If there’s one debate that defines the contested realm of 21st century pop culture, it’s something along the lines of: “are video games culturally significant contributions to human society?” Regardless of what your stance might be, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) certainly thinks so (and if you’re reading this website, chances are that you’d fully agree). In fact, they’ve given their prestigious BAFTA Fellowship to several video game design legends in the recent past, including Will Wright (2007), Shigeru Miyamoto (2010), and Gabe Newell (2013). Today, BAFTA announced that they will be awarding id Software co-founder John Carmack with the BAFTA Fellowship.
The BAFTA Fellowship is no small honor. According to BAFTA’s website, “the Fellowship is the highest accolade bestowed by BAFTA upon an individual in recognition of an outstanding and exceptional contribution to film, television or games.”
For those not in the know, Carmack has had a rather illustrious career in the world of video gaming. Described in an early psychiatric report as “a brain on legs,” a young Carmack began his journey at a Louisiana-based software company called Softdisk. He would meet many of his future contemporaries, like equally renowned John Romero, at Softdisk. During their stay at Softdisk, Carmack and Romero created the first game in their classic DOS platformer series, Commander Keen.
Carmack and Romero left Softdisk in 1991 to found id Software. There, Carmack and friends set the genesis of the shooter genre in motion with titles like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. Carmack also pioneered and popularized a plethora of game design techniques while at id Software, like surface caching for Quake and Carmack’s Reverse in Doom 3.
Carmack left id Software in 2013 to work full-time at Oculus VR as their CTO. His reason for leaving? id’s parent company, Zenimax Media, didn’t want to support the Oculus Rift. Likely a tactical misstep for them, in retrospect.
In addition to pushing the boundaries of video game design, Carmack also takes an interest in rocketry. He founded Armadillo Aerospace in 2000; the company’s goals included achieving suborbital space flight and creating orbital vehicles. The company went into “hibernation mode” in 2013.
Carmack is also notable for his fervent advocacy of open-source software, his “it’s done when it’s done” philosophy for announcing game release dates, and his love of pizza.
In response to receiving the BAFTA Fellowship, Carmack stated:
Receiving a BAFTA Fellowship is a great honour. Over the course of my career, I’ve remained passionate about the potential for engineering and technology improvements to expand the range of human creativity. Graphics, networking, extendable platforms, and now virtual reality; each has enabled magnificent new things that delight millions of people. I am as excited about the future today as I was when I started.
Harvey Elliot, Chairman of BAFTA’s Games Committee, commented that Carmack is deserving of the award because he “embodies creativity through all of his work and is a true pioneer in the field of computer engineering.”
Carmack will receive the BAFTA Fellowship on April 7, 2016, at Tobacco Dock, London. Those interested in watching the ceremony will be able to do so via BAFTA’s official Twitch.tv channel, Twitch.tv/bafta.