You may not be familiar with the man’s name, but you probably know his work.
Leslie Benzies, the president of Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar North, has departed the company after a 17-month sabbatical, reports Kotaku.
Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Benzies came aboard Rockstar North predecessor DMA Design in 1999 as a game programmer. In 2001 he helped launch the seminal Grand Theft Auto III as the game’s producer, bringing the then-obscure GTA franchise into the third dimension and into the world’s spotlight. He went on to lead the development of all subsequent GTA games, and is credited as a lead designer on Rockstar’s acclaimed Western-themed game, Red Dead Redemption.
The media-shy Benzies presided over a development studio known for its thoroughness and attention to detail. “We don’t just go, ‘Here’s a mission, off you go,’” Benzies said in a 2013 profile for Develop magazine. “We spend a lot of time, make a lot of graphs and work out how difficult something is, what the reward is, how you might be feeling after that mission.”
Leslie Benzies (Photo: Rockstar Games)
“That last five to ten per cent of work on the game makes a huge difference,” Benzies insisted. “This level of perfection is not seen or understood in the majority of the industry. We can all make a car drive down a street in a game, but can you do it in style?”
That perfectionism paid off. For the past 15 years, Grand Theft Auto has been gaming’s crown jewel, with each iteration garnering outrageous sales and critical acclaim despite outcry over its violent content. Benzies himself was honored in 2005 with a BAFTA Special Award and was inducted into the Academy of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 2014.
Rockstar North veterans Aaron Garbut and Rob Nelson will helm the studio moving forward, but no one knows what Benzies is up to next. We’d say he deserves a long vacation, but it looks like he’s already in the middle of one.