Welcome to the People wing of the 2022 Shacknews Hall of Fame class. This category honors the individuals and teams who created games that touched our lives and changed the industry.
When you're finished, use the Table of Contents links below to visit other areas of the Shacknews Hall of Fame.
Atari’s Pong celebrated its 50th birthday in 2022. It was the world’s first successful commercial video game, and that achievement means as much for Allan “Al” Alcorn as for Atari. Co-founders Ted Dabney and Nolan Bushnell hired Alcorn, an electrical engineer, in the company’s earliest days. Alcorn’s first assignment, to design and build a table tennis game, was not an explicit game assignment. It was intended as a warm-up for whatever Bushnell assigned him to make next.
Pong’s simple design—two paddles, a net, a scoring system, and a ball, all made from squares—was deceptively difficult to construct, but Alcorn was up to the challenge. These were the days when video games were made from transistors rather than written in code. Famously, Bushnell and Alcorn took the first working unit to a local bar, Andy Capp’s Tavern. When the proprietor called Atari to report that the game was broken, Alcorn raced to the site and found that the machine had stopped working because it was jammed with coins.
Alcorn’s training exercise paved the way for the video game industry as we know it today.
The Apple II was a formative machine for many pioneers in game development. Bill Budge was no exception. It was common for budding programmers to start out by writing a clone of a popular game. Budge’s first title, Penny Attack, was a derivative of Pong. He wrote a collection of four other titles that were published in 1980 and gained a reputation for impressive graphics. One of his most popular games, Raster Blaster, simulated a pinball table with impressive physics.
Budge’s most well-known game is Pinball Construction Set. Rather than the pre-made tables in Raster Blaster, Pinball Construction Set gave players all the pieces and parts they needed to design their own. It was one of the industry’s first “maker” games, a genre that exploded in popularity with the release of titles such as LittleBigPlanet and Super Mario Maker.
Bob Hoskins was a brilliant actor with a long and prolific career that includes roles in such iconic films as Brazil, Hook, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. But it’s his role as Mario Mario in the original live-action Super Mario Bros. movie in 1993 that has cemented him as an icon in video game culture. While many, including Hoskins himself, are not big fans of the movie for a number of reasons, (he said working on the film was a nightmare) no one can deny that he didn’t give his all with what he was handed. Hoskins honestly did a pretty impressive job with the role and definitely had the right look for it. And he was from England, making his spot-on New York plumber dialect that much more impressive.
Bob Hoskins passed on April 29, 2014, and is probably more remembered for any number of his other amazing roles, but he’ll always be the first big screen Super Mario to us here at Shacknews.
With Mario months away from hitting theaters as of this entry, the Shacknews Hall of Fame is celebrating the portly plumber's first foray on the small screen. Just a few years after the original Super Mario Bros. took the world by storm and revived video games as a hobby, Nintendo heard a unique pitch from DIC Enterprises for an afternoon half-hour kids program called the Super Mario Bros. Super Show. This hybrid of live action and animated shorts took Mario from the NES cartridge to every kid's television set. However, while the concept was one piece of the formula, the formula could only truly succeed with the right actor filling the plumber's overalls.
That man was Captain Lou Albano, legendary professional wrestling manager and personality. Albano brought his unique charisma and comedic timing to the character, both in live action and as a voice actor for the show's animated portions. While Albano was one of pro wrestling's most infamous heels, his run as Mario turned him into one of kids television's most likable figures. Albano brought a sincere enjoyment to every episode, whether it was interacting with a celebrity guest or calling out the animated King Koopa.
Captain Lou was remembered fondly after he passed away peacefully in 2009.
Charles Martinet is a voice actor, but he also began his career in television and film acting. Martinet landed his most important role when Nintendo chose him to be the voice of their brand mascot Mario. Martinet's voice of Mario was popularized with the release of Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64 console, but his time voicing the iconic plumber began earlier in the 1990s with Mario Teaches Typing.
Martinet has voiced countless other characters in the Mario franchise, including Luigi, Baby Mario, Wario, and even Waluigi. It's truly impossible to imagine Mario being voiced by anyone other than Charles Martinet, and while he was not picked for the upcoming Super Mario Bros. movie, Martinet will be making a series of cameos in the film when it releases next year. Welcome to the Shacknews Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Charles. Wahoo!
TOASTY! Arcade goers in the 1990s got their first look at Dan Forden when he slid into the lower-right corner of Mortal Kombat II screens and shouted his catchphrase—an inside joke between Forden and MK co-creator and programmer Ed Boon—but Mortal Kombat fans were familiar with his work before then, even if they didn’t realize it. After Boon and artist John Tobias started development of the original MK, they recruited fellow artist John Vogel and sound designer Dan Forden, comprising the four-person team that pioneered one of gaming’s biggest franchises.
