Tim Schafer and Rami Ismail to pick up Game Developers Choice Awards as Atari vet Bushnell's past catches up with him

 Tim Schafer and Rami Ismail to pick up Game Developers Choice Awards as Atari vet Bushnell's past catches up with him

The 18th Game Developers Choice Awards will be recognising the achievements of Tim Schafer and Rami Ismail at this year's GDC. 

Announced by the Game Developers Conference, Ismail will be picking up Ambassador Award to Vlambeer's Rami Ismail for his work to make the industry a better place via 'advocacy or action'.

Schafer of Double Fine fame will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement prize recognising his work in the games market.

Meanwhile, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell was going to be given the Pioneer Award, but GDC is now reexamining this decision after the announcement has brought back to public attention allegations of sexual misconduct by the so-called 'father of video games'.

Back in 2011, former Atari exec Ray Kassar said in an interview that Bushnell arrived to work wearing an 'I love to fuck' T-shirt, while Playboy from the following year has Bushell talking about the 'wild environment' of Atari back in the 1970s: “It was post–flower revolution, women’s liberation, no AIDS yet, and lots of company romances.”

The piece also talks about the codename for the home release of Pong - Darlene - being a reference to a woman who was 'stacked'.

The Verge has done a piece compiling past sexual misconduct about the former Atari exec. While there's no doubt that Bushnell had a huge impact on the games market, recognising such a man during such a period of change and societal examination isn't a great look for the Game Developers Choice Awards. Brianna Wu said as much on Twitter (below).

Speaking to Glixel, GDC and the nomination committee have said they were unaware of Bushnell's history and are looking into the decision "more closely". That Bushnell's actions were detailed across books and interviews makes it hard to believe this was not something these group was unaware of.

“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 recognised for their unique contributions to making games and game development accessible, open and fun for everyone,” GDC GM Katie Stern said in a statement before the backlash to Bushell's award. 

“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.”

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.