Welcome to the People wing of the 2021 Shacknews Hall of Fame class. This category honors the individuals and teams who created games that touched our lives and changed the industry. Some entiries include Further Reading sections where you'll find features and other stories that further illuminate this year's inductees.
When you're finished, use the Table of Contents links below to visit other areas of the Shacknews Hall of Fame.
Al Lowe got his start in the video game industry producing titles for the Apple II platform, but many will know him as the grandfather of the Leisure Suit Larry franchise. Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards shook up the gaming world when it launched in 1987. The game featured an interesting story, crazy characters, and a protagonist who was just trying to get laid.
While the franchise certainly went places from its first game, Lowe's influence on gaming can be felt in other classic titles like King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne and Police Quest 4: In Pursuit of the Death Angel.
He's the father of modern Tetris and, by extension, the father of modern puzzle games. Alexey Pajitnov spent his childhood playing games that involved making shapes. From this concept, Pajitnov jumped into making video games, which he believed could bridge the gap between logic and emotion. Eventually, he would turn his childhood memories into a puzzle game called Tetris.
Tetris has since become a household name. It's the first title anybody thinks of when they think of puzzle games. It helped the Nintendo Game Boy break sales records and continues to be a force in gaming today, thanks to games like Tetris Effect. Plus, Pajitnov continues to act as an ambassador to this hobby, speaking at various events and making appearances at competitions like the Classic Tetris World Championship.
my Hennig is one of the most successful women in games, having worked in this field for over 30 years. She started her career as an artist and an animator, working on various titles for the NES and Super NES. However, her work would ultimately lead her to Naughty Dog, where she would thrive as a creative director.
Hennig is known as the driving force behind the Uncharted series, having served as both the creative director and head writer. She would pen the full Nathan Drake saga across four games before ultimately departing Naughty Dog in 2014. Hennig has since bounced around the gaming world, working in various roles. She continues work to this day, as part of the writing team for Square Enix's Forspoken and a mystery project for Skydance New Media that will take place in the Marvel Universe.
Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney were introduced at Syzgy Engineering in 1971. They designed Computer Space, a coin-op version of the Computer Space! shooter developed by students at MIT years earlier and the world's first commercial video game. That was only the beginning for Dabney and Bushnell. One year later, they co-founded Atari and revolutionized interactive entertainment when they released Pong, the iconic table tennis game engineered by Allan "Al" Alcorn.
A series of controversies led Dabney to leave Atari in 1973, but his and Bushnell's partnership was critical to the freewheeling culture that transformed Atari from a tiny startup into the purveyor of coin-op games and the Atari 2600/Video Computer System (VCS) console that defined gaming in the 1970s and early '80s.
A journalist passionate about video games and professional wrestling, Bill Kunkel is a pioneer in expanding journalistic coverage of entertainment. He was an editor, writer, and photographer for Main Event magazine in the 1970s and a columnist for Pro Wrestling Torch and Wrestling Perspective. His writing lent a professional and expertise to every publication he wrote for, educating fans and professionals alike. Noting the lack of professional coverage of video games, Kunkel wrote the Arcade Alley column for Video magazine. He became executive editor of Electronic Games Magazine in the 1980s and editor-in-chief of Tips & Tricks, two of the most widely read periodicals devoted to the industry during that era.
Kunkel encouraged peers and colleagues to take a deeper, more journalistic approach to covering games, leading to more serious coverage of a space once considered an offshoot of the toy industry. He combined his experience covering pro wrestling and video games when he co-designed MicroLeague Wrestling, the first game based on the WWF.
Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl is quite possibly the most overpowered video game athlete in history. Bo knows football, and it is only fitting for him to join our first group of inductees. Welcome back to Canton, Bo.
Bonnie Ross is the corporate vice president of Xbox Game Studio and head of 343 Industries, the subsidiary studio in charge of the Halo franchise since Bungie turned over the franchise. Ross studied computer science and technical writing and was one of the only female engineers in her program. She worked at IBM before she made her way to Microsoft, but almost ended up working somewhere else: Ross applied to Apple, Microsoft, and NeXT (a company founded by Steve Jobs after he was fired from Apple), but Microsoft was the only company to show interest in her resume.
She got involved in Microsoft's primordial PC games group early on and became more involved in publishing as the Xbox brand developed. After Bungie relinquished the Halo franchise in 2007, Microsoft viewed Halo as a diminished brand. Ross championed the franchise and headed 343 Industries, the internal team assembled to continue what Bungie had started.
