Britain's £40 Million Video Game King Lives As A Medieval Knight

Credit: Kasumi Kitano.

Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley and one of his 14 trusty warhorses.

Trumpets blare as Jason Kingsley’s trusty steed gallops across Oxfordshire’s rolling green hills.

Proficient in swordsmanship, a keen archer and an expert in all kinds of medieval combat, Kingsley definitely isn’t what you would expect from one of Britain’s most successful and decorated entrepreneurs.

By day he’s CEO of Rebellion Developments. A 25-year-old video game studio in Oxford that Kingsley and his brother built up from nothing to sales of nearly £40 million last year.

In 2012 he was awarded an OBE by the Queen for his services to the British Economy.

But step inside Kingsley’s office and you’ll quickly realize, this is no ordinary CEO.

Suits of armor deck the office walls, while spears, lances and all kinds of tortuous-looking instruments glisten around the room.

That’s because Jason Kingsley leads a double life, as a medieval British knight.

“I’ve got 14 horses, I live on a farm, I muck out, I joust, follow the chivalric code, and I don’t need to go to the gym because I’m literally trundling wheelbarrows filled with shit every day of my life,” the entrepreneur tells Forbes.

Kingsley even directs and stars in his own Modern History TV YouTube channel.

Arise, Sir Kingsley

The roots of Kingsley’s unusual pastime date back to his childhood, when his obsession with horses and history “caused Mum and Dad all sorts of problems”.

By 8 he was a keen rider and a clear shoe-in for captain of the British student riding team once he reached Oxford University.

But it was a jousting competition which brought Kingsley’s worlds of history and horses together, he knew this was the life he wanted to live.

“To have armor made to a museum quality and wear it on a horse in the heat in simulated battle, there’s nothing else like it,” he breathlessly explains.

“When I’m jousting in fantastic places like the Tower of London or Kenilworth Castle, you are practically traveling through time.”

Obviously it’s not the safest of sports, jousting injuries are on the rise, spurred by interest in shows like Game of Thrones.

Although Kingsley insists “the danger comes because people see it and aren’t properly prepared to do it,” Rebellion has a “key man insurance” policy in place to protect against its CEO’s risky hobby, should the worst happen.

Credit: Oliver Smith/Forbes.

Kingsley’s office is filled with medieval armor, shields and spears.

Back to the future

Walking around Rebellion’s headquarters, just a short walk from Oxford University, it’s clear that Kingsley’s unusual pastime still has the power to cause a stir in the office.

One developer warns that the boss’s collection of sharp, pointy objects certainly adds an extra level of caution when you’re called into his office.

Most clearly have accepted and warmed to his eccentric behavior—when Rebellion launched its first mobile game in 2013, Joust Legend, the team made “Sir Jason Kingsley” its final boss.

But Kingsley insists his present-day successes are directly linked to his medieval interests.

What I’ve always wanted is to create landscapes for people to explore, and all of our games are landscapes with games overlaid.”

Going against the status quo has also been core to Kingsley’s business life.

Rebellion has no outside investors, has never issued shares or raised any venture capital—something almost unheard of in the $100 billion global video games industry.

Kingsley is also on the warpath to turn Rebellion into more than just a video games company, he has aspirations to turn his 300 person business into a British entertainment powerhouse.

Credit: Kasumi Kitano.

Kingsley aspires to turn Rebellion into a British entertainment powerhouse.

Building Britain’s Disney

Rebellion is already about much more than just video games.

Over the years the Kingsley brothers have quietly acquired a magazine publishing business, 2000AD, which owns a number of comic book franchises including Judge Dredd, a book publishing arm, Abaddon Books, which publishes six cult book series, and several rival video game studios to bolster their portfolio.

“We now have a catalog that is arguably deeper and richer than Marvel’s, with more varied stories,” the CEO says.

Comparing Rebellion to Marvel—which was acquired by Disney for $4 billion in 2009—is a big stretch, but Rebellion has some form having licensed out its Judge Dredd character for the big screen.

1995’s Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stallone and 2012’s Dredd with Karl Urban made more than $155 million at the box office combined, and now Kingsley says Rebellion is poised to launch several joint ventures working directly with TV and movie creators.

“We have a number of projects with fairly major international film and TV partners to get our titles to the market as directly as possible,” he says.

We are talking to Netflix, we are talking to Google, Amazon and Apple, and we are writing scripts.”

Kingsley is tight-lipped about what he can announce today, but clearly this video game king is mulling the possibility of turning Rebellion into an all-singing, all-dancing British entertainment powerhouse.

Yet another string to his medieval bow.

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