Mortal Kombat’s soundscape was gritty and hard hitting. The soundtracks and audio of every MK that followed were just as memorable. Forden has worked on the franchise ever since, staying with Midway’s Chicago-based office through its transformation into NetherRealm Studios under the auspices of Warner Brothers. Besides MK titles, Forden has lent his expertise to coin-op and home titles such as NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, Injustice and Injustice 2, and Unreal Championship 2, among many others.
Every Mario needs a good Luigi. In the case of Captain Lou Albano, his Luigi was Canadian actor Danny Wells. Wells' career spanned four decades, but for people of a certain age, he was fondly remembered as the Super Mario Bros. Super Show's Luigi.
Wells was both the live action Luigi and also provided the character's voice in the show's live action segments. While there was a sense of direction in those animated shorts, Wells got to show off his improvisational skills in the live action portions. Wells and Albano would play off a celebrity guest in segments that both actors would later note were totally off-the-cuff improvised. Wells brought such a joy to the role that he was soon mainly known as the man who brought life to Luigi.
Wells passed away in 2013.
In 1991, Williams/Midway programmer Ed Boon and artist John Tobias chatted about making a fighting game. They were working on other projects at the time—a football title called High Impact for Boon, and a shoot-em-up named Total Carnage for Tobias—but both agreed that a game that drew from their fandom of martial arts movies would be a fun project. Their managers, who needed a game to fill a gap in their coin-op manufacturing schedule, gave them the green light, figuring a Street Fighter II-style game might sell a few cabinets.
That game went through several names—Dragon Attack and Kumite among them—before Boon and Tobias landed on Mortal Kombat, a name suggested by pinball programmer Steve Ritchie during a chance visit to Boon’s office. Mortal Kombat went on, along with SF2, to become one of the most influential franchises of all time.
Boon and Tobias were at the heart of every MK title during the arcade era. They brainstormed characters, backstories, arenas, and gameplay ideas. On track to develop a working prototype, they brought on artist John Vogel and sound designer Dan Forden to round out the game’s four-person team. Everyone deferred to Boon and Tobias; even Midway’s licensing manager ran ideas by them first. Boon immortalized their partnership in MKII when he secretly added Noob Saibot, the ninja dressed in all black and named by spelling “Boon” and “Tobias” backwards. (The ninja was so secret not even John Tobias knew about it until players discovered it in arcades.)
Tobias moved on to other ventures in the late ‘90s, while Boon has remained at the forefront of Mortal Kombat’s design for 30 years and counting. The two remain friends, and the franchise’s millions of fans eagerly anticipate every drip of in-game lore and behind-the-scenes history the co-creators share on social media.
There are a lot of rockstar game makers out there, but none seem to have quite the same cult-like following as Goichi Suda, or as you might know him Suda51. Suda51 began his gaming career back in the 1990s working as both a writer and director on the Fire Pro Wrestling series as well as a number of other titles for Human Entertainment. After 5 years with Human Entertainment, Suda51 would go on to found his own company Grasshopper Manufacture. The company released a number of visual novels, but it would be Suda51’s Killer 7, an action game about a man who could turn into multiple assassins, that would put him on the map.
From there Suda51 would go on to achieve even more success with the No More Heroes franchise and make a number of what could be considered cult-hits including his collaboration with James Gunn on Lollipop Chainsaw. Suda51 is still making games and recently wrapped up Travis Touchdown’s saga with No More Heroes 3. What’s next for Suda51 and Grasshopper? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Hajime Wakai has worked at Nintendo since 1996 under the roles of Sound Director and Composer. Much of his early career at Nintendo revolved around Nintendo 64 titles. Many songs featured in Shacknews Hall of Fame Class of 2022 inductee Star Fox 64 were composed and arranged by Wakai. He also worked on F-Zero X's iconic soundtrack, composing the ending credits song. Wakai's sounds have been heard on Nintendo DS games like Nintendogs, and Wii era games. His most recent work has been on the Zelda franchise, composing and arranging songs for both Skyward Sword and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
As Wakai closes out his 26th year at Nintendo, we are very excited to induct him into the Shacknews Hall of Fame. Hajime Wakai joins another iconic Nintendo composer and musician Koji Kondo, who was part of our inaugural class of inductees last year.
