Video game history is full of those who have made video games what they are today and it would be a rather long article to try to talk about them all, so we have picked five of the best and most influential men in video game history to represent them all.
From Russia With Love: Alexey Pajitnov
Alexey Pajitnov is the creator of the number one best-selling game of all time: Tetris. He created the game in 1984 with the help of Dmitry Pavlovsky and Vadim Gerasimov. It only became available in the West in 1989.
Sad fact though, he couldn’t get royalties for his beautiful creation because he was employed by the Soviet Union, working for the Dorodnitsyn Computing Centre of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
Good news: when he and his partner, Henk Rogers left Russia to move to the United States, they formed The Tetris Company and were able to start collecting royalties in 1996.
Wallet Destroyer Extraordinaire: Gabe Newell
Often confused with a heavier Harry Potter by parents, Gabe Newell is a founder of Valve, which started up in 1996. Newell and the other Valve founder, Mike Harrington, used the money earned through the development of Half-Life to fund their company.
Newell had one of those beginnings parents hate because he dropped out of school. More specifically, he dropped out of Harvard. Then he spent nineteen years working for the Microsoft Corporation. Newell has described himself as “producer on the first three releases of Windows.” Newell is also creator of the wallet crunching internet-based digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer, and social networking platform, Steam. Whether or not he will finally give us what we really want (Half-Life 3), remains a mystery.
The 3D Pioneer: John Carmack
We can thank this man for how awesome video games look today due to his innovations in 3D graphics. John Carmack was a co-founder of Id Software and also one of its lead programmers. He had a hand in creating Commander Keen, Wolfenstien 3D, Doom, Quake, Rage, and all of their sequels. On top of all that, Carmack also loves rockets and is the founder and lead engineer of Armadillo Aerospace.
Carmack was responsible for pioneering the use of many techniques in computer graphics, such as “adaptive tile refresh” (in Commander Keen), “raycasting” (Hovertank 3D), “catacomb surface caching” (which he invented for Quake), “Carmack’s Reverse” (formally known as z-fail stencil shadows, which he designed for Doom 3), and Megatexture technology (first used in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars).
Carmack’s engines were so awesome that they have been used in other major name first-person shooters like Half-Life, Call of Duty, and Medal of Honor. Since Carmack was one of the forefront leaders when it came to 3D graphics in video games, it should come as no surprise that he took the position of CTO at Oculus in 2013.
Fun fact: when Carmack was 14, he broke into a school to help some friends steal Apple II computers. However, someone tripped the silent alarm and he was arrested. The authorities claimed that Carmack had “no empathy for other human beings” and sent him for psychiatric evaluation. He was then sentenced to one year in a juvenile home.
The Dedicated Dr. Bug: Satoshi Tajiri
Satoshi Tajiri “Gotta catch ’em all” was the ultimate insect collector because he went as far as to make it into one of the best-selling games ever. That’s right, Pokemon was created because Tajiri loved collecting bugs. As he grew up, however, he noticed that the cities of Japan were slowly eating away at all the green spaces. Many of the places kids could hunt for bugs were lost but Tajiri didn’t want future kids to lose that chance at excitement. This inspired him to create a game that would let kids experience the same joy he’d felt while catching and collecting creatures.
Tajiri had always been obsessed with video games and constantly cut classes. He was such a bad student that he nearly didn’t graduate high school. When he was 17, he began writing and editing a fanzine called Game Freak (sound familiar?). This magazine focused on the arcade game scene from 1981 to 1986. The magazine actually became quite popular and attracted many contributors. Discussions on the poor quality of games led Tajiri and his friend, Ken Sugimori, to make their own games. This was how the magazine became the game company as we know it today.
Tajiri first thought of Pokemon in 1990 and was inspired by the Game Boy to create it as a hand-held game. Tajiri was also the pioneer for the idea of connecting handheld game consoles and allowing friends to do more than just play against each other. The character of Ash Ketchum (Satoshi in Japan) is pretty much Tajiri as a child and Sugimori was responsible for designing the original 151 Pokemon.
The Creator of Fantastic Childhoods: Shigeru Miyamoto
He was the father of Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, F-Zero, and Pikmin. Shigeru Miyamoto was responsible for the wonderful childhoods of everyone reading this article. Today, Miyamoto manages the Nintendo EAD, which handles most of Nintendo’s top-selling titles. He wasn’t always a big shot though, Miyamoto started off how most of us do, as an intern.
Miyamoto graduated from the Kanazawa Municipal College of Industrial Arts with a degree in industrial design. Unfortunately, as many of us have experienced, Miyamoto could not get a job until his dad hooked him up with an interview with Nintendo president, Hiroshi Yamauchi. Yamauchi was impressed with Miyamoto’s toy creations and took him on as an apprentice in the planning department in 1977. From there, he became the company’s first artist and created the original Donkey Kong game.
One of his most famous games was inspired by Miyamoto’s love of exploration. He wanted to create a game that embodied the love he had of exploring nature as a child. Inspired by the fields, woods, and caves of his childhood, Miyamoto created The Legend of Zelda, which was launched in 1986.
Some of these men drew their inspiration from their childhoods, many of them had humble beginnings, but one thing they all have in common is that all of these contributors completely changed the way we play video games forever.