The creator of an interactive spy themed adventure game for children to play while they are staying at hotels and resorts worldwide aims to encourage children to read books by inviting them into a world of intrigue and virtual reality.
David Goutcher (50) who grew up in Kirkintilloch, found himself unexpectedly out of work after leaving the police force in 2008 to start a new career.
His plan of working for a corporate company didn’t work out and he had to think of another way to make money – and fast – because his wife was six months pregnant with their third child.
David, a former police officer with Strathclyde Police Force, had spent 17 years working in covert surveillance and undercover operations in the UK and abroad.
He decided to use his experience as a spy to create an online interactive game for children called Spy Quest and he founded Polybius Games in 2009 with a launch event at Gleneagles Hotel.
His company has pushed the boundaries of digital gaming and picked up prestigious awards such as the ‘John Logie Baird’ innovation award and Barclays ‘Take One Small Step’ business award.
Children receive an access code (code name and password) from the hotel and then they complete a series of missions which involves cracking codes, solving puzzles and finding clues.
David said: “I took my knowledge of working in the police force and brought it to life by creating these interactive books and games.
“Spy Quest is like a modern day treasure hunt which is tied in with virtual reality.
“The game uses reality combined with computer images to allow players to have an active role in the story.
“Boys and girls have responded really well to it – they seem to love it.
“I want to encourage children to read and so far I’ve had excellent feedback from parents, teachers, librarians and children – they say it’s fantastic.”
David, a former pupil of St Flannan’s Primary and St Ninian’s High School, Kirkintilloch, knew he wanted to become a police officer from a young age.
He was inspired by books such as Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators.
David had several setbacks when he tried to become a police officer but he never gave up and he encourages children to also pursue their dream career.
He explains: “I applied for the police cadets when I was 16 and they had just stopped taking them that year and told me to come back.
“I applied again when I was 18 and they told me I was too young and to go away and get some life experience. I went back when I was 22 and they said they had no money to take me on and that I’d have to wait another two years.
“I’d already waited six years so I thought what’s the harm in waiting another two?
“It’s important to never give up on your dream.”
David, now a father of three girls aged 11, eight and six and a boy aged 17, was not allowed to tell his family and friends what he was doing while he worked in covert surveillance.
He often went abroad at short notice and still can’t reveal any specific details of what he did during that time.
The second book in the series, David’s first solo book, Spy Quest: Cursed Diamond, uses an associated Spy Quest app to bring the images within the book to life, so that children can read the book and watch the movie at the same time.
When it was launched at Waterstone’s bookshop in his home town of East Kilbride last November 1,100 people queued to get a copy.
He sold 320 copies of his book on the launch day, breaking the store records as no one had ever sold as many copies before in a signing session.
And about 400,000 people have now played the Spy Quest game.
The game is used by schools for educational purposes and it’s been endorsed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Education Scotland as they recognise that it has learning benefits.
David now hopes to launch a studio in Los Angeles in September or October this year.
He is hosting a Spy Quest event at the Cross in Kilmarnock on Friday, July 21. Actors from Fame Academy acting school in Coatbridge will be playing the parts of spies and participants will be given local clues which will have the additional benefit of helping them to get to know the town. There will be several sessions starting at 11am.
You can follow David on Twitter @goutcherd and @SpyQuest or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next book in the series ‘The Billion Heist’ will be available this October.