Brenda Romero (nee Garno, previously known as Brenda Brathwaite) has been involved in the development of many games since starting in the industry in 1981. She got her first job as a tester on Sir-Tech Software's Wizardry CRPG (computer RPG) and worked her way up to designer on Wizardry 8. At Atari, she designed content for console games bearing the Dungeons & Dragons and then took a job at Cyberlore Studios as a designer on Playboy: The Mansion. The experience prompted her to write Sex in Video Games, a book that contained the research she'd performed and what she had learned by applying it to game development.
Today, she is the co-founder of Romero Games, where she was and still is the lead designer on 2020's Empire of Sin strategy game. Romero's influence has been recognized by numerous organizations and includes accolades such as Game Developer (formerly Gamasutra), Next Generation magazine, and many more.
Video games have been a male dominated industry for many years, but Carol Shaw was the exception. She was one of the first female game designers and programmers, becoming one of the most recognized faces at Atari, then later at Activision.
Before the great video game crash of the 80s, Shaw's work was on display through games like Super Breakout, River Raid, and Scramble. For women, she represents one of gaming's earliest role models, succeeding and thriving in an industry that mainly focuses on men. Shaw's success is an outlier, but one that gives hope that one day, success for women won't be.
Some folks may remember Babbage’s fondly as that place they used to go to buy video games in the 80s and 90s, but in fact the company took their namesake from the man who is considered the father of computers. Charles Babbage wore many hats in his day as a mathematician, computer scientist, and scholar. He collaborated with some of the most brilliant minds of his time to create his machines. His first attempt at a computer came in the form of the Difference Engine, which was made to execute polynomial functions without division or multiplication.
However, it was his Analytical Engine that he co-developed with C.G. Jarvisin that would end up being the mother of modern computers. It was programmed using a punch card system that would end up being used on computers up until the mid-1980s, which is pretty impressive considering that Babbage was tinkering and modifying his Analytical Engine up until his death in 1871. To say that Babbage was ahead of his time would be a grave understatement.
No computers means no game consoles, LAN parties, arcades… Basically all electronic entertainment and massive steps forward for humanity like the moon landing would not exist without the efforts of Babbage and his cohorts.
Cliff Bleszinski personifies the passion and drive that defined game development in the 1990s. Bleszinski got his start at Epic Games (then known as Epic MegaGames) by coding and submitting his own game, Dare to Dream, to CEO Tim Sweeney. He was hired as a designer and made his mark on Jazz Jackrabbit, a series of 2D platformers, before becoming the co-designer of Unreal, Epic's visually revolutionary FPS released in 1998. Bleszinski co-directed Unreal Tournament, a competition-focused spinoff that went head to head with id Software's Quake 3: Arena.
From there, he directed the Gears of War franchise of third-person action shooters that became one of the Xbox 360's most commercially and critically successful series of titles. Bleszinski left Epic in 2012 intending to retire from the industry, but returned as the founder of Boss Key Productions. Since 2018, he's been involved in venture such as theater production as co-producer of the musical Hadestown and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.
There are hundreds of iconic video game tracks from the past 40 years, but there are few composers like David Wise. He created some of the most memorable video game music ever made, known throughout the gaming world for his work on the Donkey Kong Country series. To this day, Aquatic Ambience and Stickerbrush Symphony are not only two of the most beloved tracks in gaming history, but they're also two of the most frequently covered by YouTube artists and OverClocked Remix contributors.
Wise's resume extends as far back as the 80s with many of his contributions found in Rare games. In fact, he continues to work with Rare to this day, most recently offering tracks to the 2020 Battletoads reboot.
Dona Bailey left a career at General Motors to pursue a career in video game development. She joined Atari's coin-op division in 1980 as the only woman on the team. Bailey went on to do much of the programming work on the smash hit arcade cabinet Centipede.
Centipede was one of the first coin-op arcade cabinets to draw in a female player base, and Bailey's influence on the game's color palette certainly helped catch the attention of players.
She has gone on to do many amazing things in the education space and remains an inspiration for young people. In a male-dominated industry, Dona Bailey changed the game with her amazing work on Centipede.
Gail Tilden helped reach millions of players through Nintendo of America's earliest marketing and publishing endeavors. She joined the company in 1983 as advertising manager and focused on arcade games until Nintendo Company Ltd. (NCL) shared plans to bring its Famicom console to the US. Tilden was part of the team assigned to figuring out how to market the Famicom to North American audiences, a tall order following the market crash of 1983. Tilden and the team rebranded the Famicom as NES and helped organize a limited launch in New York City for the 1985 holiday season. This helped Nintendo determine which games players liked best and which they should include as a pack-in with the system.
