9 Weird Video Game Tidbits From The Elon Musk Biography

9 Weird Video Game Tidbits From The Elon Musk Biography

Walter Isaacson’s recently published biography of unhinged kingpin Elon Musk, Elon Musk, unloaded several bombshells about Musk’s family and hectic approach to business, but the real gold is his relationship to video games. So I compiled nine revealing video game facts from the Musk biography to help piece it together.

The way Musk interacts with games seems like the way he interacts with everything else: overwrought, obsessive, and kind of cringe. He forced his ex-girlfriends to download a phone game he likes, and he stayed up until sunrise playing Elden Ring. Billionaires getting investigated by the Department of Justice, they’re just like us.

Keep reading for several vignettes on Musk’s gaming monomania. You’ll learn something, though you may not like it.

Musk made some video games, too



Many writers cite Musk’s first sale, the 1984 rail shooter Blastar, which he created at age 13 and sold to PC and Office Technology magazine for $US500, as an example of Musk’s genius. I can’t speak to that, but I can relay that Isaacson says the shooter “began [Musk’s] lifelong addiction to video games.”

After making Blastar, Musk sold PC and Office Technology “two other games, one like Donkey Kong and the other simulating roulette and blackjack,” Isaacson writes. Now, “if you’re playing with Elon,” says SolarCity co-founder Peter Rive, “you play pretty much nonstop until finally you have to eat.”

Musk briefly considered becoming a game developer



In 1994, amid college internships, Musk worked at now defunct developer Rocket Science Games, where he did programming on games like FMV rail-shooter Cadillacs and Dinosaurs: The Second Cataclysm and live-action space trucker movie/FMV rail-shooter Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine. (It was the mid-90s, FMV rail shooters were a thing.) The company wanted him to stay on full-time after he’d solved a multitasking issue in their programming, but Musk “came to a realization,” Isaacson says. “He had a fantastic love of video games and the skills to make money creating them, but that was not the best way to spend his life.”

“I wanted to have more impact,” Musk told Isaacson.

Ex-girlfriend Amber Heard made herself Overwatch cosplay for Musk

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer (Getty Images)

“[Musk] told her that she reminded him of Mercy, his favourite character in the video game Overwatch, so she spent two months designing and commissioning a head-to-toe costume so she could role-play for him,” Isaacson says.

The Tesla Cybertruck is inspired by games like Halo

Photo: Nic Coury/Bloomberg (Getty Images)

Tesla’s cubist pickup truck, the Cybertruck, which is not yet in production despite being revealed in 2019, was inspired in part by Halo vehicles.

“Every time someone would point to a picture that was more conventional,” Isaacson writes, “Musk would push back and point to the car from the video game Halo, or in the trailer for the forthcoming game Cyberpunk 2077, or from Ridley Scott’s movie Blade Runner.”

“I don’t care if no one buys it,” Musk said to his design team. “We’re not doing a traditional boring truck. […] I want to build something that’s cool. Like, don’t resist me.”

Musk brought a gun to Grimes’ Cyberpunk 2077 voice acting session



“When Grimes was doing the voice recordings for the cyborg pop-star she played in the video game Cyberpunk 2077,” Isaacson writes, “he showed up at the studio wielding a two-hundred-year-old gun and insisted that they give him a cameo.” They did.

Cyberpunk Is A Frequently Tapped Well Of Inspiration For Musk

Image: CD Projekt Red

In addition to motivating the Cybertruck’s sleekness and Musk’s personal gun-slinging, Cyberpunk 2077 also stimulates some of Musk’s even more fanciful notions. Like, when Musk was considering putting Tesla’s barely operational humanoid bot “in the driver’s seat of a [proposed Tesla] Robotaxi to meet the legal requirements of a car needing a driver,” Isaacson writes.

“Do you remember the original Blade Runner movie did something like that,” Musk prodded his team. “Also the most recent Cyberpunk game,” Musk said, likely referring to the Delamain car service which features prominently in one of the game’s best side quests.

“He liked taking the fiction out of science fiction,” Isaacson observes.

Musk is obsessed with a phone game



You might have already known that Musk loves turn-based strategy game The Battle of Polytopia. A 2022 Grimes profile in Vanity Fair discloses that Musk “has the top score” on it; impressive, though he inaccurately describes the game as a “much more complex version of chess.”

Polytopia is more of “an approachable game for newcomers to the civilization builder genre,” Sisi Jiang wrote for Kotaku, but it reflects Musk’s long-term fixation on strategy games in general.

“Musk had enjoyed all types of video games as a teenager in South Africa,” Isaacson writes, “including first-person shooters and adventure quests, but at college he became more focused on the genre known as strategy games, ones that involve two or more players competing to build an empire using high-level strategy.” Or something.

Some of his college favourites include Civilization and Blizzard’s Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, but Isaacson describes Musk’s modern attachment to Polytopia as a special “addiction.”

One time, Musk refused to speak to Grimes for the rest of the day after she’d “surprise-attacked him with a flame ball” in Polytopia, Isaacson writes. Another time, he delayed international work meetings because he couldn’t stop playing the game, and then he played it for the entirety of his plane trip home. He missed his sister-in-law Christiana Musk’s birthday because he was spending “hours by himself in his room or in the corner playing the game.”

Musk’s brother, Kimbal, learned to play Polytopia because Musk had told him it would teach him how to be a CEO, but he eventually had to stop “because it was destroying my marriage,” he said. Musk also tried giving up Polytopia after finding it “was taking up too many brain cycles,” appearing in his dreams, but he redownloaded it on his phone a few months later.

Musk had an embarrassing gamertag

Photo: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg (Getty Images)

In the early days of SpaceX, Musk’s commercial spacecraft venture, Musk played multiplayer shooter Quake III Arena as “Random9.” Just “Random9.”

“Musk and the other young engineers would work late into the night and then fire up […] Quake III Arena […], conference together their cell phones, and plunge into death matches that could last until 3 a.m.,” Isaacson says.

Random9 played the most aggressively, “(of course),” Isaacson writes.

Musk bought Twitter after playing Elden Ring

Image: FromSoftware

Musk started plotting a hostile Twitter takeover in 2022, after deciding a board seat “wasn’t enough,” Isaacson writes. Then he flew to Grimes’ hometown, Vancouver, Canada, where he played Elden Ring, described by Isaacson as a “war-and-empire-building game,” on his laptop until 5:30 a.m.

“Right after he finished,” continues Isaacson, “he pulled the trigger on his plan and went on Twitter. ‘I made an offer,’ he announced.”

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