5 Facts About Richard Garriott (That Aren’t About Him Going to Space)

[Originally published August 15, 2016]

First, a fact about me: I am a baby. A sweet, shining baby boy, who just barely missed the cutoff point for living through the golden age of Garriott. He is, of course, an enduring figure in the games industry, whose name makes the rounds in podcasts and articles alike. But even then, I find my knowledge lacking. To me, he is simply “that guy who went into space.” So come, join me in my attempt to replace ignorance with knowledge.

1. “Lord British” is not a Lord, and is Only Half British

Seems like a bit of an inaccurate nickname, but that’s just my opinion. Though he was born in Britain, he’s a dual British-American citizen who’s lived most of his life in the states. He gained the nickname at computer camp when he responded “hello” to his peers’ “hi.” Teens being teens, they said this made him sound British, so they called him “British.”

If he’d said ‘bonjour,’ would they have called him ‘French?” This keeps me up at night.

The ‘Lord’ was added on after he operated as Dungeon Master for one of their DnD games, and the full title of “Lord British” would then make its way into his Ultima series as a near-invincible character. This is where we get the Lord British Postulate: “If it exists as a living creature in an MMORPG, someone, somewhere, will try to kill it.”

Still thinking about the possibility of a Lord French. The Lord French Postulate. Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue the same way, does it?

2. Holy Shit I Had No Idea How Much of an Influence This Guy Had on Games

Hey y’all. I just yelled “Holy Shit!” so loud that a dog across the street started to bark at me. I’m just going to list some of the important cultural touchstones this man is responsible for:

– Created Akalabeth: World of Doom at age 18. This is widely considered to be one of the earliest examples of a Role-Playing Game, and the first one to ever be published. He sold it in ziplock bags (a common practice at the time, apparently) until the game got picked up by the now-defunct California Pacific, who signed a publishing deal with him. Holy shit.

– He created Ultima while attending the University of Texas. Ultima is a wildly influential RPG, and the first open-world game, and he made it while attending university. Holy shit.

– He coined the term “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game” in 1997. You know, the ubiquitous term that’s responsible for qualifying the genre, ultimately birthing one of the most profitable, successful games of all time?

Yeah, that one. Holy SHIT.

Now, you’d think the company that hired such an acclaimed, influential figure would treat him with respect and dignity, right?

3. Richard Garriott DeCayeux Leaves NCsoft Under Extremely Shady Circumstances

Garriott’s career led him to the position of CEO at NCsoft, a South Korea-based company, in 2001. He assisted in the development of 2007’s Tabula Rasa, which ultimately failed to accrue the profits the company had hoped for. In 2008, NCsoft dismisses Richard Garriott while he is in Russian quarantine (due to a recent space flight) over the phone.

Have you ever gotten dumped over the phone? I haven’t, but I’ve heard it’s unpleasant. Have you ever claimed your ex ever forged a letter claiming that you dumped them because you wanted to pursue extensive space flight? I haven’t done that either, but I think that very few people have.

Maybe just like, two or three.

I’ve searched high and low for confirmation on the validity of this “open letter” that Garriott claims is a fake, but there’s none to be found. Garriott did, however, successfully sue NCsoft for mischaracterizing his departure, winning $28 million in the process.

4. Richard Garriott is the Founder of ISIS

(He’s not)

5. Yo Guys I Know I Said I Wasn’t Gonna Talk About the Space Thing But Also This Dude Went Into SPACE

He’s one of the few private citizens to fly into space, he’s the second second-generation astronaut, etc. etc. etc. People have already written about these factoids at length, and – frankly – they’re not what I found interesting about his extraterrestrial activities. My favorite part of this story takes place on earth, in a hospital O.R.

While undergoing prep work for space travel, the mandatory medical examination revealed a hemangioma on his liver. I looked up this word for you all (you’re welcome), and it’s a type of benign tumor found in 5-10% of infants. It can be found anywhere on the body, and – as tumors go – it’s really not that big of a deal.

Unless it’s on your liver, and you want to go into space.

This tiny little benign tumor can cause hemorrhaging when exposed to the pressure of, say, the G-force of a rocket launch (3gs) – especially when the hemorrhage occurs in an organ like your liver. See, your liver is an extremely vascular organ, which means that it carries a lot of blood. Like, a lot of blood. Like, a lot a lot of blood.

We’re gonna get a little medical here, y’all.

Essentially, if your liver hemorrhages while you’re in space, you’re fucked in a major way. You’d experience rapid internal bleeding, and probably die before you reached a point where anyone could even move, let alone attempt to operate on you.

This is why Richard Garriott DeCayeux decided to have that operation down here, on earth, where death is more of a likelihood, rather than a guarantee.

Liver surgery is an extraordinarily dangerous operation. It’s used as an absolute last resort. This is an procedure of small, precise cuts, followed by immediate cauterization. No matter where a surgeon makes their incision, blood pours from the wound. This is why the cut/cauterize cycle must be quick and precise. It requires a steady hand – the smallest mistake could result in a fatality. Sometimes, people just get unlucky. They have a particularly ‘juicy’ liver, and the blood flows at such a volume that it’s impossible to cauterize the wound. The ease with which someone can die on the table is, frankly, unsettling. A surgeon might make all the right moves, and still be unable to save the patient.

Richard Garriott was most likely informed of this risk before the surgery, and said, ‘yep. I’m still down with it. Gotta go to space, my dudes.’ (I’m paraphrasing a little bit).

The surgery went fine, and the rest is history. He’s got a 16-inch scar and a website detailing his travels. He’s since returned to walk amongst us mortals, and founded a new development studio by the name of Portalarium. They’re currently developing a spiritual successor to Ultima, titled Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, which is slated for a 2016 release.

Thanks for reading.


When he’s not frightening the neighbor’s dog, chaboi – Tom Loughney – writes about video games. You can find those writings here. Follow him on twitter @tloughnessmnstr

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