After Howard Phillips established a phone line players could call for tips, Tilden partnered with him on a newsletter that became Nintendo Power magazine, and Tilden was its first editor-in-chief. From there, Tilden was promoted to vice president of brand management and came up with new ways to leverage Nintendo's intellectual property rights; her successes in this arena included co-developing the Pokémon animated series.
Hiroshi Yamauchi was the third president of Nintendo, running the company from 1949 to 2002. At the time of his death, he was the company's largest shareholder. Yamauchi lead efforts at Nintendo to experiment in new entertainment mediums, but his first smash hit came from a trading card deal struck with Walt Disney back in 1959.
Yamauchi's confidence in the flagship Nintendo Entertainment System was admirable at a time when video game consoles and computer devices were experiencing a recession in the mid 1980s. On May 24, 2002, Yamauchi was succeeded by Satoru Iwata as the next president of Nintendo. He had worked closely with Iwata, and held his stake in the company until he passed away in 2013.
To American players, Howard Phillips was the face of Nintendo long before they knew of Shigeru Miyamoto. He was hired by Nintendo of America to work in the company's warehouse and played games imported from Japan to test them. NOA president Minoru Arakawa appreciated Phillips's insight into the games and asked him for feedback on every Famicom cartridge that arrived from Japan. He was among the first to voice concerns that Super Mario Bros. 2 (known today as The Lost Levels) was too challenging for players, leading Nintendo Company Ltd. (NCL) to repurpose Doki Doki Panic and release it in the USA as Super Mario Bros. 2.
Phillips was a writer in Nintendo's early newsletter and, after he and Gail Tilden expanded the letter into Nintendo Power magazine, appeared in the Howard & Nester comic strip. He also pioneered Nintendo's call center where "Counselors" helped kids through tricky sections of games.
Founded in 1991, id Software is one of the most important studios in the history of the first-person shooter, and in the gaming industry. John Carmack, John Romero, Adrian Carmack (no relation to John), and Tom Hall met at Softdisk, a monthly magazine that included a disk full of demos programmed and animated by the four friends. Tom Hall and John Carmack stayed late one night to recreate the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3 in a homemade, side-scrolling engine developed by Carmack. Romero was so impressed by the demo, he encouraged the team to leave Softdisk and do their own thing.
Scott Miller, founder of Apogee Software (later called 3D Realms), gave them the opportunity by introducing the embryonic id team to his shareware model of game distribution: Give players a chunk of the game for free to get them hooked, then encourage them to mail a check to buy the full version. The chemistry and unique blend of creativity and tech savvy between Adrian Carmack, Tom Hall, and "the Two Johns" (named by Masters of Doom author David Kushner) was instrumental to the company's early success.
After building the episodic Commander Keen platformers for PC, the four founders assembled a small but devoted team to create Wolfenstein 3D and, from there, Doom, leading to the popularization of the first-person shooter.
It was tradition at Sierra for a designer to co-design a King's Quest game under the wing of Roberta Williams and then create a title of their own. Educated as a programmer, Jane Jensen worked on a few of Sierra's adventures before taking her place at Roberta Williams' side for King's Quest 6: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow. KQ6 was one of the most critically acclaimed and multimedia rich entries in the franchise, and gave Jensen the opportunity to lead development of her own series.
Designing and writing Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, Jensen wrote a darker tale that appealed to older players. She was the director of all three entries in the GK trilogy, and is as revered as Roberta Williams by contemporary game designers.
Before Jerry Lawson's engineering breakthroughs, video game consoles were singular systems that played games built into their hardware. One of only two Black members of the Homebrew Computer Club that included hobbyists such as Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Lawson was hired by Fairchild Semiconductor. He used the Fairchild F8 microprocessor to create Demolition Derby, an early coin-operated video game and one of the first to run on microprocessors.
Lawson captained development of the Fairchild Channel F, a game console that ran on interchangeable game cartridges, making him a pioneer among pioneers in video game software and hardware.
There are few video game soundtracks that rock as hard as the original Castlevania on the NES and we have composer Kinuyo Yamashita to thank for it. In the game she was credited for her work under the name James Banana, which was a nod to the composer of the original Dracula film. Konami’s prolific songwriter would compose a number of soundtracks during her tenure there, including Hideo Kojima’s Blade Runner homage Snatcher before retiring from soundtrack composition in 2010.
