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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.