Last Updated on July 25, 2023
A veteran of Imagine, Denton Designs, and Psygnosis, John Gibson had a 30+ year career in game development.
Rightly described as a “programming pioneer,” John Gibson, most well-known among retro gamers for his work at Denton Designs, has passed away. While Denton Designs was later swallowed up by Rage, between 1984 and 1986, the founding team (of which Gibson was a part) produced a number of memorable titles, such as Cosmic Wartoad and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. (Both the eponymous band and Denton Designs originated in Liverpool.)
Gibson had earlier worked at Imagine Software (later bought by Ocean Software). There, his credits included Molar Maul, Zzoom, Stonkers, and others.
Veteran game journalist Jaz Rignall recalled Gibson’s wider contribution beyond the 8-bit era.
The @CommodoreFormat account helpfully dug out this documentary clip of Gibson at work. (On Imagine Software’s unfinished Bandersnatch, famously referenced in Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror).
Beyond Denton Designs, Gibson joined the Psynosis team, where his credits included Microcosm (1993) on the Amiga.
With a number of memorable titles from the 8-bit era to his name, John Gibson worked for decades. His career continued into the 2010s, retiring from his final role at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe in 2015. While recognised as the creator of memorable games from the 8-bit era, his impact and influence goes beyond that time.
In a 2016 interview, Gibson was asked about his view of the industry in the modern era:
…it was definitely more fun back in the 80’s and 90’s. Writing a game was like writing a book; you could get a lot of personal satisfaction out of it. But with big teams, you just feel like a cog in the machine. I have to say I wasn’t sad to say good bye to it when I retired. I think the rise of Indies proves that small is beautiful.
Rest in Peace, John Gibson.
Gaming since 1984, retro gaming since 2004. Contributes to Linux Format magazine and MakeUseOf.com.