Even More Groundbreaking Alumni-Developed Video Games

by Amy Marcott on July 30, 2009 · 9 comments

in Alumni Life, In the News, Modern Geekhood

Our post listing five revolutionary video games spawned from the minds of MIT alumni generated much buzz—and a list of other games and developers that should also be included.

So, like the best of all sequels, here is another installment of groundbreaking, inventive, and really cool video games, all with ties to MIT.

A view of Maze

A view of Maze

1974 and 1978: Maze and Trivia
Dave Lebling ’71, SM ’73 (of Zork fame) and Greg Thompson ’78 cowrote Maze, the first 3-D multiplayer first-person shooter game based on a simpler game Thompson had worked on at NASA Ames. It was played over the ARPANET to USC as a tour de force. Trivia, a user-contribution trivia game that was a run-up to Zork, was created by Lebling; Tim Anderson ’75, SM ’77; and Marc Blank ’75 and widely played over the ARPANET. Lebling also wrote in to note that many, if not most, of Infocom’s games were written by MIT alums and that Stu Galley SM ’70 should be added to the list as an Infocom “Imp.”

1980 & 1981: Defender and its sequel, Stargate
Larry Demar ’79 codesigned these games. These days, his company, Leading Edge Design (LED), creates gaming concepts for casinos.

1981: Ms. Pac-Man
Was originally conceived as a bootlegged hack of Pac-Man called Crazy Otto and created by Doug Macrae NON ’81 and Kevin Curran NON ’81, founders of then video-game company General Computer Corporation. Eventually Atari hired the pair to make games for them legitimately.

1984: John Madden Football
Rob Hunter ’73 made the deal and signed the contract between CBS Video Games and John Madden for the original game. He codeveloped the game construct (as far as he knows, the first ¾ over-the-shoulder view of any sports game) with Madden’s active involvement.

Screen shot of the game Thief

Screen shot of the game Thief

1992, 1994, & 1998: Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, System Shock, & Thief
Philip Tan ’01, SM ’03 wrote in to say that Looking Glass Studios had numerous MIT alums working on its first-person computer role-playing, action role-playing, and stealth video games. Those alums dispersed to various parts of the industry (like Harmonix, Electronic Arts, Mind Control Software, and Irrational Games/2K Boston) when the company closed.

1999: Asheron’s Call
Eri Izawa ’92 codesigned this game, a first-generation MMORPG.

1999-2005: NBA 2K, 2K1, & 2K2; Panzer Dragoon; Fantastic 4
Trevor Stricker ’97 codeveloped these and is currently working on Quick Hit Football with Denise Ichinco ’09.

2004: Revolution
Students and faculty at MIT’s Education Arcade developed this multiplayer, American Revolution-themed role-playing game.

A screen shot of the game Cogs

Screen shot of the game Cogs

2007: The Witcher
Sande Chen ’92 was nominated for a Writers Guild of America award for outstanding achievement in videogame writing for this, the 2007 PC role-playing game of the year.

2009: Cogs
Rob Jagnow SM ’01, PhD ’05 and his company, Lazy 8 Studios, released this game for the PC in April. It’s an innovative puzzle in which players build a variety of machines from sliding tiles. Jagnow did all the programming and level design.

And, of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the government of Singapore created to explore new directions for the development of games as a medium.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Donny July 30, 2009 at 1:29 pm

They should do a calculation to see how much productivity has been lost due to these games. Probably enough to cover the GDP of some some small nations…


Ariyan July 30, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Recently all video games progress so much. Look at the first video game maze. it’s only few lines. But now all games looks so much realistic. At this time developing a game much more complicated.


Am Ang Zhang July 30, 2009 at 4:41 pm

I thank you for your post which I discover through Twitter
The Cockroach Catcher


Jodie November 13, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Very interesting post. I was never really into maze type games ad not really into shooter/killing games. I do like strategy and simulation though. 🙂


world of warcraft pvp December 24, 2009 at 7:23 am

Hey, I’m really digging the blog. I’ll be back to read some more for sure. Ty.


Kay Green November 24, 2010 at 2:45 am

Please, keep up the great work and continue to post topics like this. I am old fan of your blog!


bets10 May 9, 2013 at 5:48 pm

In the podcast, I share my understanding, in greater detail,
of how the law of attraction works after many years of trial and error.
The same works the other way, if a game is way over and
you picked it to go under but a couple interceptions or fumbles were
returned for touchdowns put it over. A baitcaster is mechanically different, but serves similar functions.


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