Denton Designs co-founder and Sony programmer John Gibson has died

John Gibson, one of the most influential game developers in the United Kingdom who had a career that spanned over four decades, has died.

“Just heard the devastating news that my old colleague and original Imagine alumnus John Gibson has left us. A proper legend of game development,” said Paul “Paulie” Hughes, head of technology at Ripstone, in a post to Twitter (via Time Extension).

In 1983, Gibson took on a role as a programmer at the incipient developer Imagine, after teaching himself how to write code on a ZX81 computer. There, he gained the nickname “Grandad” as he was the eldest member of a much younger group of developers.

He contributed to the creation of classics like Molar Maul, Zzoom and Stonkers, as well as the real Bandersnatch game before Imagine went bankrupt.

Gibson pictured with the team in the advert for the original ‘Bandersnatch’ game Credit: Imagine

Denton Designs was formed from five ex-Imagine employees – Steve Cain, Ian Weatherburn, Ally Noble, Karen Davies,  Graham “Kenny” Everett and Gibson. His favourite Denton game, Gift from the Gods for the ZX Spectrum, was built from the bones of the unfinished Bandersnatch. 

From 1986 to 1990, he helmed his own company John Gibson Software Design as a freelance programmer. Then, he was recruited to the Liverpool developer Psygnosis where he worked as a senior programmer for eight years on games like Microcosm and Sentient.

Following this, Gibson moved to Warthog Games, then to Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, where he became an integral part of the Evolution Studios team. From 2007, he was the principal programmer on the games MotorStorm, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, MotorStorm: Apocalypse, MotorStorm: RC and DriveClub.

“I’ll never forget you gleefully telling a producer to ‘fuck off!’ as you rightfully left the office on time,” said Brian Flanagan in his tribute to his former Warthog Games colleague, adding that Gibson had been retired for some years and living in Thailand with his wife and their pet dog at the time of his passing.