UK games industry icon David Lawson has died

Lawson was a co-founder of Image Software (1982) and Psygnosis (1984).

David Lawson

One of the founding fathers of the UK games industry, David Lawson, passed away in August, it has been revealed. Lawson was co-founder of Imagine Software during the 8-bit era. However, he will be best remembered for co-founding the legendary Psygnosis, behind many 16-bit hits on the Atari ST and Amiga. Psygnosis was bought up and renamed SCE Studio Liverpool by Sony in 1999.

Lawson co-founded Imagine Software in Liverpool in 1982, at the age of 23. This was very much the 8-bit era, with titles pitted at owners of systems like the ZX Spectrum, Vic-20, and so on. Imagine turned out to be a great success with hit games like Arcadia and Ah Diddums.

A legend of the early games scene

Imagine software grew at a frantic pace, expanding to employ 80 people within two years but was perhaps a victim of its own exuberance and ambition. In 1984, the firm collapsed due to debts, with the event captured for posterity by a BBC film crew. By chance, the BBC was filming a documentary on the UK games scene when bailiffs arrived at Imagine Software HQ. Two ambitious “mega-games” were in production at the time of collapse, Psyclapse and Bandersnatch, with the latter repurposed for an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror in 2018.

You don’t have to be quite as old to remember Psygnosis. If you were a computer enthusiast back in the days of the Atari ST and Amiga, or even early Windows and PlayStation gaming eras (post-1995), then some of your favourite games might have featured the Psygnosis logo and signature owl – as designed by Roger Dean, best known for his music album cover designs.

Psygnosis rose from the ashes of Imagine Software in 1984, again co-founded by Lawson, and had a much longer run – being taken over in 1999 by Sony and renamed SCE Studio Liverpool. SCE Liverpool subsequently ceased games production in 2012.

Image via Amiga Guru

David Lawson was 62 years old when he died this summer in a hospital in the Wirral, survived and loved by partner Tracey Walker, and his two children, Rheia and Poppy. He is fondly remembered by colleagues in the games industry for his enthusiasm for computer games and sense to leave people to do their own thing, working to their best abilities.