Scotsman Games: Sandbox game pioneer honoured

David Braben, creator of Elite, is to be honoured by Abertay University with an honorary degree. Picture: Contributed
David Braben, creator of Elite, is to be honoured by Abertay University with an honorary degree. Picture: Contributed
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ONE of the games industry’s most influential figures has been recognised by Abertay University in a special ceremony.

David Braben, the co-creator of Elite, received an honorary degree of doctor of technology from the Dundee institution, which described him as a “role model” for a new generation of developers.

Braben earned a place in gaming folklore with the release of Elite in 1982. The pioneering space trading title was regarded as revolutionary not only thanks to its three dimensional wireframe graphics, but its expansive world. Over three decades on, it is regularly held up as one of the first examples of a sandbox game.

As well as helping to create Elite, Braben is a founding trustee of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which aims to bring affordable, pocket-sized computers to schools and individuals across the world, inspiring a whole new generation to learn computer programming, just as the BBC Micro did in the 1980s.

This year, he raised almost £1.6 million from over 25,000 supporters on Kickstarter for Elite: Dangerous and successfully listed his company Frontier Developments on the London Stock Exchange.

Speaking at the degree ceremony last week, Braben declared himself “delighted” at receiving the honour. He said : “As the first university in the world to teach a computer games technology degree, and the organiser of the wonderful Dare to be Digital game design competition, Abertay has proven itself to be fantastically committed to educating the next generation of game developers.

“Computer science education is absolutely key to the future success of the UK, and linking strong school education – powered by initiatives like the Raspberry Pi – to world-leading university courses is exactly what we need to grow more great companies here.”

Professor Nigel Seaton, principal and vice-Chancellor of Abertay University, said: “David is a major inspiration to many of my colleagues at Abertay University and in the computer games industry, with his work guiding them into their careers.

“From the huge technical achievement of Elite over 30 years ago, to producing a succession of creatively and commercially successful games, to helping bring the Raspberry Pi into our schools, David is also a wonderful role model for our students graduating here.

“It’s a great honour to present David with his Honorary Doctorate at the same time as celebrating the achievements and potential of our graduates, many of whom will follow in his footsteps and start their own exciting and innovative games companies.”