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The Most Famous

GAME DESIGNERS from United States

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This page contains a list of the greatest American Game Designers. The pantheon dataset contains 56 Game Designers, 24 of which were born in United States. This makes United States the birth place of the most number of Game Designers.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary American Game Designers of all time. This list of famous American Game Designers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of American Game Designers.

Photo of Gabe Newell

1. Gabe Newell (1962 - )

With an HPI of 57.06, Gabe Newell is the most famous American Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 49 different languages on wikipedia.

Gabe Logan Newell (born November 3, 1962), nicknamed Gaben, is an American businessman and the president of the video game company Valve. Newell was born in Colorado and grew up in Davis, California. He attended Harvard University in the early 1980s but dropped out to join Microsoft, where he helped create the first versions of the Windows operating system. He and another employee, Mike Harrington, left Microsoft in 1996 to found Valve, and funded development of their first game, Half-Life (1998). Harrington left in 2000, making Newell the sole owner. Newell led development of Valve's digital distribution service Steam, which launched in 2003 and controlled most of the market for downloaded PC games by 2011. As of 2021, he owned at least one quarter of Valve. He has been estimated as one of the wealthiest individuals in the United States and the wealthiest person in the video games industry, with a net worth of US$ 3.9 billion as of 2021.

Photo of Jeff Kinney

2. Jeff Kinney (1971 - )

With an HPI of 56.66, Jeff Kinney is the 2nd most famous American Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.

Jeffrey Patrick Kinney (born February 19, 1971) is an American author and cartoonist, best known as the creator of the children's book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He also created the child-oriented website Poptropica.

Photo of Lizzie Magie

3. Lizzie Magie (1866 - 1948)

With an HPI of 50.79, Lizzie Magie is the 3rd most famous American Game Designer.  Her biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips (née Magie; May 9, 1866 – March 2, 1948) was an American game designer, writer, feminist, and Georgist. She invented The Landlord's Game, the precursor to Monopoly, to illustrate teachings of the progressive era economist Henry George.

Photo of Gary Gygax

4. Gary Gygax (1938 - 2008)

With an HPI of 47.04, Gary Gygax is the 4th most famous American Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Ernest Gary Gygax ( GHY-gaks; July 27, 1938 – March 4, 2008) was an American game designer and author best known for co-creating the pioneering role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) with Dave Arneson. In the 1960s, Gygax created an organization of wargaming clubs and founded the Gen Con gaming convention. In 1971, he helped develop Chainmail, a miniatures wargame based on medieval warfare. He co-founded the company Tactical Studies Rules (TSR, Inc.) with childhood friend Don Kaye in 1973. The next year, he and Arneson created D&D, which expanded on Gygax's Chainmail and included elements of the fantasy stories he loved as a child. The same year, he founded The Dragon, a magazine based around the new game. In 1977, Gygax began work on a more comprehensive version of the game, called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. He designed numerous manuals for the game system, as well as several pre-packaged adventures called "modules" that gave a person running a D&D game (the "Dungeon Master") a rough script and ideas for how to run a game scenario. In 1983, he worked to license the D&D product line into the successful D&D cartoon series. After leaving TSR in 1986 over conflicts with its new majority owner, Gygax continued to create role-playing game titles independently, beginning with the multi-genre Dangerous Journeys in 1992. He designed another gaming system, Lejendary Adventure, released in 1999. In 2005, Gygax was involved in the Castles & Crusades role-playing game, which was conceived as a hybrid between the third edition of D&D and the original version of the game conceived by Gygax. Gygax was married twice and had six children. In 2004, he had two strokes and narrowly avoided a subsequent heart attack; he was then diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm and died in March 2008.

Photo of Steve Jackson

5. Steve Jackson (1953 - )

With an HPI of 46.43, Steve Jackson is the 5th most famous American Game Designer.  Her biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Steve Jackson (born c. 1953) is an American game designer whose creations include the role-playing game GURPS and the card game Munchkin.

Photo of Will Wright

6. Will Wright (1960 - )

With an HPI of 46.22, Will Wright is the 6th most famous American Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

William Ralph Wright (born January 20, 1960) is an American video game designer and co-founder of the game development company Maxis, which later became part of Electronic Arts. In April 2009, he left EA to run Stupid Fun Club Camp, an entertainment think tank in which Wright and EA are principal shareholders.The first computer game Wright designed was Raid on Bungeling Bay in 1984, but it was SimCity that brought him to prominence. The game was published by Maxis, which Wright co-formed with Jeff Braun. Wright continued to innovate on the game's central theme of simulation with numerous other titles including SimEarth and SimAnt. Wright has earned many awards for his work in game design. He is best known for being the original designer of The Sims series, of which Maxis developed the first entry in 2000. The game spawned multiple sequels, including The Sims 2, The Sims 3, The Sims 4 and their expansion packs. His latest work, Spore, released in September 2008 and features gameplay based upon the model of evolution and scientific advancement. The game sold 406,000 copies within three weeks of its release.In 2007, he became the first game designer to receive the BAFTA Fellowship, which had previously only been presented to those in the film and television industries.

