[Update 02/01] The Game Developers Choice Awards Advisory Committee has rescinded the Pioneer Award due to controversy surrounding Nolan Bushnell, who has been accused of sexual harassment in the past. In the wake of community feedback and the #MeToo movement by women in the workplace, the GDC released an official statement deciding not to give out a Pioneer Award this year. Bushnell also released a statement applauding the GDC’s decision and apologizing for his actions.

Original Story:

The 18th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards have announced the recipients of this year’s special awards. Indie developer and advocate Rami Ismail will receive the Ambassador Award, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell will get the Pioneer Award, and Double Fine Founder and former LucasArts developer Tim Schafer will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony will take place Wednesday, March 21 at the San Francisco Moscone Center during the 2018 Game Developers Conference.

“Tim, Rami and Nolan have each given so much to the video game industry through their creative passions, advocacy and leadership, it’s only fitting that they are each recognized for their unique contributions to making games and game development accessible, open and fun for everyone,” says Katie Stern, General Manager of the Game Developers Conference. “Each has worked hard to become leaders in their fields, and serve as an example of how developers who pour their passions into their projects can create something really wonderful. This is a model for all GDC attendees to aspire to.”

The Ambassador Award ‘honors individuals who are helping video games advance to a better place through advocacy or action.’ Rami Ismail co-founded Dutch indie game studio Vlambeeer, producing titles like Nuclear Throne and Ridiculous Fishing. Ismail also created the development tool presskit(), designed to help indie studios easily organize and distribute press information. Ismail dedicates large portions of his year to traveling around the world and engaging game development communities throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Nolan Bushnell is widely recognized as one the founding fathers of video games. Bushnell co-founded Atari in 1972, along with over 20 tech and entertainment brands over the next four decades. He helped usher in the era of Pong and the Atari 2600, paving the way for the modern video game industry. He will receive the Pioneer Award for his numerous successes in business, tech, and game design.

This year’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to Tim Schafer. Schafer began his career in the late 80s as a programmer and writer for LucasArts. His comedic writing helped define the studio’s beloved adventure games throughout the 90s, including Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle. Schafer formed independent studio Double Fine Productions in 2000, producing large titles like Psychonauts and Brutal Legend and smaller games like Costume Quest.


Double Fine famously broken open the crowd funding era in 2012 by going to Kickstarter to fund their own LucasArts-style adventure game, earning over $3 million during the campaign. Schafer, along with other crowd-funding-success indie developers, formed the video game crowdfunding platform Fig in 2015. Its first crowdfunding project was Psychonauts 2, which raised over $4 million.

Schafer and Double Fine are recognized as advocates for indie gaming and developers. In 2o14 Double Fine began publishing other indie games under the label Double Fine Presents.

Schafer will join previous Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Shigeru Miyamoto, John Carmack, Sid Meier, and others.

The Game Developers Choice Awards will take place Wednesday, March 21 at 6:30 pm Pacific/9:30 pm Eastern.

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Eric has been writing for over nine years with bylines at Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer, Tabletop Gaming magazine, and more covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games, and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on his YouTube channel. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.