an online community started to be formed, which with the assistance of a stack of other people eventually evolved into the Queensland Gamers’ League (www.qgl.org) – Australia’s biggest online gaming organisation, and Queensland’s biggest and best LAN group.
Contrary to the general popular beliefs about computers, gaming, and nerds, I’ve made a stack of great friends from this pursuit. In fact, I’d go so far as to say its by far the most social thing that I’ve ever done – talking to people on IRC, or in games, then meeting them in real life, and hanging out with them, going to the pub, to the beach – all sorts of things. So, as such, I tend to be fairly short with those short-minded people that get up and denounce gaming and the Internet as being a non-social thing calling us all nerds and geeks.
Whilst all this gaming stuff was happening, Real Life was kicking in as well. After all the boring early years and after school, I started going to university over at the University of Queensland. That lasted just over a year, at which point I decided that I didn’t really dig on uni that much, and I wanted to try working full-time. I did that for about 10 months, working at a company called Software Express, a software retailer in the city. That was an interesting time; sales is fun for a very short period of time.
After that stint of pretty boring work, I decided that I was ready to give university another shot. Back to uni for the next year, full of keeness and a willingness to work hard, get my degree, and hit the real world (again). However, fate stepped in – not even a week into the first semester, one of my school buddies, who had been lucky enough to land a job at game developers Auran working on their first title, Dark Reign, happened to swing by uni and casually mention that they needed someone else to help him out. Bam, there went uni – working for a game developer. Pretty much something I wanted to do since forever.
So, I ditched most of my subjects and started working, more or less fulltime, at Auran on Dark Reign. It was close to the end of the project, so it was what is called, in the industry, “crunch time”. It was excellent fun though – working on what was a much-anticipated title with a bunch of really awesome guys. I got to play with a lot of the engine features, working with the programmers and the artists to put bits and pieces into the game, and test the hell out of it. There were a lot of working-until-4am nights, but in the end, Dark Reign went out and sold over half a million copies, and all was great.
After that, Auran moved over to New Farm and started working on their second project. Blahnana and I built and maintained the network out there, and did a lot of work making sure everything was running smoothly around the office on the technical side. After a while, I was shifted into the development group, and started working directly on the game, which was a great learning experience as well as being awesome fun. Working hard every day with a bunch of mad gamers, then kicking back at 5:30pm to wind up the day with a few hours of Quake 2 was an awesome way of spending some time, and I couldn’t really have had a better experience.
Gaming companies are pretty crazy places to work at. You have a lot of fun, and the people are generally really cool – but the competition is fierce. You have to work your ass off to make sure that what you’re shipping is not only good enough for the times, but better than the competition and something that is going to make people sit up and take notice. To do this, you have to really keep up with what is going on. One of the ways of doing this is by going to trade shows and the like. So, in 1999, we went over to E3 – the world’s biggest Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Imagine the biggest assortment of computer gaming paraphenalia you can. Stick it all into a couple of rooms, altogether probably the size of 4 or 5 football fields, with loud music, an awesome party atmosphere, a stack of gorgeous hired women walking around for the juvenile (predominantly) male gaming population, and that’s what E3 is. Very good fun – if you can talk your way into one and get over to the US, I can’t recommend it enough if you’re a gamer. You’ll see a stack of games in development, and get to meet heaps of cool people – game developers, game players, reporters – the works.
After a while, a few of the other guys and I started thinking about branching off. We’d been working at Auran for a while and wanted to get out into the big bad world of computer games. In the end, we ended up resigning, and forumulating a game design and a business plan to start our own game company. Remarkably quickly, we’d rustled up an investor who was willing to fund 18 months of our development cycle – and Evolution Games was born.
This in itself was amazing. I worked at Evolution for about 6 months, working on a whole stack of different aspects with a small but dedicated team. During this time, I had a whole stack of personal Real Life stuff go down, which I’m not going to document (…yet). But basically it blew my concentration all to hell for a long time to come, and I wasn’t really able to do to much. I left and had the first proper holiday I’d had for around four years – took a solid three months off.
I spent that time moved out with a school friend in an awesome apartment in which we played a lot of games and drank a lot of beer. Spent a lot of the time down at the beach, went down to Melbourne – kicking back and relaxing and thinking about what to do next.