Photo of John Carmack

7. John Carmack (1970 - )

With an HPI of 46.13, John Carmack is the 7th most famous American Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 37 different languages.

John D. Carmack II (born August 20, 1970) is an American computer programmer and video game developer. He co-founded the video game company id Software and was the lead programmer of its 1990s games Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake, and their sequels. Carmack made innovations in 3D computer graphics, such as his Carmack's Reverse algorithm for shadow volumes. In 2013, he resigned from id Software to work full-time at Oculus VR as their CTO. In 2019, he reduced his role to Consulting CTO so he could allocate more time toward artificial general intelligence (AGI). In 2022, he left Oculus to work on his startup, Keen Technologies.

Photo of John Romero

8. John Romero (1967 - )

With an HPI of 45.29, John Romero is the 8th most famous American Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.

Alfonso John Romero (born October 28, 1967) is an American director, designer, programmer, and developer in the video game industry. He is best known as a co-founder of id Software and designer for many of their games, including Wolfenstein 3D, Dangerous Dave, Hexen, Doom, Doom II and Quake. His game designs and development tools, along with new programming techniques created and implemented by id Software's lead programmer John D. Carmack, led to a mass popularization of the first-person shooter, or FPS, in the 1990s. He is credited with coining the FPS multiplayer term "deathmatch".

Photo of Dave Arneson

9. Dave Arneson (1947 - 2009)

With an HPI of 42.60, Dave Arneson is the 9th most famous American Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

David Lance Arneson (; October 1, 1947 – April 7, 2009) was an American game designer best known for co-developing the first published role-playing game (RPG), Dungeons & Dragons, with Gary Gygax, in the early 1970s. Arneson's early work was fundamental to the development of the genre, developing the concept of the RPG using devices now considered to be archetypical, such as adventuring in dungeons and using a neutral judge who doubles as the voice and consciousness of all characters aside from the player characters to develop the storyline.Arneson discovered wargaming as a teenager in the 1960s, and he began combining these games with the concept of role-playing. He was a University of Minnesota student when he met Gygax at the Gen Con gaming convention in the late 1960s. In 1970, Arneson created the game and fictional world that became Blackmoor, writing his own rules and basing the setting on medieval fantasy elements. Arneson showed the game to Gygax the following year, and the pair co-developed a set of rules that became Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Gygax subsequently founded TSR, Inc. to publish the game in 1974. Arneson worked briefly for the company. Arneson left TSR in 1976, and he filed suit in 1979 to retain credits and royalties on the game. He continued to work as an independent game designer, including work submitted to TSR in the 1980s, and continued to play games for his entire life. Arneson also did some work in computer programming, and he taught computer game design and game rules design at Full Sail University from the 1990s until shortly before his death in 2009.

Photo of Ron Gilbert

10. Ron Gilbert (1964 - )

With an HPI of 41.61, Ron Gilbert is the 10th most famous American Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.

Ron Gilbert is an American video-game designer, programmer, and producer. His games are generally focused on interactive story-telling, and he is arguably best known for his work on several LucasArts adventure games, including Maniac Mansion and the first two Monkey Island games. While a student in 1983, he co-wrote Graphics BASIC, and he then worked on action games for HESware, which went out of business. He afterwards joined Lucasfilm Games (later LucasArts), and was given the opportunity to develop his own games. He invented SCUMM, a technology used in many subsequent games. After leaving LucasArts, Gilbert co-founded the children's gaming company Humongous Entertainment in 1992 and its sister company Cavedog Entertainment in 1995, where he produced games such as Total Annihilation for adults. He cofounded Hulabee Entertainment with Shelley Day, releasing children's games between 2001 and 2003. After working with Beep Games between 2004 and 2007, he was creative director at Vancouver-based Hothead Games development studio between 2008 and 2010, also doing some work for Telltale Games and with Penny Arcade. In 2013, he announced that he would move on from Double Fine Productions, after releasing the game The Cave with them. In 2017, he announced Thimbleweed Park with Terrible Toybox, serving as writer, designer, and programmer since 2014.

Pantheon has 24 people classified as game designers born between 1866 and 1976. Of these 24, 21 (87.50%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living game designers include Gabe Newell, Jeff Kinney, and Steve Jackson. The most famous deceased game designers include Lizzie Magie, Gary Gygax, and Dave Arneson. As of April 2022, 2 new game designers have been added to Pantheon including John Tobias and Jeff Kaplan.

Living Game Designers

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Deceased Game Designers

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Newly Added Game Designers (2022)

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Which Game Designers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 3 most globally memorable Game Designers since 1700.