Behind every great video game franchise is a brilliant human being who has guided it from birth to major financial success. On October 1st, we lost one particular person named Tom Clancy at the still young age of 66. Clancy was as much of a gaming pioneer as the rest of them, creating some of the most iconic video game franchises of all time. However, he has simultaneously stood out from the rest of the pack by being an author first and a franchise owner second. His incredibly detailed stories of espionage and military thrillers have turned into best-sellers with movie adaptations starring the likes of Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October) and Harrison Ford (Patriot Games). He truly became an entertainment titan in his own right by having his name attached to novels, films, video games, and even board games all at the same time. In his 66 years, he accomplished more than millions will ever hope to in multiple lifetimes. So instead of focusing on one particular game or franchise this week, I’ve decided to direct my full attention to the man behind the scenes.
The beginning of Clancy’s illustrious career began in 1984 when he first wrote the now legendary The Hunt for Red October. The novel starred Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who helped with the defection of a major Soviet submarine commander to the United States in order to obtain the nuclear sub Red October. The Hunt for Red October became a smash hit for its technical accuracy and got a major boost when President Reagan expressed his love for it. Jack Ryan quickly became Clancy’s go-to protagonist for many of his future works. The Hunt for Red October received both the video game and movie treatment, but Clancy was already busy writing more novels like Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears. These are just three more novels that later got the major movie blockbuster treatment as well. As Clancy’s popularity with Jack Ryan flourished, he created other series’ like Tom Clancy’s Op-Center, Tom Clancy’s Net Force, and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, though he didn’t write most of the novels.
Now most people probably would’ve been content just sticking to the print and film. Some games based on Clancy’s work were made during this time but were definitely overshadowed by his profession of choice. Clancy was different though, and in 1996 he co-founded Red Storm Entertainment, now owned by Ubisoft. This was smack dab in the middle of his rising success mind you. The first game published by Red Storm was Tom Clancy’s Politika, but it wasn’t until 1998 and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six that Red Storm became the company to watch. Rainbow Six first came out on the PC and took a decidedly different approach to first person shooter (FPS) gameplay by focusing more on tactics than firepower. This is when the tactical shooter genre really took root. The Rainbow Six games are all about stealth and teamwork to accomplish a goal within a closed urban environment. While new installments to the Rainbow Six franchise were being made, Clancy got to work creating Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon for a 2001 release. Ghost Recon continued the tactical shooter genre that Rainbow Six first started by instead put the game on much larger outdoor environments. As of this post, 18 Rainbow Six and 13 Ghost Recon games have been made. Rainbow Six was also based on the hit 1998 novel of the same name and Ghost Recon later received the novel treatment as well.
The early success of Ghost Recon apparently wasn’t enough for Clancy and the guy still wanted to make some more. This lead to the creation of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell in 2002, a third person stealth franchise that broke out from the pack by putting an emphasis on light and dark gameplay. There have only been 7 Splinter Cell games to date, but they have also spawned a series of highly successful novels and an upcoming film that stars Tom Hardy as the protagonist Sam Fisher. Now I could go into more detail about this other hugely successful series, but why not check out my Remembering the Classics post where I did just that two months ago!
With a name as iconic as Tom Clancy, it’s hard not to take notice of the man and his expansive library of work. His name alone became a major marketing technique as he was already wildly successful before Rainbow Six ever came out. You don’t see Shigeru Miyamoto’s Super Mario Bros. either. Tom Clancy truly was that rare breed. Even though my own experience with his work is limited, I know full well how high the quality of his work was. I have never read his novels, I’ve barely played any of his games, and I’ve seen very few of the movies based on his books, but I’ve known the man my entire gaming life. I have friends who swear by his work though and for good reason.
While his name is attached to countless properties, the Tom Clancy line of video games and their future adaptations will never die. Clancy may no longer be here to write novels that most agree have a pretty cookie cutter formula but he’s surely done enough work to be remembered. Then again, when your name is literally on the boxes for over 30 games and an insane amount of novels you’re practically screaming “REMEMBER ME.” He may have drawn criticism for his political and religious beliefs but that in no way should reflect negatively on the work he has made. His latest (and possibly final) novel is Command Authority due out this December, and next year a new game series is beginning with Tom Clancy’s The Division. With that said, rest in peace Tom Clancy, and thanks for entertaining us.