These are the Pioneer Award, given to developers for creating breakthrough video game genres or concepts, and the Ambassador Award, given to those who have helped the game industry advance to a better place.
The Pioneer Award will be given to Steve Russell for his creation of the legendary game Spacewar!, one of the earliest functioning titles and a vital precursor of early computer games of the '70s and onward. The Ambassador Award will be given to Chris Melissinos for his work curating "The Art of Video Games," an exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2012. The exhibit explored the 40-year evolution of video games showcased as an artistic medium.
The third special award, for Lifetime Achievement, will go to BioWare founders Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk.
In 1962, Steve "Slug" Russell, a computer programmer working for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), invented Spacewar!, the first popular and earliest known digital computer game. Throughout the years, Russell's iconic computer game generated multiple imitations including
Asteroids, a popular and now classic arcade title.
Russell produced the concept and first version of Spacewar! in 200 hours with a team of four people. He wrote
Spacewar! on a Programmed Data Processor-1 (PDP-1), an early Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) minicomputer that allowed two users to share the computer simultaneously. Russell's work on this seminal game and use of the original PDP-1 computer influenced technological advances and gave rise to the cultural phenomenon of video games;
Spacewar! created a model for game development, establishing shooting as a core game mechanic, and inspired space and science fiction themes for future games.
"More than 50 years ago Steve blew the world's minds with Spacewar! and the game's influence is pervasive throughout the industry, from cornerstone arcade titles to the team-based model of game development," said Meggan Scavio, general manager of the Game Developers Conference. "We are very proud to honor Steve with the Pioneer award for paving the way for so many developers when gaming was only in its infancy."
Ambassador Award recipient Chris Melissinos started his career at Sun Microsystems in 1994 and spent much of his 16-year tenure driving an industry-wide movement toward Java technology-based game development and building infrastructure programs for massively connected game play.
Melissinos is well known in the industry for his role in cross-platform video game technology development, video game preservation and advocacy, virtual world applications, and lectures on the future of games and computer technology. Building upon his successful career in technology development and preservation, he is exploring new forms of game interactivity as a co-founder of gopop.tv.
Melissinos' work as the creator and guest curator for the groundbreaking Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibition "The Art of Video Games," helped to cement the message of interactive entertainment as a form of modern culture. The 6,000 square foot installation presented four decades of evolution in the video game industry as an artistic means, earning the distinction of becoming one of the most successful exhibitions in the history of the museum, and saw more than half a million visitors during its initial six month exhibition.
Melissinos' "The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect," co-written with Patrick O'Rourke, also serves as the exhibition catalog at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the exhibition will travel to 10 additional museums in the US through 2016. "Chris' work on the Smithsonian's 'The Art of Video Games' exhibit is a testament to his commitment to the industry," added Scavio. "The success of the installation only confirms that his dedication to communicating the mission of the game development community to larger audiences is not only authentic, but extremely effective. We can think of nobody more deserving of this year's Ambassador Award."
The 13th Annual Choice Awards ceremony, produced in association with the Game Developers Conference (GDC) will take place on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 6:30pm, at the San Francisco Moscone Center and is open to all GDC attendees and members of the public. The Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony, hosted by Double Fine Productions' Tim Schafer, is held immediately following the Independent Games Festival Awards.