The 2010 Game Developers Choice Awards, the highest honors in video game development, has named Valve co-founder Gabe Newell as the winner of this year’s Pioneer Award, with Newell to be honored in-person at GDC 2010 in San Francisco this March.
The Pioneer Award was originated by the Game Developers Choice Awards organizers at the 2008 Awards, is presented at Game Developers Conference each year, and was the first award to honor breakthrough figures in the game industry. It celebrates those individuals responsible for developing a vital technology or game design at a crucial juncture in video game history, paving the way for the many who followed them.
This year, the Choice Awards Advisory Committee, which includes notables such as Ben Cousins (EA DICE), Harvey Smith (Arkane), Raph Koster (Metaplace), John Vechey (PopCap), Ray Muzyka (BioWare), Clint Hocking (Ubisoft), and others voted to give the Pioneer Award to Valve’s Newell.
He is being awarded for his work in co-creating PC key digital download service Steam, and helping to make possible some of the most important video games of the past two decades — from the Half-Life series through Portal to Team Fortress and beyond.
Newell, who co-founded Valve in 1996 after his departure from giant tech firm Microsoft, was instrumental in creating the company’s first product, the critically acclaimed first-person shooter Half-Life.
The title brought sophisticated narrative and cut-scenes to the FPS for the first time, and has sold over 8 million copies. The company’s keen, unprecedented encouragement of modding and community based around the Half-Life engine also led to the creation of the Counter-Strike and Team Fortress franchises.
Recent years have only buoyed Valve’s reputation, including 2004’s debut of the much-acclaimed Half-Life 2 episodes, the signing of the DigiPen team behind Narbacular Drop to create 2008 Game Developers Choice Awards Game Of The Year Portal, and the Seattle-area firm’s work to support and co-originate the co-operative centric Left 4 Dead franchise.
Steam, Valve’s PC digital distribution platform, is another particular reason Newell is receiving this honor. Revealed at GDC in 2002 and made available to the public in 2003, the client has evolved from a method of seamlessly delivering game patches to a full community-based digital download ecosystem which regularly has more than 2 million concurrent users. Steam has become a key way for many smaller and larger PC game developers to gain fans and make money without requiring a physical retail publisher.
Valve’s Newell will be on stage to collect his Special Award at Game Developers Conference 2010 in San Francisco this March. Over 3,000 of the industry’s top developers will be present at the Choice Awards ceremony to honor him and the other, to-be-revealed Special Award winners — alongside the top games of 2009 in multiple categories.
The Game Developers Choice Awards — open to any game, and with Main Competition winners being selected by the International Choice Awards Network, a new invitation-only group comprised of 500 leading game creators from all parts of the video game industry — prides itself on being the most open, transparent, and respected video game awards anywhere. Further Special Award winners — including Ambassador and Lifetime Achievement awards — and Main Competition finalists will be announced in the near future.
Presented by Think Services’ Game Developers Conference (GDC), this year’s awards ceremony, held in conjunction with the Independent Games Festival Awards, will be hosted on Thursday, March 11th, during GDC 2010 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. More information is available at the official GDC website or the official Game Developers Choice Awards website.