Eventually, I started feeling a bit slack, and went looking for a job. I wasn’t really interested in anything project-based – I’d done enough of that and wanted to get into something that I thought I would be able to just get up in the morning, go to, and come home and not have to think about. I found a great job at WebCentral – Australia’s largest web hosting company and, incidentally, primary sponsors of the QGL. After a few months there doing tech supporty-type stuff, I was promoted and they prolonged my stay there by it just being a remarkably cool place to work for.
While working at WebCentral, I was actively working with the QGL guys to firmly entrench QGL as the biggest Queensland-based LAN, something which was simultaneously great fun and an awesome educational experience. During one of our regular meetings, the conversation strayed as we discussed the future of QGL online – QGL had an active website with a great community of regulars and was continuing to grow. At the meeting, a decision was made which was to change my life for the next several years (and, at the time of this writing, continues to change).
The decision was simply to expand the web services of QGL, with the goal of creating a website that would be of interest to all Australian gamers. Further, we came up with the idea of inviting the other major LAN groups in Australia (MPU in Sydney, Shafted and WonderLAN in Adelaide) to take part in this new scheme, with a goal of creating a unified LAN structure for gamers all around Australia – offering national competitions and leagues.
This idea was new and exciting to us, and we worked hard on it for months – the other groups were also interested, and thus AusGamers Pty Ltd was formed. QGL’s existing web services were moulded into the structure that would soon become known as the AusGamers Network, including web hosting, file downloads, forums, and much more. Over a relatively short period, AusGamers became one of the largest – if not the largest – online gaming communities in Australia, hosting literally thousands of gaming websites and drawing thousands of gamers from all over Australia.
Along with this attention from gamers came attention of another sort. Telstra first started paying attention to AusGamers more from a LAN perspective, seeing quickly that the thousands of gamers that attended AusGamers LAN events would certainly be interested in their upcoming broadband services which were set to basically revolutionise online gaming, offering fast downloads and low pings – everything your hardcore gamer dreamed about. Telstra offered sponsorship to various LANs, providing BigPond broadband services free of charge – something that was hugely appreciated by the gamers and really helped Australian gaming.
As our relationship with Telstra grew, so did their interest in the gaming universe. Suddenly, some of the AusGamers team that I had worked with realised that we could almost certainly apply our expertise in the field in a commercial sense. To cut a long story short, we (being myself and three other AusGamers members – Nats, Jim and Term – basically the team that was responsible for the bulk of the online services) managed to convince Telstra that it would be far from the worst thing they’d ever do if they took us onboard to manage their online gaming services.
So, all of a sudden all four of us had taken a relatively massive career change, and now were managing the gaming portal for Australia’s largest ISP. Wireplay, as it was known back then, was a fairly small service – originally we only had handful of game servers to manage and a similarly small number of users. With the rapid uptake of broadband – particularly by gamers – it grew rapidly, and eventually we ditched the Wireplay name and built a new brand from scratch – GameArena.
GameArena has since grown to be the number one gaming service in Australia, with more users, more servers, and more services than any other. It is a great source of pride to myself and my partners in crime that we have been able to do this. We now operate under the company Mammoth Media and our current goal is to try and apply our business and software acumen on a larger scale.
After an incredibly long eleven years, I finally managed – against all odds and expectations – to finish my degree. At the end of 2005 I managed to graduate from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Science degree (in the field of Computer Science).
A lot has happened since then. After building more successful projects for Telstra, including their BigPond Movies and Music channels, Mammoth has grown to about 30 staff. We’ve also worked on projects for a number of other clients, including universities, the federal government, technology startups, and many more.
After many years of being heads-down on Mammoth – we were a classic silo company – I started getting involved in the startup scene in Australia. Initially this was a side effect of some of the business development I was doing, but I quickly discovered I really enjoyed working with early stage technology companies.
After doing some mentoring there, I was invited to become an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at ilab, an accelerator and incubator that is part of the University of Queensland. There I got to help find the next generation of technology companies and help guide them on the path to getting their product off the ground.
I’ve invested in two startup ventures since getting involved – one in Melbourne created by a former employee of Mammoth and Right Pedal Studios, which provides funding to mobile game developers. I’m actively looking for new cool things for (very) early stage (small) investments as well.
Since the end of 2013 I’ve been living in the United States – in Columbus, Ohio – after my partner got a job offer that was too good to pass up. I’ve been working on expanding our virtual server hosting business to the US – an entirely new challenge.
— David Harrison / trog
— November, 2000
— Updated August, 2004
— Updated April, 2006
— Updated February, 2008
— Updated January, 2015