I was reading the wikipedia article for Magic: The Gathering this morning and I saw that Richard Garfield, the game‘s creator, has a PhD in mathematics, specializing in combinatorics, the area of math devoted towards counting things. (If you’ve ever taken a statistics class, you probably encountered the concept of binomial coefficients and the formula n!/(k!(n-k)!), one of the foundations of the field.) I‘m not sure how much heavy-duty math he used when designing/balancing the game early on beyond the stuff anybody could teach themself, but I feel like if a science fiction author in the 50s or 60s were writing a novel about a hit game that overtakes the world involving thousands of cards drawn at random from a deck, they’d probably make the designer of the game a combinatorial mathematics professor. It just feels like the perfect background! Half the problems you encounter in the first few weeks of an introductory combinatorics class are literally about drawing cards from a deck.

What are some other examples of people in games who have non-games backgrounds that in retrospect seem perfect for what they ended up working on? Or alternatively, who are some people who have completely bizarre backgrounds that seem the exact opposite of what they ended up being known for?