A VIDEO games expert who was born and grew up in Blackburn is now working on some of the biggest Star Wars games ever made. 

Michael Cottam, 58, trained as an electrical apprentice while working on the Lancashire Evening Telegraph offices in the 1980s. It was there he dreamed of one day working on Star Wars.

Michael now lives in Xi’an in China and is a senior art director heading six projects creating 3D designs that will be played by millions of gamers.

He is currently working on three of the latest Star Wars games and revealed his future dream is to go to Mars on an Elon Musk spaceship.

It is a far cry from St Francis and Darwen Vale High School which Michael attended in the 1970s when the first Star Wars movie was released.

He said: “Living in Feniscowles was cool, it had so much countryside around it. We were very adventurous and it was a big playground. Star Wars dominated my youth and I spent a lot of time drawing and building spaceships.”

In 1982, Michael was an electrical apprentice working for WH Smiths Electrical LTD. As well as wiring the Lancashire Evening Telegraph building, he worked on the installation of the first of its kind digital printing press and the computers that put the news on the web.

He said: “My last job on the building was installing an extra socket in the Editors room on Christmas Eve, the week the building opened.

"As I was still a young apprentice, my tasks involved taking orders for breakfast and lunch for the electricians. Bacon sandwiches from a street van and fish and chips from the Hake boat near the boulevard. 

“So, my dream of working for George Lucas really was in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. To keep my dream alive, I remember drawing during my breaks on wood tables in the work cabin next door to the Telegraph."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Michael as pictured in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph and on the steps of the Skywalker Ranch years later

Michael lived in Darwen for a while in 1990 and worked at ICI Perspex where his boss introduced him to computers and people in the gaming industry, he later met Chris Roberts (currently making Star Citizen) and Richard Garriot from Origin Systems when he paid a visit to Austin Texas in the US. 

He said; “That was when I worked with Paul Steed. Later I learned that the models were the first 3D in-game models (in the world) for a game called Wing Commander III.” 

Soon after he was working on ‘Privateer II the Darkening’ the first interactive movie with Clive Owen, Christopher Walker, David Warner and John Hurt and other space games such as ‘Dark Light Conflict’, ‘Star Trek Invasion’, and ‘Starlancer’ - a space trading game for Microsoft. 

Lancashire Telegraph:

He says his love for computers and space was something that spurred him to learn and grow. 

Michael read about the new Ranch in San Rafael California where they were making Star Wars while working at the Telegraph. 

He kept a picture in his wallet of the fancy library in what they had just called Skywalker Ranch; it was ripped out of a magazine.

He said; “I would dream of going there one day and taking a book off one of its shelves, a white book I could see in the image”. 

Michael made it there in 2000 adding, “It was all I had dreamt; I did eventually take that book off the shelf and proved anything is possible. 

“I never forget the magazine saying all the artists making Star Wars lived in a housing estate near the Ranch. I actually moved into that same estate without knowing it and made friends with the people I admired.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

In 2017 Michael moved to China having produced games in the Czech Republic, India, Singapore, Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Recently Michael has worked on high-profile productions such as CrossFireX, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. 

He said: “It’s Christmas and I was thinking back to how I got to China and I just wanted to let other young people know that anything is possible - you just have to try.

"If I can fulfil my dreams anyone else can too. Maybe my next report will be from Mars, I’m already training for that! Never underestimate the force.”