While we’re acknowledging the top game devs of all time, we figured we might as well take a moment to recognize the folks who set the stage for the modern video game, too. Humans have been playing games far longer than we’ve had computers -- and computer technology has a longer history than most of us tend to realize.
Ada Lovelace is widely considered history’s first programmer. Born in 1815 to the poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabella Milbanke, Milbanke encouraged her daughter to study mathematics from a young age. In 1842 she was commissioned to translate Charles Babbage’s paper on his Analytical Engine, an early mechanical general-purpose computer. In the course of expanding upon Babbage’s findings, Lovelace developed what we now recognize as the world’s first computer algorithm. Lovelace remains an inspiration for women in technology to this day.
Known as the father of artificial intelligence, Alan Turing began his professional career as a fellow at King’s College at the unheard-of age of 22. In 1936 Turing outlined the concept of the “a-machine” (what we now know as a Turing machine), a hypothetical device capable of simulating any computer algorithm. His Turing test, by which machine intelligence can “fool” a human participant, remains a reference point in the field of AI to this day.
Grace Hopper enlisted with the United States Naval Reserve during World War II, where she served on the Navy’s Mark I computer-programming staff. Following the war, Hopper stayed on with the Navy to work as a research fellow at Harvard, where she coined the term “debugging” (after a literal moth became stuck in a Mark II machine). In her post-Harvard work Hopper developed some of the world’s first compiler programming languages, including FLOW-MATIC, a forerunner to COBOL.
An electronics technician and computer programmer, Ian Sommerville came to prominence among the Beat Generation of writers and artists. In 1960 he programmed the random sequence generator used by Brion Gysin in his cut-up technique, a Dadaist literary style later introduced to, and popularized by, William S. Burroughs. A lover and “systems adviser” to Burroughs, Sommerville collaborated with the author to produce “Silver Smoke of Dreams” and also developed the Dreamachine, a stroboscope device billed as “the first object to be seen with the eyes closed.” We think he’d have made for a great indie game dev.
As co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax was instrumental in evolving the tabletop wargaming scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s, providing the foundation not just for later generations of rules-based role-playing and strategy games but also an expansive body of role-playing lore.
Naughty Dog “They are incapable of making a bad game.” - @Luc1ferous
SNK Modular arcade systems are pretty neat. We, too, miss the MVS.
Rockstar Games Grand Theft Auto is more or less a cultural icon.
Insomniac Games Insomniac got a whole lot of love from our Twitter readership for making great games. We at Game Developer like Insomniac for a different reason: They’re always willing to talk dev tech and technique, often within the pages of our magazine.
From Software While From Software has been around forever and done a ton of awesome work, we suspect that most of the nominees are folks who really, really, really like Dark Souls and Demon's Souls.
Bethesda Softworks “Bethesda has taken away probably 300 hours of my life.” - @Randy_Floustine
Black Isle Studios Game devs really liked Fallout 2 and Planescape: Torment, apparently.
Double Fine Everyone loves Tim Schafer.
CCP Games EVE Online is the game everyone loves to read about, whether we’re reading stories about the players doing amazing things in-game, or stories from the devs as they explain how they designed the game to facilitate those amazing player stories.