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GDC Awards to honour Tim Schafer and Rami Ismail

[UPDATE]: Backlash to Pioneer award for Nolan Bushnell prompts GDC to instead dedicate this year's honour to "the pioneering and unheard voices of the past"

[UPDATE]: The Game Developers Conference has abandoned plans to give the Pioneer award to Nolan Bushnell after the initial announcement was met with complaints about his reported history of sexist behavior.

"The Game Developers Choice Awards Advisory Committee, who vote on the Special Award winners for each show, have made the decision not to give out a Pioneer Award for this year's event, following additional feedback from the community," a statement posted to the official GDC Twitter read. "They believe their picks should reflect the values of today's game industry and will dedicate this year's award to honor the pioneering and unheard voices of the past."

The original story follows below:

The team behind GDC has announced the winners of three special prizes at this year's Game Developers Choice Awards.

Double Fine founder and ex-LucasArts dev Tim Schafer will receive the Lifetime Achievement award following almost 30 years in game design. His accomplishments range from classic adventure such as Full Throttle and Grim Fandango to cult hits Psychonauts and Brutal Legend.

He joins the roster of previous winners, which include Hideo Kojima, Shigeru Miyamoto, John Carmack, Ken Kutaragi, Peter Molyneux and more.

Rami Ismail of Vlambeer will pick up the Ambassador award, recognising his work as an advocate for opening game development to all. This encompasses not only his initiatives like free promotional tool presskit(), but also through his work with incubators, universities and emerging development communities around the world.

GDC was also planning to give the Pioneer award to Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari. Billed by many as one of the fathers of the entire video games industry, his groundbreaking work on titles like Pong, Breakout and other Atari classics helped form the foundations of the business we know today.

However, news of this honour was met by angry protests from a number of developers via social media, alleging that past sexist behaviour render it inappropriate to grant Bushnell such an accolade.

Glixel reports that developers and academics have rallied under the hashtag #notnolan, declaring that such an award would be "tone deaf" in the wake of the massive #MeToo movement sweeping every industry. Some are calling for the award to be given to one of the many women making their mark on the industry, their accomplishments often unrecognised.

Examples of the sexist behaviour Nolan is accused of includes trying to get women to join him in a hot tub during a meeting (as documented in The Ultimate History of Video Games book), a San Francisco Chronicle profile detailing an uncomfortable tour of his home, and inappropriate comments made about female employees described in a Playboy article.

A spokesperson has told Glixel that GDC and the nominating committee were unaware of these allegations and are re-examining the decision on whether or not he will this award.

The Game Developers Choice Awards will be held on Wednesday, March 21st alongside the conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. It will be hosted by Funomena founder and industry veteran Robin Hunicke.

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James Batchelor


James Batchelor is Editor-in-Chief at GamesIndustry.biz. He has been a B2B journalist since 2006, and an author since he knew what one was