18 January 2017
It was with shock and great sadness that we learned yesterday of the passing of Mungo Amyatt-Leir, a much loved friend and colleague. His good humour, ready smile and boundless enthusiasm will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his daughter, family and many friends at this sad time.
None of us knew Mungo better than Andy Payne, who pays this tribute to his friend:
‘Hello, Mungo Leir speaking, how can I help you?’
‘Ah, Mungo, it’s Andy Payne, you left a message on my answer phone, something about a dragon’s cape?’
‘Ah, yes, thank you Andy. I really do appreciate you calling me back. Have I caught you at a convenient time? I would like to talk to you about a game I am making called Dragon Scape and wondered if you could help?’
That was early 1989, and it was the first time I had ever spoken to my dear friend, one time business partner and surrogate brother, Mungo Leir. When I asked how on earth he got his name. he told me that it was his father’s idea who thought it would give his son a ‘distinctive and international flavour’ as well as providing some mirth given his son would sound like a country once ruled by a great military leader, namely a bloke called Genghis Khan.
I never did actually get fully paid for the work I agreed to do, but that didn’t matter as Mungo and I hit it off immediately, besides, Mungo acknowledged that he would honour the debt down the line and most importantly it set up a friendship that lasted for 28 years. Mungo was true to his word, and I never doubted he would be.
Mungo had a spell working with Jeremy Cooke and Howard Newmark at The Software Business, where our paths crossed again. Then he worked with greg Rice at Instant Access and we worked together once more. It was only when Mungo set up a games business with Roger Large that we began to get really close. This was summer 1996 and in 1997 all three of us agreed to become partners and rename the company, Just Flight.
We had no office and worked from home, using the internet and meeting up once a month in a hotel to chew stuff over. We were a virtual company before that was even a thing. Those were great days. Mungo was the ideas man, Roger was all about sales and I did everything else. It was fast, furious, frustrating, hilarious and mostly chaotic. When we couldn’t get any magazine coverage for our Flight Sims we decided to set our own specialist print magazine up and called it PC Pilot. When we decided to branch into Train Sims, we set up our own label, Just Trains. Then we decided to branch into strategy games, and set up Just Play. All the time, Mungo, Roger and I would see no barriers and just get on and make things happen. We did a JV in Italy and one in the USA. There was very little time for planning, indeed if I did plan, Mungo took little or no notice, we just had a load of fun.
We eventually got an office in Cambridge in 2000, which we shared with PC Pilot and designers Fink Creative. We painted the office and furnished it like it was our own flat way before Google made that stuff cool. We built a shower and kitchen and practically lived in the local boozer, The Champion of the Thames. We often slept in the office, and Mungo and I did many an all-nighter, crunching the impossible workload we had made for ourselves. We shared fantastic times with our mates and fellow workers, Alex Ford, Dermot Stapleton, Olly Hilton, Darryl Fickling, Dan Stoneham, Dale Nicholson, Mark Embleton, Wolfgang Schwarz, Marc Siegel, Ruth Chaloner, Martin Wright, Richard Slater, Simon Martin, Richard Pomfret, Scott Phillips, Paul ‘H’ Hyslop and loads more.
Mungo and I sold PC Pilot in 2003 and agreed to go our separate ways, business-wise, in 2004.
Mungo (R) and I with members of 617 'The Dambusters' Squadron, and in the centre Flight Lieutenant Bob Knights DSO, DFC when we launched The Dambusters add-on
But the friendship was never over, just on hold. We had ridden the Cresta Run in St Moritz many times together, indeed Mungo dislocated his shoulder in 2000 crashing off wonderfully on Shuttlecock corner. He never liked the fact that I got the fastest time that year either, and was not in the slightest bit worried about the damage he had done to his body. We went skiing together, we went sky diving together, we ran together, drank together, raved together and he even took me up in his aircraft on a wondrous trip along the south coast taking off from Shoreham.
One of the best nights we had was in LA, at E3 after a party at The Playboy Mansion, when our hire car got towed away by the LAPD. I was incensed at the Old Bill and Mungo had to play the part of peacemaker. When he sweet talked the copper to see reason at the car pound, I sneaked under the gate, grabbed the keys from the desk and managed to drive off without being noticed. I will never forget Mungo’s face as he was distracting the copper only to see me drive off. By all accounts Mungo did his best Lord Charles meets Hugh Grant impersonation and made his excuses, and left, fast. How we never got nicked that night I will never know.
Mungo had some hard times, but was always a man to come up with a plan, thinking big and delivering. As a lifelong Conservative, Mungo had threatened many a Damascene moment and we often talked and disagreed with each other on political issues. But, Mungo had joined the Labour Party in early 2016 in order to support Jeremy Corbyn, Unlike many other Tories who thought would be a wheeze to get Corbyn in, Mungo actually believed in the politics that Corbyn stood for. Ever determined and driven by principle, he was one of five fellow members of the Labour Party who had taken the Labour Party to the High Court in August of last year over the ruling that ‘new’ members did not have a vote in the leadership election if they had joined the party, like Mungo, after January 12th 2016. I saw him the day of the ruling and we had a proper laugh. We embraced shared a few beers and above all laughed. He liked my Brexit protest beard, although felt that Brexit was the right way to go. As I say, we often disagreed on politics. But none of that ever mattered.
He was an eccentric, irascible, infuriating, talented, hilarious, warm, emotional, gentle, kind, precise, and lovely, lovely man. We often joked that we had been brothers in a previous life and felt certain that we would be brothers again in the next one. I really hope that is true.
Mungo passed away yesterday, and I got the news of that tragedy early today. I have to admit, I have been pretty numb ever since I heard the news. In 2016 we lost so many talented superstars and the world got pretty dark. Now in 2017, I have lost my little brother superstar. Rest in peace amigo, you made your mark and you spread love and peace to so many. Thank you for the good times, I know you will have a glint in your eye, just like you always did. Shine on you crazy diamond xx