Mr. Altman’s survivors include Mrs. Carter and her son, a daughter, Jessica Carter Altman, a singer and lawyer; and two sisters, Susan and Nancy Altman.
After giving up banking and the law, Mr. Altman founded ZeniMax, based in Rockville, Md., In 1999 and then worked with a software developer, Christopher Weaver, of Bethesda Softworks until a dispute arose.
As the parent company of Bethesda, ZeniMax has devoured other brands. When concerns about violent video games were raised, he filled the company’s advisory board with political figures, including Robert Trump, the former president’s younger brother and Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic chairman.
For a man whose entire professional life has been shaped by just one person, Mr. Altman’s successful career transition may not have been as steep as it seemed. James Altman quoted ZeniMax General Counsel Grif Lesher as saying that his father was so convinced of his own creativity that he would not hesitate to rewrite Shakespeare because he insisted “it can be improved.”
Devoting almost a decade to self-defense has freed Mr. Altman from further ambitions in banking, corporate law or capital power politics.
“Until your picture is on the front page of the Washington Post, until you are charged and many false allegations are made, it is very difficult to understand what it is,” he said in a television interview with Charlie Rose in 1993.
No wonder Fallout 3, one of the video games his company developed, invited gamers on a 23rd-century adventure to the ruins of post-catastrophic Washington when he switched careers. His favorite, his son said, was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrm, which gives players the opportunity to “live a different life in a different world” and play “any type of character imaginable.”