The flags flown at any videogame company, institution that teaches videogame tools, or service provider linked to the videogame industry in the Research Triangle should be at half-mast today as a salute to Tom Clancy.

It’s hard to imagine that the Triangle would be one of the nation’s largest videogame hubs if Clancy had not sunk his teeth into a “play” as a videogame investor and game developer in Cary nearly 20 years ago.

Clancy, who died at the age of 66 on Tuesday, teamed with Triangle entrepreneur David Smith at a Cary 3D startup called Virtus to launch a videogame company in 1996 called “Red Storm Entertainment.” Under the direction of Clancy’s hand-picked leader, Doug Littlejohns, Red Storm became an international force, especially in first-person shooters. The Triangle’s reputation as one of the nation’s top videogame hubs can be directly linked to Clancy’s choice of Cary to launch the company based on the title of his second big seller.

Says Alex Macris, publisher of videogame industry website The Escapist in Durham: “A lot of people working in videogaming today in the Triangle today owe their jobs to him. Red Storm is still the second largest studio in the Triangle.” He also pointed out that many former Red Storm employees have moved on to other firms.

Just as with his books, Clancy-linked games stressed technical accuracy as well as action-filled plots.

The Skinny reached out to Red Storm, which is owned by international game giant Ubisoft, for comment about Clancy. Heather Pond saluted Clancy:

“We are saddened to learn of Tom Clancy’s passing and our condolences go out to his family.

“Tom Clancy was an extraordinary author with a gift for creating detailed, engrossing fictional stories that captivated audiences around the world. The teams at Ubisoft, especially at the Red Storm studio, are incredibly grateful to have collaborated with and learned from him, and we are humbled by the opportunity to carry on part of his legacy through our properties that bear his name.”

While Clancy certainly is best known for his many thrilling best-sellers, starting with “The Hunt for Red October” at the height of the Cold War and a series of movie hits (especially “Red October” with Sean Connery), his name also is a franchise in the videogame world. As The Associated Press noted Tuesday, Clancy-linked games have sold 76 million copies.

Of course, the vast majority of those came after Clancy exited Red Storm and the gaming business in 2000 when he sold Red Storm to Ubisoft. According to Bloomberg, Clancy got $45 million for the firm.

David Smith was an early pioneer in 3D and videogame development. He met Clancy online through mutual gaming interest. Clancy hired Littlejohns, a former nuclear attack submarine commander in the British Royal Navy whom he mad met through his book writing efforts, to run Red Storm when he and Smith decided to launch a company.

The Triangle gaming cluster at the time was quite small, but over the next several years it exploded. Even the late Michael Crichton came to Cary to start a gaming company called Timeline. Epic Games – now a global titan in the industry – moved to the Triangle in 1999. Even Jim Goodnight of SAS tried his hands at videogames for a while.

But the impact of Red Storm reached beyond Cary – and still does today not only with game titles it develops but the heritage of shooters.

Noted Macris: “Popular shooters today – the modern infantry combat shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield – stem from Rainbow Six.”

The Rainbow Six gaming franchise was developed in conjunction with a Clancy book by the same title.

Calcny later sold rights to his name for use with games, so even though he wasn’t directly involved in such franchises as “Ghost Recon and “Splinter Cell,” the legacy of those titles can be linked back to Red Storm. 

The Associated Press compiled a list of all the games developed by Clancy-related properties. Not all are from Red Storm, but each has roots in concepts developed by Clancy characters and franchises various teams developed over the years:

  • “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six,” 1998.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear,” 1999.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon,” 2001.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Desert Siege,” 2002.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Island Thunder,” 2002.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell,” 2002.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3,” 2003.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield,” 2003.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2,” 2004.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm,” 2004.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Athena Sword,” 2004.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow,” 2004.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow,” 2004.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike,” 2005.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Lockdown,” 2005.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory,” 2005.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent,” 2006.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter,” 2006.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Critical Hour,” 2006.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas,” 2006.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Essentials,” 2006.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2,” 2007.
  • “Tom Clancy’s EndWar,” 2008.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2,” 2008.
  • “Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X,” 2009.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Predator,” 2010.
  • “Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2,” 2010.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction,” 2010.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars,” 2011.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Alpha,” 2012.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier,” 2012.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online,” 2012.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist,” 2013.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6: Patriots,” to be released in 2014.
  • “Tom Clancy’s The Division,” to be released 2014.

Macris, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, speculated in Clancy’s death is really just “deep core cover” for some “secret government program.”

“Remember,” he said, “he’s really not dead.”

As the Triangle’s game industry shows, he did leave a lasting legacy far beyond books and Hollywood. Clancy has a new book due in December, and there’s another “Jack Ryan” – Clancy’s best-known character – due in December as well.

So here’s a tip of The Skinny’s cap to Tom Clancy. Long may he be remembered.