The 11th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, the peer-awarded honors in video game development, honor the recipients of its two final Special Awards: Sega veteran Yu Suzuki, winner of the Pioneer Award for creating breakthrough video game genres or concepts, and the Game Developers Conference Associates (CA) program’s Tim Brengle and Ian MacKenzie, winners of the Ambassador Award for helping advance the game industry to a better place.
This year's Pioneer Award goes to Sega Corporation veteran and game design legend Yu Suzuki, honoring his work over the past 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 Game Developers Choice Awards Committee, celebrates the managers of the Game Developers Conference Associates (CA) program, Tim Brengle and Ian MacKenzie.
Sega veteran Yu Suzuki made 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 also presented 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 presented a lecture, “Yu Suzuki's Gameworks: A Career Retrospective,” on Wednesday March 2nd 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.
Tim Brengle & Ian MacKenzie
Also being honored at the 2011 Choice Awards were 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.
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, took place on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm, at the San Francisco Moscone Center.
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 -- 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.