Ivan Stewart came from humble beginnings. He was an ironworker in San Diego, California, who participated in off-road racing as a hobby. Stewart earned his “Ironman” nickname when he was 31, after finishing the challenging Baja 1000 course in a single-seat vehicle. He went on to win numerous awards and gain international fame, but video game players may know him best for Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off-Road arcade and console games.
Some of the most popular racing titles in arcades, the Super Off-Road games came with three steering wheels so three players could race in real-time competition. Stewart was excited to be involved with the series; their release puts him in the esteemed company of athletes such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Bo Jackson, and Shaquille O'Neal, some of the first professional athletes to lend their names or likenesses to video games.
Over the years John Leguizamo has done many roles that were polarizing to say the least when it comes to the quality of the content, but no one can argue that he doesn’t try his best. Case in point, his role as Luigi Mario in the original live action Super Mario Bros. movie. In the film, Luigi is an orphan adopted by Mario, despite the title of the film and name of their business featuring the world “Brothers”. Despite the odd script choices, Leguizamo delivers a solid performance and it seems like he’s genuinely into it. He recently said he saw Luigi as a breakout role for himself as a person of color and a credit to blind casting. However, in that same breath he chastised the upcoming animated Super Mario Bros. movie for its predominantly white cast.
John Madden was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006 after concluding an amazing career as a turducken evangelist, a broadcaster and head coach for the Oakland Raiders. He also inspired one of the most financially successful video game franchises of all time with the Madden NFL series. Madden passed away late last year, but will now join Oakland Raider Bo Jackson in the Shacknews Hall of Fame.
Madden brought realism to video game football in the 1990s, with a focus on realistic playbooks and higher fidelity voice commentary. While the franchise has lost some of its luster over the past decade, we have to give John Madden a lot of credit for just how much he affected the future of sports video games. Welcome back to Canton, Coach. Boom!
Lola the Pom’s whole life revolved around Shacknews. Before taking the reins as CEO of Shacknews in 2021, she was elected Chairpet of the Board at E3 2018. While many will say that Lola is not eligible because she was only 7 human years old, it is important to note that her term as Chairpet was actually 28 dog years long. From giveaways, marketing campaigns, the development of our Shackpets app, declaring Cortex winners, and countless other Shacknews events, Lola was there.
Lola will always be part of the Shacknews, and it is an honor to induct her into the Hall of Fame to sit alongside other Shack legends like Steve Gibson and Maarten Goldstein.
Let’s face facts, when it comes to the funk factor, Sega’s soundtracks seemed to bang just a little bit harder than many of Nintendo’s. Nowhere was that more showcased than in 1991’s Sonic the Hedgehog and it was in no small part due to composer Masato Nakamura’s roots as a bassist and composer for famous J-Pop act Dreams Come True. Whether you're talking tracks like the City-Pop fusion of Sonic 1’s Star Light Zone or swingin’ Jazz of Sonic 2’s Casino Night Zone you can’t help but tap your toes or bob your head to Nakamura-San’s grooves.
In a 2021 interview with Billboard Nakamura said that he focused on the fact that the sound chip for the Sega Genesis could only produce 6 notes at a time and worked outward from there after assigning half the notes to drums, bass and melody. It’s pretty remarkable how much he was able to accomplish with such limitations and his influence can be seen in modern game composition and has gone on to influence a number of contemporary musicians.
Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind. If you search PaRappa the Rapper’s credits, I’m sure you’ll find that bringing this charming and deceptively challenging rhythm game to life in 1996 took the concerted effort of several artists, designers, and musicians. PaRappa was not Masaya Matsuura’s first credited title, but it was the first to become a breakout success.
Matsuura was perfect for the role of PaRappa’s designer and composer, sharing the latter role with fellow Shacknews Hall of Fame Class of 2022 inductee Yoshihisa Suzuki. He started his career at Sony Music Entertainment Japan, where he was a producer on The Seven Colors: Legend of PSY * S City. Following the success of PaRappa the Rapper, Masaya Matsuura went on to helm other rhythm games including 2001’s PaRappa the Rapper 2 on PS2 and Um Jammer Lammy, released for PS1 in 1999.
Like many game developers, Abrash found his way into the industry by writing a clone of a popular arcade game. In 1982, Datamost published Space Strike, Abrash’s clone of Space Invaders. He co-authored other games based on coin-op hardware, gradually becoming a specialist in assembly language. At Microsoft, Abrash wrote graphics code for the Windows NT operating system.
In the mid-‘90s, id Software co-founder John Carmack talked Abrash into leaving Microsoft to work alongside him on a fully 3D game engine. That technology powered Quake, which Abrash cites as his favorite game of all time. Abrash returned to Microsoft after Quake’s release in 1996, and worked on the team that built the original Xbox until 2001.
