Richard Garriott, Developer of Ultima, Living Every Geek’s Dream Life

Geek Culture

It’s hard not to be jealous of Richard Garriott. His father, Owen, was a NASA astronaut who spent 70 days in space. He (Richard) developed the Ultima computer game series, among others, and founded Origin Systems. He made his house into the ultimate geek residence. And as if that weren’t enough, he’s about to go into space.

Garriott may be better known to some as "Lord British," his nickname from his computer camp days that he turned into a character in the Ultima series. As the programmer and/or project director of some of the best fantasy computer games of the 1980s, he can surely be held responsible for nurturing the geekiness in many of us who are in our thirties now, myself included. He designed the games out of his own love for fantasy, and it was contagious—even those geeks who didn’t play the Ultima games (and if you didn’t, you missed out) probably played one or more games influenced by them.

Garriott proved his geekiness by what he chose to do with his money. He built Britannia Manor, a house with displays of medieval weapons, secret passages, a replica of the Elizabethan-era Curtain Theatre, and its own observatory. He was famous for throwing the best Halloween parties ever, turning his house into a completely immersive full-contact role-playing game set in a haunted house, requiring guests to swing across pits, row across streams, and solve puzzles of all sorts. Evidently not completely satisfied with this house, or perhaps just bored with it, Garriott has begun construction on a new house, to be built more like a castle.

And now he’s using $30 million of that money to fulfill every geek’s dream, by taking a trip into space. As if that weren’t enough, he’ll be carrying a bag of Stephen Colbert‘s DNA with him, to be digitally encoded on an "immortality drive" on the International Space Station (ISS). At 3:00am EDT this coming Sunday, Garriott is scheduled to be launched into space aboard the Russian space flight Soyuz TMA-13, and to dock with the ISS at 6:00am EDT Tuesday. You can watch these events live on NASA TV or online.

Godspeed, Lord British. I think I speak for virtually all your fellow geeks when I say that I’m phenomenally envious of you. If I had $30 million to spend, I’d probably be right there with you.

Also check out Wired’s great story about Star City, that features Garriott.

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