Most of her soundtracks were for titles that were only released in Japan, but, along with Castlevania and Snatcher, she also worked on series that US gamers should be familiar with like Power Rangers and Power Blade. Yamashita has also lent her talents as a composer and musician to a number of projects outside of gaming to a number of American R&B artists and via Japanese indie label Rocketeers.
Hands-down, flat-out, Koji Kondo is one of the greatest composers of our times, there’s no need to preface that with video games, although that is his medium of choice for his works. Kondo-San joined the ranks of Nintendo after seeing a bulletin board post from the company looking for composers. It’s the one and only job he ever applied for. In his time there, he has created some of the most recognizable and iconic soundtracks in gaming history. Whether you’re talking about the themes to Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda, or his work on other great Nintendo franchises like Star Fox and Smash Bros. you cannot deny the beauty and genius of his compositions.
While Iwata and Miyamoto may rightly get a lot of credit for the characters and games they’ve created you cannot argue that the soundtracks to their visions didn’t have a major role in cementing them in the our cultural zeitgeist and that’s in no small part thanks to Koji Kondo.
Considering the number of Konami composers that have made our inaugural list, it would seem they have an eye for talent. Kozo Nakamura is definitely another amazing composer who had the privilege of providing the musical backdrop for a number of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, including the iconic arcade cab. If you want to hear some intense and uptempo compositions with lightning fast arpeggios just take a listen to that soundtrack. And it somehow fit perfectly with the Saturday morning cartoon aesthetics of TMNT.
Nakamura’s works on the Simpsons arcade cab can’t be ignored either. The Simpson’s cab took its cues from the show’s theme song by Danny Elfman and you can definitely hear the influence throughout the game. Nkamura’s signature sounds are definitely enough to get him into the hall of fame.
From her birth in 1815 until her untimely death at age 36 in 1852 the Lady of Lovelace would leave her mark on the world as both a brilliant mathematician and the first computer programmer ever. As a close friend of Charles Babbage's, she was one of the first people to recognize that his early, primitive computers had potential beyond being just another calculator. She ended up writing what is considered to be the first algorithm for a computer.
You can trace a direct line from her work to today’s modern machines. Without it we wouldn’t have many of the modern technological advancements of today, let alone video games and fancy desktop PCs.
Maarten Goldstein is a cofounder of Shacknews, and has gone on to do amazing work at Gearbox Software. An avid Dallas Mavericks fan, Maarten has been at the center of many Shack memes. He was also one of the original developers behind the creation of many Shacknews experiences.
An appelflappen enthusiast of the highest order, Maarten Goldstein was one of the first individuals our panel selected to be enshrined in the Shacknews Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Matsumae was a composer on some of Capcom’s most famous arcade and console franchises. We’re talking about the first two Mega Man games, arcade brawlers Final Fight and Dynasty Wars. top down shooter Mercs, and the legendary shoot ‘em up UN Squadron. And that’s just a few of her works with Capcom. Most recently you can hear some of her work in Mega Man and it’s indie cousin Mighty No. 9, she even contributed a few tracks to Shovel Knight. Matsumae’s work has now spanned over thirty years and she shows no signs of slowing down.
Masahiro Sakurai will be remembered for many things. At the forefront, he'll be remembered for the Super Smash Bros. series, revolutionizing the idea of mascot platform fighters. His greatest achievement will be Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, in which he takes the original concept of blending together Nintendo's many first party mascots and extending it far beyond that to celebrating gaming as a whole.
Sakurai will also be remembered for being one of the hardest working developers in the business, often forsaking his own health to push the project forward. He didn't do it to make a point about hard work or to push others to do the same. He did it because he loves what he does and he wants to make people happy.
Miki Higashino began her career as the equivalent of an intern composer for Konami in the 1980, but would go on to be one of the company’s shining stars. She’s probably best known for her work on the Gradius and Suikoden series, but she’s contributed to such classic titles as the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games.
For Suikoden 2, she composed over 90 new pieces of music alone, that’s more music than some people write in their entire lives. It definitely helps to be prolific, but Miki Higashino deserves to be in here for here work the Gradius series alone.
To look at the catalog of Nobuo Uematsu is to gaze upon greatness. There’s a good reason that he’s been nicknamed the Beethoven of video game soundtracks. Although most would be familiar with his work on just about every Final Fantasy game ever made, he’s also contributed work to games like Chrono Trigger, Blue Dragon, and Lost Odyssey.