Programmers around the world have gleaned Abrash’s knowledge by reading his writing on programming. He authored a column in Dr. Dobb’s Journal, a monthly magazine for coders, and in books that went into detail on assembly language and graphics programming.
Michiru Yamane has been a musician most of her life and began working for Konami before she had even graduated from college. She’s worked on a number of titles, including the Rocket Knight series, but she is probably most noteworthy for her work on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The soundtrack to SotN often comes up on the shortlist for best game music of all time thanks to its infectious blend of classical music and prog rock. Yamane retired from her job at Konami back in 2008, but has continued to freelance compose over the years.
As noted in another section of this year's Shacknews Hall of Fame class, Street Fighter: The Movie was... not good. As an action movie, as an adaptation of that world, as a comedy (an intentional one), it was terrible. With all of that said, none of that was the fault of the great Raul Julia.
The Puerto Rican-born actor Julia's resume spanned from Shakespearean adaptations to Sesame Street. He won Oscars for his film work and Tonys for his stage roles. Hailed as one of the greatest actors of the 1970s and 80s, Julia settled into the Hollywood blockbuster in the early 90s, where he was remembered as Gomez Addams in The Addams Family and as M. Bison in Street Fighter: The Movie.
While there was so much about the Street Fighter movie that was awful, Julia put all of his talent and energy into the Bison role. He did so largely because his children were big fans of the Street Fighter games, so he wanted to give them a Bison performance to remember. He put in an unforgettable performance, whether he was telling Chun Li about his Tuesdays or explaining the economic value of Bison Bucks. His greatest delivery came in the climactic battle with Jean-Claude Van Damme's Guile, as he grandiosely posed and proclaimed "Game... OVER!"
On top of everything, Street Fighter is remembered as Julia's final film role, as he tragically passed away from stomach cancer that same year. While some will see Julia going out on a movie of such low quality as a shame, others will see the performance he put in and see it as a reminder of why he was one of the greats and why gaming was privileged to have him as part of its early theatrical history.
Anyone who played Interplay’s wide selection of games in the 1980s and ‘90s is familiar with Rebecca Heineman’s work. Known throughout the industry as “Burger” for her habit of keeping bags of burgers in a desk drawer for occasions when she was in the coding zone and couldn’t spare time to leave the office for lunch, Heineman rose to fame in 1980 when she won a national Space Invaders championship. The win earned her the title of the first national champion of a video game tournament.
Heineman wrote for Electronic Games, but coding and game design were her true passions. She was on the ground floor of Interplay Productions as a founding member and the company’s lead programmer. At Interplay, she worked on dozens of games such as The Bard’s Tale series and Mindshadow, and contributed code to famous ports such as Wolfenstein 3D for the Super NES. Heineman became indelibly linked with Doom when she ported id Software’s pioneering shooter to the 3DO console. She is a well-known and well-regarded figure in gaming’s LGBTQ+ community. During her time at Amazon, where she worked in a technical role, she was a chairperson of Glamazon, the company’s LGBTQ+ group.
“Burger” Becky is still active in the gaming industry. She has been CEO of Olde Sküül since 2013 and delights her followers on social media with posts detailing the ins and outs of legacy hardware such as the Apple II family of personal computers.
Given the video game medium’s early perception as a toy, perhaps it should come as no surprise that many of its most well-known executives came from the toy industry. Shinji Hashimoto worked at Bandai, which was known for toys as well as its games. Beginning in the late 1980s, Hashimoto was a producer on several Bandai titles such as Dragon Ball Z.
In 1995, Hashimoto joined Squaresoft as a senior executive managing offer. Final Fantasy VII was the first game he was involved with, instantly cementing his legacy. He remained with Squaresoft through its transition to Square Enix and oversaw titles as a producer and executive producer into the early 2020s. Hashimoto’s list of credits is prodigious, and includes powerhouses such as Super Mario RPG, Final Fantasy XIV, and several entries in the long-running Kingdom Hearts series.
LucasArts was at the forefront of the golden age of adventure gaming and it was a sad time when that period came to an end. Tim Schafer was one of the biggest names behind LucasArts' greatest period, presiding as one of the main designers on games like Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, and Full Throttle. However, while LucasArts' best days were in the past, Schafer kept its legacy going by founding Double Fine Productions back in 2000.
