In memoriam: games industry veteran John Gibson

john gibson

Programmer John Gibson, whose career took in Driveclub, MotorStorm and stretched back to 1983, has sadly passed away.


John Gibson, a British programmer whose career stretched back 40 years, has sadly passed away. The news was shared on social media by one of Gibson’s former colleagues, Paulie Hughes, and reported on by Time Extension.

Gibson joined the games industry in 1983 with a stint at the ill-fated Imagine Software, where he worked on such games as Molar Maul and Zzoom. When Imagine dramatically went bankrupt towards the end of 1983 – a moment captured for posterity by a BBC documentary crew – Gibson founded Denton Designs with several other developers from Imagine.

It was there that Gibson helped develop some of the finest British games of the 8-bit era, including Shadowfire, The Great Escape and Where Time Stood Still. Gift from the Gods and the one-of-a-kind adventure Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the latter a tie-in based on the chart-topping pop group, were formed from the ashes of Bandersnatch, an ambitious game publicised in magazines by Imagine, but left unfinished when the company went bust.

Gibson’s success continued through the 90s and into the new millennium, with credits on such games as WRC: Rally Evolved, MotorStorm and Driveclub, and stints at Psygnosis – later bought out by Sony – and Warthog Games.

Entering the games industry relatively late, Gibson was previously a van driver for a while, then got a desk job at the Department of Health and Social Security (“I was always bored with the job,” he told Sinclair User in 1984), before buying a ZX-81 computer and teaching himself to program. Three years later, he’d developed his first game, Molar Maul, published by Imagine, and a long and distinguished career began.

“I am working with friends and being paid for something I am good at and enjoy doing,” he said in 1984, then aged 36. “I also feel fortunate at my age to be at the start of something so new and exciting.”

Tributes posted on social media are a testament to Gibson’s life and work. “Just heard the devastating news that my old colleague and original Imagine alumnus John Gibson has left us,” Paulie Hughes wrote. “A proper legend of game development.”

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