His orchestral compositions are a thing of beauty, with their swelling crescendos and percussive brass stabs, but the dude knows how to rock out as well. He even played keys in a band that did heavy rock versions of his FF compositions. He is one the most dynamic composers to ever score a video game soundtrack and we can’t thank him enough for his work.
Richard Garriott is recognized as the visionary behind the Ultima series. These games were unlike anything at the time, helping take role-playing games to new places. In the Ultima games, being a beacon of virtue and heroism was as important as reaching the ending. Ultima players are well versed in the Eight Virtues of Honesty, Compassion, Valor, Justice, Sacrifice, Honor, Spirituality, and Humility and strive to live up to those ideals in service of Lord British. In this sense, Ultima helped pioneer some of the modern ideas of character building, which would inspire such games as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Fallout. While Garriott is no longer part of the Ultima series, it lives on in spirit thanks to his more recent effort, Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues.
Garriott's success in gaming has taken him where few men have ever gone: space. Using his earnings from his career, Garriott eventually embarked on a flight through space, just as his father before him did. He even continued contributing to the tech world from orbit, helping work on the Windows on Earth project.
Roberta Williams enjoyed seminal text-adventure Colossal Cave Adventure so much that she went looking for other games like it. When she couldn't find any, she resolved to write one herself. With her husband Ken writing code, Roberta wrote the script for Mystery House, the first adventure game for the company that became Sierra On-Line co-founded by the Williams. Roberta continued writing and designing adventure games at Sierra. She was the lead designer and writer of the King's Quest series and led the transition into new technologies such as point-and-click interfaces and full-motion video.
Today, Roberta is known as one of the queens of adventure gaming, a title that speaks to the respect she commands as one of the forerunners of the narrative-driven genre.
Satoru Iwata became infatuated with video game design in the late 1970s, leading him into a career that began at HAL Laboratory. Over the years, Iwata worked closely with Nintendo, ingratiating himself with the company's president Hiroshi Yamauchi.
Iwata ultimately became the president of Nintendo, but he was never above getting his hands dirty, pitching in with the development of games and hardware devices. Many of Nintendo's biggest and most successful products and games were born out of Iwata's leadership. During a GDC talk, Iwata described himself perfectly. "On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer."
While Iwata's life came to an end too early after succumbing to a tumor, his vision for the future of Nintendo is still being carried out with the massive hit of Nintendo Switch. Legends never die, and that will certainly be the case of Satoru Iwata as he will be honored for eternity at the Shacknews Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
After the great video game crash of the early 1980s, it took some key figures to bring about gaming's biggest renaissance. Shigeru Miyamoto was one of those people, assembling some of Nintendo's greatest gaming franchises. Out of his imagination came Donkey Kong, Mario, The Legend of Zelda, F-Zero, and many more of Nintendo's most beloved properties. In fact, it was Mario and Zelda that helped propel the Nintendo Entertainment System to dominate the gaming market and all of pop culture in the process.
Miyamoto's work continues today, where he helps oversee his creations as one of the faces of Nintendo. While his days as General Manager of Nintendo EAD and Senior Managing Director at Nintendo may be behind him, Miyamoto's influence is undeniable. As a "Creative Fellow," he continues to help guide Nintendo into the future.
Millions of players know Sid Meier as the father of the Sid Meier's Civilization series of turn-based strategy games. That only makes sense: His name is in the title. But Meier started on a different path, programming flight simulators for his business partner and MicroProse co-founder William "Wild Bill" Stealey. After designing several flight sims, Meier needed a palette cleanser. He developed Sid Meier's Pirates and Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon, both simulation games. His next game was Sid Meier's Civilization, which he co-designed with Bruce Shelley. While Meier consulted and produced future installment in the Civ series, he was not involved as co-designer. He designed Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and Sid Meier's Colonization for MicroProse.
After leaving MicroProse, he co-founded Firaxis Games with fellow developers Jeff Briggs and Brian Reynolds, where he served as producer on games such as Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution, a console-, mobile-, and handheld-friendly version of Civ; and consulted on the 2012 reboot of XCOM. He continues to develop special projects such as a game engine and remains a powerful influence on the direction of strategy games.
Steve Gibson founded Shacknews, and that makes him the first to "Do it for Shacknews," as our mantra goes. Steve's fandom for Quake led him to found Quakeholio, a one-stop page for news, screenshots, and other media related to id Software's seminal true-3D shooter. Over the years, Quakeholio expanded its coverage, becoming Shugashack and ultimately Shacknews. Known as "sTeve" to his growing community of forum posters, Gibson was the chief visionary behind Shack's expansion into an all-encompassing gaming site: reviews, previews, interviews, news, and more.
