Dave Theurer

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Dave Theurer
Alma mater Wheaton College (Illinois)
Occupation Game designer
Employer Atari, Inc.
Known for Missile Command
I, Robot

David "Dave" Theurer is a game designer. In 1980, he created Missile Command, considered one of the great classic video games from the Golden age of arcade games. Another pioneering achievement, also in 1980, was Tempest. Theurer also designed I, Robot, the first commercial video game with filled 3-D polygonal graphics. All three were released by Atari.[1][2]

David attended Wheaton College in Chicago initially following a path in Chemistry and then Physics, but with two years to go until completion changed once more to Psychology, earning a degree. He has said that earning the degree had helped him create addictive games by using the same techniques originally used on pigeons.

David worked for the college data processing center for approximately six months after graduating. After which he found a job as a junior programmer at Bunker Ramo Corporation, a company that built supermarket computer systems. He moved to California and joined National Semiconductor in 1976. Six months after joining National Semiconductor a co-worker was hired as Manager of Programmers for Atari Games and subsequently hired David without an interview.

Despite not liking the sport, David's first game for Atari was Four Player Soccer. During the development of Missile Command, David regularly had nightmares which involved the bombing of nearby towns. These nightmares continued after the game had been completed although their regularity decreased.[3] The idea for Tempest was of monsters appearing from a hole in the ground, a scenario from a movie which Theurer had seen as a child.[3]

Theurer cites Pong as his inspiration to become a game designer.

He left Atari in 1990 to work full-time on DeBabelizer, an automated image editor, graphics optimizer, and file converter for Windows and Macintosh.[4]

On the way to fireworks displays at Moffett Field on July 4, 1983, David used his Porsche 928 to chase down a hit-and-run driver who had struck Michael McCully, a 15-year-old boy from Los Altos. Michael suffered a severed spine injury and was paralyzed from the waist down. The driver returned to the scene where the California Highway Patrol arrested him for hit-and-run, drunken driving, giving false information to a police officer and driving without a license. David was praised for his efforts by the California Highway Patrol.[5]

In 2012 Theurer was given the Pioneer Award for his work on Atari arcade games.[6]


  1. ^ Morph. "Blowing Things Up". Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier. May 1994. Mirrored at: http://dreamsteep.com/writing/71-interviews/46-blowing-things-up.html
  2. ^ Dave Theurer, During the 80s Atari's arcade division had an unwritten rule known as Theurer's Law, which stated that "No designer gets his/her first game published." It was named after Theurer somewhat perversely, as he was the only designer up to that time to have his first (and in fact every) game released. That game was none other than the illustrious Missile Command, and other greats followed, such as Tempest, I, Robot, and APB., Everything2.com
  3. ^ a b The creation of Missile Command and the haunting of its creator, Dave Theurer, By Alex Rubens, August 15, 2013, Polygon
  4. ^ DeBabelizer, the Graphics Processing Toolbox: Reference Guide, Authors:Frank Colin, Dave Theurer, Publisher: Equilibrium Technologies, 1993
  5. ^ "Dave Theurer Nabs Hit-Run Suspect". San Jose Mercury News. July 15, 1983. Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved May 24, 2010. 
  6. ^ GDC Awards honor Missile Command creator, violent game law ousters, Dave Theurer being given 2012 Pioneer Award for work on Atari arcade games, by Eddie Makuch, January 24, 2012, GameSpot

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