Jeff ‘Yak’ Minter is a British video game designer and programmer. He is the founder of software house Llamasoft and his recent works include Neon (2004), a non-game music visualization program that has been built into the Xbox 360 console, and the video games Space Giraffe (Xbox Live Arcade, 2007 and PC, 2008), and Space Invaders Extreme (Xbox Live Arcade, May 2009). Fans of Minter’s games have identified a number of distinctive elements common to his games. They are often arcade style shoot ’em ups. They often contain titular and/or in-game references demonstrating his fondness of ruminants (llamas, sheep, camels, etc.). Many of his programs also feature something of a psychedelic element, as in some of the earliest “light synthesizer” programs including his Trip-a-Tron.
Garry Kimovich Kasparov is a Russian (formerly Soviet) chess grandmaster, a former World Chess Champion, writer and political activist, considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time. Kasparov became the youngest ever undisputed World Chess Champion in 1985 at the age of 22 by defeating then-champion Anatoly Karpov. He held the official FIDE world title until 1993, when a dispute with FIDE led him to set up a rival organization, the Professional Chess Association. He continued to hold the “Classical” World Chess Championship until his defeat by Vladimir Kramnik in 2000. He was the first world champion to lose a match to a computer under standard time controls, when he lost to Deep Blue in 1997. Kasparov’s ratings achievements include being rated world No. 1 according to Elo rating almost continuously from 1986 until his retirement in 2005. He achieved a peak rating of 2851, which was the highest recorded until 2013. He was the world No. 1 ranked player for 255 months, nearly three times as long as his closest rival, Anatoly Karpov. Kasparov also holds records for consecutive tournament victories and Chess Oscars.
Michel Ancel is a French video game designer for Ubisoft. He is best known for creating the Rayman franchise, for which he was the lead designer for the first two games, and the recent Rayman Origins. He is also known for the cult favourite Beyond Good & Evil and for the video game adaptation of Peter Jackson’s King Kong. He is currently working on a sequel to Beyond Good & Evil with a small team of developers, using development tools specially designed to make game development more accessible to a greater audience. Ancel’s first demo, Mechanic Warriors, was developed for software house Lankhor. Ancel then joined Ubisoft as a graphic artist after meeting the game author Nicolas Choukroun in Montpellier at the age of 17. He made the graphics of Nicolas’ games such as The Intruder, Pick’n Pile before doing his first game as both programmer and graphic artist Brain Blaster published by Ubi Soft in 1990. In 1992, he began to work on Rayman, his directorial debut. It was originally released in 1995 for the Atari Jaguar, and in 1996 for PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Ancel was also heavily involved in the development of Rayman 2: The Great Escape, but had only an advisory role on Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc. Although he praised its development team, he claims he would have “made the game differently”.
Hou Yifan is a Chinese chess prodigy. She is a former Women’s World Chess Champion, the youngest ever to win the title, as well as the youngest female player ever to qualify for the title of Grandmaster. At the age of 12, Hou became the youngest player ever to participate in the FIDE Women’s World Championship (Yekaterinburg 2006) and the Chess Olympiad (Torino 2006). In June 2007, she became China’s youngest National Women’s Champion ever. She achieved the titles of Woman FIDE Master in January 2004, Woman Grandmaster in January 2007, she would have qualified for the International Master title in September 2008 by reaching the final of the Women’s World Championship but in August 2008 she had already qualified for the Grandmaster title by achieving her 3rd GM norm. In 2010, she became the youngest Women’s World Chess Champion in history by winning the Women’s World Championship in Hatay, Turkey, at the age of 16. She then defended her title by defeating Indian GM Koneru Humpy in November 2011. In the most recent (January 2013) FIDE rating list, Hou is ranked as the No. 1 girl player in the world, the No. 2 female player, and the No. 11 junior player. She is only the third female chess player to achieve a FIDE rating of over 2600.
Clifford Michael “The Real Cliff” Bleszinski is the design director for the game development company Epic Games in Cary, North Carolina. He is most famous for his continuing hand in the development of the Unreal franchise, especially 1999’s Unreal Tournament, and the Gears of War franchise. He cites Shigeru Miyamoto as his biggest influence. On his website, Bleszinski often shares his thoughts and feelings on the world, American culture, gaming, and life in general. He is occasionally cited for his charitable nature like helping fans get jobs in the industry. Bleszinski also lists his interests on his 1UP.com page, citing Donnie Darko and 21 Grams amongst his favorite films, with Choke and Stupid White Men as some of his favorite books. Bleszinski’s first game was The Palace of Deceit: Dragon’s Plight, a 1991 pixel-hunting adventure game for Windows. He is also known for the games Dare to Dream and Jazz Jackrabbit. In 2006, he served as lead game designer on the game Gears of War for the Xbox 360. Bleszinski will be an executive producer on the upcoming Gears of War movie.
Nolan Key Bushnell is an American engineer and entrepreneur who founded both Atari, Inc. and the Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza-Time Theaters chain. Bushnell has been inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame and the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame, received the BAFTA Fellowship and the Nations Restaurant News “Innovator of the Year” award, and was named one of Newsweek’s “50 Men Who Changed America.” Bushnell has started more than twenty companies and is one of the founding fathers of the video game industry. He is currently on the board of Anti-Aging Games, but his latest venture is an educational software company called Brainrush that is using video game technology in educational software, incorporating real brain science, in a way that Bushnell believes will fundamentally change education. Nolan, who is co-founder and chairman of Brainrush, believes that Brainrush will be his biggest success.
Bradford Gates “Brad” Rutter is the biggest all-time money winner on the U.S. syndicated game show Jeopardy! and the second biggest all-time money winner on a game show. Rutter became an undefeated champion on Jeopardy! in 2000 and subsequently won an unprecedented three Jeopardy! tournament titles: the 2001 Tournament of Champions, the Million Dollar Masters Tournament, and the Ultimate Tournament of Champions. Following his third tournament win, in which he defeated Ken Jennings and Jerome Vered in the finals, Rutter surpassed Jennings as the highest money-winner ever on American game shows. Jennings subsequently regained his record by appearing on various other game shows, culminating in an appearance on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (first aired on October 10, 2008). Rutter retains the record for Jeopardy! winnings with $3,470,102, and a pair of Chevrolet Camaros ($55,102 in five-day winnings, $100,000 and $1,000,000 and $2,115,000; see below), and $200,000 in his three tournaments and one exhibition respectively).