Schafer was a pioneer in a few respects. He was one of the first people in gaming to use the crowdfunding model, raising money on a relatively new website called Kickstarter to fund the creation of Broken Age, an adventure game in the vein of the classic LucasArts' titles. Later, he would use alternate crowdfunding site Fig to raise money for the long-awaited Psychonauts 2, which finally released in 2021.
Through his usage of crowdfunding and through Double Fine's various connections, Schafer is also seen as one of the driving forces behind the indie gaming boom of the 2010s. In addition to contributing to the indie gamine scene with the aforementioned Broken Age, Schafer and Double Fine helped put together the annual Day of the Devs festival, which would act as a showcase for new and upcoming indie games. Schafer is legendary for his works on LucasArts' best adventures, but his contributions as an ambassador of indie games will ensure a lasting legacy.
The name “Van Mai” may not immediately ring a bell when it comes to the Apollo game developer originally credited as “Ban Tran” for her work as a writer and programmer on the 1982 Atari 2600 game, Wabbit. For those unfamiliar with the game, it was groundbreaking as it was one of the first console games to include a named, playable on-screen female character.
Apollo ended up going bankrupt at the end of 1982, and after being credited on an unreleased Solar Fox conversion in 1983 for the Atari 5200 at MicroGraphic Image, there was no further information to be found in regards to the mysterious Ban Tran.
That was until an article published to Polygon back in May of 2022 which speculated over whether or not her former coworkers had simply misremembered her name. This theory was later proven correct by the Video Game History Foundation who discovered that her original name was Van Tran, not Ban Tran.
Collaborators of the Video Game History Foundation later tracked down Van Tran, with the developer now going by her married name, Van Mai. Telling her story to VGHF, it’s noted that Mai was born in Vietnam and later moved to Dallas, Texas with her family as a refugee towards the end of the Vietnam War.
Mai ended up dropping out of high school, earned a GED, and took night classes on computers before later being hired as a programmer at the Dallas Independent School District. When the district ended up cutting the computer lessons program, Mai spotted an ad from the company Apollo for video game programmers and applied. At Apollo, Mai was the one who pitched the team on an Atari game for girls which would eventually become the aforementioned Wabbit.
“I don’t think my teammates or my boss said anything about [the theme],” Mai told VGHF. “Everything was up to me, I designed it – all the animation and all that. They seemed to like it a lot.”
Elsewhere in the VGHF article, Mai is quoted as saying that she was proud of herself for her work on Wabbit especially given the limits of the VCS at the time, and that it taught her how to write compact code.
“I was very proud of myself,” Mai said. “Within the limitations (of the VCS), RAM and everything, and the (cartridge) space, I could put one game into 4k like that. It taught me how to write compact code, to write good code. Later on, when I went to university, they didn’t care much about RAM or computer space, they had plenty. I think I’m a pretty good coder because of that, because in the beginning, there wasn’t much room to write your logic, and you have to write good logic because of space.”
For more on Van Mai, we recommend reading through the full article and interview with her as published by the Video Game History Foundation.
A composer active in the video game industry since the 1990s, Yoshihisa Suzuki left an indelible mark on PaRappa the Rappa and its sequel, two of the catchiest rhythm games on Sony’s PlayStation consoles. Suzuki went on to compose music for several PaRappa-themed products such as the PaRappa the Rapper TV Animation Soundtrack Vol. 2 and Tommy Boy Presents PaRappa The Party Mix. Besides composer, he is credited as a sound producer, arranger, and performer on other video game adjacent media such as 2017’s Square Enix Jazz Final Fantasy arrangement.
Sonic the Hedgehog has been riding high for the past two years, going back to his 30th anniversary. In 2022, Sega's blue mascot got to star in his second feature film and experience a 3D gaming renaissasnce with Sonic Frontiers. Sonic's creation would not have been possible without Yuji Naka, who pitched a fast-moving platformer to Sega in the late 80s. The rest is history, as the Sega Genesis launched with the original Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991.
In addition to the original Sonic trilogy, Naka helped found the original Sonic Team and was the main force behind another Sega classic: Nights into Dreams. Nights into Dreams helped propel sales for the Sega Saturn and became one of the greatest cult classics of the 90s. As the Saturn's days came to an end, Naka brought Sonic to 3D with Sonic Adventure in time for the Dreamcast. On top of that, he helped usher online gaming onto consoles by leading the team that would release Phantasy Star Online.
Despite everything that has unfolded around him in recent years, Naka's influence on gaming is undeniable and he is a legendary figure in the industry.
Explore the Shacknews Hall of Fame using the navigational menus at the bottom of each page. Share your memories and other thoughts on our inductees by leaving a comment in the Shacknews Chatty.