This March’s 11th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, the peer-awarded highest honors in video game development, have revealed the recipients of its two final Special Awards – the Pioneer Award, for creating breakthrough video game genres or concepts, and the Ambassador Award, for those who “helped the game industry advance to a better place”.
This year’s Pioneer Award will be given to Sega Corporation veteran and game design legend Yu Suzuki, honoring his amazing work over the last three decades, inventing entire game genres and making seminal titles spanning Hang On through Virtua Fighter to Out Run, After Burner and Shenmue – and beyond.
In addition, the Ambassador Award, also picked by the prestigious Game Developers Choice Awards Committee, will celebrate the managers of the Game Developers Conference Associates (CA) program, Tim Brengle and Ian MacKenzie.
Sega veteran Yu Suzuki will be making a rare Western appearance to accept his award in person on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at the San Francisco Moscone Center during Game Developers Conference 2011, where he will also be presenting a special one-off game design lecture.
Suzuki himself first joined Sega Corporation in 1983 and is well known for his many industry firsts and genre-originating titles. In 1985, Suzuki created innovative arcade game Hang On, one of the first ever titles where the player’s movement on a motorcycle facsimile was copied by the onscreen avatar.
From there, Suzuki’s output defined a ‘golden age’ of Sega arcade games, including all time classics such as Out Run, Space Harrier, After Burner, Power Drift, and Virtua Racing. Following this, his pioneering work in 1993 created Virtua Fighter, which spawned the 3D fighting game genre, and has been recognized for its contribution in the fields of Art & Entertainment by the Smithsonian Institution.
His work continued with multiple acclaimed iterations of the Virtua Fighter franchise, as well as the F355 Challenge arcade game and pioneering action adventure franchise Shenmue. This title first launched in 1999 for the Sega Dreamcast console and showcased open-world gameplay and complexity of an unprecedented nature – including some of the first-ever ‘QTEs’ (‘quick-time events’) in 3D action games.
In addition to receiving the coveted Pioneer Award, Suzuki will also be presenting a lecture, ‘Yu Suzuki’s Gameworks: A Career Retrospective’, on Wednesday March 2nd at 10.30am as part of GDC 2011, talking with industry veteran Mark Cerny about the landmark game titles that Suzuki has created over the past two decades.
“By creating classic titles from Out Run through Virtua Fighter and Shenmue, Yu Suzuki has truly created some of video games’ iconic game design, and was a key favorite from our Advisory Committee to be awarded this year, during the 25th holding of GDC”, said Meggan Scavio, event director of the Game Developers Conference.
Tim Brengle & Ian MacKenzie
Also being honored at the 2011 Choice Awards are the recipients of the Ambassador Award, which recognizes individuals “who have helped the game industry advance to a better place, either through facilitating a better game community from within, or by reaching outside the industry to be advocates for video games to help further the art form.”
This year, the Choice Awards Advisory Committee voted the managers of the Game Developers Conference CA program, Tim Brengle and Ian MacKenzie, as the recipients of the Ambassador Award. Brengle and MacKenzie oversee the GDC’s Conference Associates program, which consists of hundreds of volunteers–selected from more than 1,600 applicants from around the world–who staff the GDC each year and help with many aspects of the conference.
The group is made up largely of students, recent graduates and other aspiring game developers, for whom the CA program is an affordable way to experience everything the Game Developers Conference has to offer. More than anything, the CA program has created long lasting friendships between participants and a camaraderie that is unmatched in any other volunteer organization. Indeed, a number of former CAs, including Portal co-creator Kim Swift, go on to high-profile jobs within the gaming industry.
Creator of the Conference Associates program in 1989, Brengle served as a director of the conference as a whole until 1995. Under the current conference organizers, he continues to direct and co-manage the program today. His focus is to foster an atmosphere of wholehearted excellence among the CAs, encouraging each to perform at the highest level and serve others enthusiastically.
Celebrating his 21st anniversary working with the CA program this year, MacKenzie started off his career as a divisional engineering manager specializing in software. Leaving to found a company with Brengle, the two created one of the best selling PC entertainment titles during Christmas of 1999. MacKenzie continues to stay involved with the game industry, but mainly focuses his time now with his wife of five years and their son.
“Tim Brengle and Ian MacKenzie have put their hearts and souls into fostering a community of volunteers that have become an essential part of the lifeblood of GDC, year in and year out. We are very proud and excited that their peers on the Choice Awards Advisory Committee decided to honor them with the Ambassador Award this year”, added Scavio of the duo.
11th Annual Choice Awards Viewing Details
The 2011 Game Developers Choice Awards, produced in association with the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and presented by Gamasutra.com and Game Developer Magazine, will take place on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm, at the San Francisco Moscone Center and is open to all Game Developers Conference attendees.
The Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony, which has announced its finalists from among the best games of 2010, is presented by Double Fine’s Tim Schafer, and held immediately following the Independent Games Festival Awards. For the second year running, those not attending GDC — part of the UBM TechWeb Game Network, as is this website — can watch both sets of awards show live online via GameSpot.com, the official streaming media partner to the GDCAs.
Overall, this year’s Pioneer Award and Ambassador Award recipients are chosen, like the Lifetime Achievement Award winner Peter Molyneux, by the elite Game Developers Choice Awards Advisory Committee. This body includes game industry notables such as Brian Reynolds (Zynga), Doug Lombardi (Valve), Mark Cerny (Cerny Games), Harvey Smith (Arkane), Raph Koster (Metaplace), Julien Merceron (Square Enix), John Vechey (PopCap), Clint Hocking (LucasArts) and more.
For more information about the 11th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, check out the official Choice Awards website – and for information about the 2011 Game Developers Conference, for which online registration is still open until February 27th, please visit the official GDC website.