UK’s “New Year Honours” list includes a video game legend, a digital champion and a knight

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The name says it all. The UK’s Honours system, in a tradition which continues all the way from 1890, has finally given due credit to British citizens who have made their mark upon the techscape – including Ian Livingstone, the legendary designer and producer of countless role-playing games that shaped perceptions worldwide. In 1975 he co-founded Games Workshop and distributed the famed Dungeons and Dragons throughout Europe. Dungeons and Dragons, or DND as it was called, would go on to impact the video game world in the same way that the Lord of the Rings affected high fantasy novels.

Livingstone didn’t stop with DND. He created Fighting Fantasy, a long-running series of role-playing books. Livingstone and co-author Steve Jackson effectively influenced entire generations of video game developers and designers with their choice-based Dungeons-and-Dragons like narrative. Some of the very first landmark commercial games – the games that established video game development as an industry – were role-playing games that build upon DND and Fighting Fantasy premises. He went on to found Eidos Interactive, publishers of the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex games. Remember Lara Croft or the Sinister, dystopian half-mech world of Deus Ex? This is the reason they exist. It’s a scary thought to realize that the world of computer gaming would be completely different without Ian Livingstone. 

Earlier this year, Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope made another important contribution, one completely outside role-playing games: a document called “Next Gen”, highlighting the falling standards of computer education. It helped convince the British government to overhaul IT education towards more programming-oriented methods.

Ian Livingstone is not alone in the list. Prominently featured alongside are Martha Lane Fox and Sir Hossein Yassaie. Martha Fox is a relentless force in digital community service: hence her title as the Labour government’s “digital champion”. She’s not well-known outside the UK, but BBC reports that her services to the UK’s digital economy are immense – including the introduction of the gov.uk domain to centralize all the government agencies’ web pages. Sir Hossein, on the other hand, is the CEO of Imagination Technologies. Never heard of them? They make the PowerVR graphics chips inside Apple iPhones and iPads, Samsung devices and others. As of the moment over a billion devices that use PowerVR tech have been shipped. What we like most about him? Apparently, after he moved to the UK from Iran, he wanted to go to university – but couldn’t since he hadn’t passed his A/Ls. He amended this by completing all the courses and all the exams in just six months.

Genius alert? Probably. These aren’t the only tech people on the UK’s New Year Honours list, but they’re the most prominent – the legend, the champion and the knight.

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