The 15th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCA), the peer-awarded highest honors in video game development, has revealed its first two special award winners for this year.
The Ambassador Award, honoring someone who is helping video games “advance to a better place” through advocacy or action, is going to game designer and academic Brenda Romero, who has been a key figure in video games throughout more than three decades of standout game design, teaching and advocacy. The Pioneer Award, honoring breakthrough tech and game design milestones, is being awarded to David Braben, the co-creator of seminal 3D space exploration title Elite – now in resurgence with Elite: Dangerous – and co-founder of the foundation for the popular ‘hobbyist computer revival’ Raspberry Pi device.
Ambassador Award winner Romero, whose honor was bestowed after open nominations from the game development community, and voting by the Game Developers Choice Advisory Committee (http://www.gamechoiceawards.com/advisory.html) is an award-winning game designer and academic who entered the video game industry in 1981 at the age of 15.
She is the longest continuously serving woman in the video game industry and a 2014 Fulbright fellow for her work with Ireland’s game industry, game academics and government to improve the industry overall. As a designer, she has contributed to many seminal titles, including the Wizardry and Jagged Alliance series. Away from the machine, her analog series of six games, The Mechanic is the Message, has drawn national and international acclaim, particularly Train, which has been demonstrated at GDC on multiple occasions, and Síochán Leat (The Irish Game), which is presently housed in the National Museum of Play. Brenda’s work advocating passionately for games – and the role of women in them – over the past three decades made her a natural choice for this award. Romero co-owns Loot Drop and Romero Games, and is also program director of the UC Santa Cruzmaster’s program in Games and Playable Media.
Pioneer Award winner David Braben co-developed the seminal ‘open world’ 3D space trading game Elite with Ian Bell while at university in the early 1980s. The best-selling, startlingly expansive title had revolutionary 3D graphics and let the player make all kinds of intriguing moral decisions as they flew the known universe. Elite saw a number of sequels, including the crowdfunded, currently much buzzed-about Elite: Dangerous, and went on to be a big influence on games in the genre it helped create – from Wing Commander to No Man’s Sky and beyond.
In addition to his work on Elite and his more than 30 years as a game developer – latterly at his major UK studio Frontier Developments – Braben was also involved in the genesis of the Raspberry Pi, a ‘hobbyist computer’ which enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to program in languages like Scratch and Python. Braben helped to found the Raspberry Pi Foundation and guide the program through to mass production – with more than 4 million of the devices now manufactured.
Finally, as part of the awards evening that includes both the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards, the team behind the Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? video series, Ashly and Anthony Burch, will once again contribute brand-new videos to the Independent Games Festival this year. They augment the efforts of ceremony favorites, the video game sketch anarchists Mega64, again returning to make videos for the Game Developers Choice Awards this year.