FileShack acted as an extension of Shacknews: Read about a game on the Shack, then download a demo from FileShack to try it yourself. Gibson sold Shacknews in 2009 but remains proud of how the website and its community—known as the Chatty after its eponymous forum—continues to flourish.
Steve Jobs will go down as one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time. He was the cofounder of Apple, early investor in Pixar, and the architect of the great corporate turnaround in history. Jobs may never have been too focused on video games, but many of Apple's products sat at the center of the industry. From Apple II to iPad, Apple has been a huge part of the medium.
Jobs is a divisive public figure, but his influence on the world of technology is undeniable. It's only fitting for he and his buddy Woz to enter the Shacknews Hall of Fame together in our first year.
Steve Wozniak, also known as Woz, was the original engineer at Apple Computer. His Apple I board kicked off the personal computer revolution, and Woz took things to the next level with his partner Steve Jobs. The launch of the Apple II personal computer had Woz's hands all over it.
Woz's involvement in the video game space started at Atari, helping the company design their Breakout arcade cabinet with less transistors than anyone thought was possible. When he went on to develop the first OS for Apple II computers, he hand wrote an Integer Basic and gave it the name Game Basic.
Woz is also an accomplished gamer, repeatedly appearing in Nintendo Power's Tetris high score lists. While he is no longer an active participant at Apple, much of the spirit of innovation that lead that company to become a $2 trillion behemoth resides in the heart of this legendary geek.
Tim Sweeney is the founder and CEO of Epic Games (called Epic Mega Games at the time it was founded), creator of the Unreal Engine, and a no-brainer inductee into the Shacknews Hall of Fame. Sweeney described himself as "a lowly engine coder" in an interview with us at GDC 2018. Fortnite mania was in full swing, but the somewhat humble CEO still really feels like a dev on most days.
While the present era of Epic Games features an ongoing legal battle with Apple, many amazing technological advancements in the games industry can be traced back to the creation of Unreal Engine.
Many of Epic Games' intellectual properties are not yet eligible for induction, but we absolutely had to bestow this prestigious honor on Epic Games head honcho. Welcome to Canton, Tim Sweeney.
Iwatani is the proud father of PAC-MAN, a game he originally designed because he was trying to develop a game that would appeal to women. He figured women like eating and named his game Pakkuman because “paku paku” is a slang onomatopoeia for eating in Japanese. The legend goes that he came up with the iconic yellow circle with a gaping maw design during a late night pizza dinner. Whether it’s true or not, it definitely adds to the mystique surrounding the game’s origin.
Regardless of where PAC-MAN came from, the important thing here is the impact it’s had on the world of video games. It’s the kind of game that fans across the globe still play hoping to beat their own personal best high score. It even got its own battle royale earlier this year in the form of PAC-MAN 99. His creation is in the Guinness Book of World Records for most coin-op arcade cabs operating in the world. That’s enough to get a hall of fame spot right there, but Iwatani didn’t rest on his laurels. He would go on to help produce other classics such as the Pole Position series, Galaga, Ridge Racer, and even Time Crisis.
Although he moved on from working in the games industry in the late 2000’s he did return recently to help create PAC-MAN Championship Edition and take one last bow and one big last chomp before leaving for good.
Will Wright is the co-founder of Maxis, a company best known for creating the Sims brand of games.
From their humble beginnings in Orinda, CA, Wright and his team created SimCity, a game where you built and maintained your own Simulated City, hence the title. The franchise would go on to spawn Sim-just-about-everything SimAnt, SimLife, and several direct sequels. After Maxis was purchased by EA, it would spawn the cultural phenomenon that is The Sims, a game in which you make virtual people in a sort of ant farm environment. The Sims has gone on to build a legacy all its own and is immensely popular among both hardcore and casual gamers alike.
Wright’s most ambitious may have been Spore. He toiled with the concept for a number of years. He wanted to make a game where you started out as a simple life form on a random planet that would eventually evolve into beings advanced enough to explore the cosmos. Unfortunately though, Spore failed to stick the landing and Wright departed Maxis to form the Stupid Fun Club in an effort to merge video games with several multimedia concepts.
Four years later, the Stupid Fun Club was shut down to pursue other ventures. Since then, Wright has announced a number of projects, but everything is still in the works. What will Wright’s next project look like? We’ll just have to wait and see.
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