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GDC Announces It Will Not Award Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell After Controversy [Update]

Bushnell has been criticized for his history of sexually inappropriate behavior.

News by Matt Kim, .

Update: In a public statement on Twitter, Bushnell backed the GDC decision and issued an apology.

"I applaud the GDC for ensuring that their institution reflects what is right, specifically with regards to how people should be treated in the workplace," said Bushnell on Twitter. "If my personal actions or the actions of anyone who ever worked with me offended or caused pain to anyone at our companies, then I apologize without reservation."

Original Story: The Game Developers Choice Awards will not be handing out one of its special awards, the Pioneer Award, at this year's event. Atari founder Nolan Bushnell was originally announced as the award recipient but announcement of his win was followed by a social media backlash under the hashtag "#NotNolan" after reports came out of a fraternity-like culture at Atari.

"The Game Developers Choice Awards Advisory Committee, who vote on the Special Award winners for each show, have made the decision not to give out a Pioneer Award for this year's event, following additional feedback from the community," announced the Official GDC account on Twitter today. "They believe their picks should reflect the values of today's game industry and will dedicate this year's award to honor the pioneering and unheard voices of the past."

Soon after Bushnell was announced as this year's recipient of the Pioneer Award, game developers started sharing old interviews, profiles, and sections from biographies that paint a history of inappropriate behavior towards women. Developer and US House of Representatives candidate Brianna Wu highlighted that in the year of the #MeToo movement, Bushnell's award is "wildly inappropriate."

The Pioneer Award is one of the Special Awards handed out at the GDC Awards. In particular, the award "celebrates those individuals who developed a breakthrough technology, game concept, or gameplay design at a crucial juncture in video game history - paving the way for the myriads who followed them."

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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #1 SIGGYZtar 9 months ago
    I've never had a favorable view of Bushnell, even if he helped build Atari. Even before the sexual harassment allegations, the stories I've heard about him from various gaming sites weren't very nice. Then again, this is coming from a younger person who never experienced Atari.Edited January 2018 by SIGGYZtar
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  • Avatar for nimzy #2 nimzy 9 months ago
    Nolan Bushnell is no less a pioneer due to the controversy. He doesn't need an award for people to know he is one.Edited January 2018 by nimzy
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  • Avatar for Galgomite #3 Galgomite 9 months ago
    @nimzy Yup. In the long run the GDC needs his credibility, not the other way around.
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #4 SuperShinobi 9 months ago
    Nolan Bushnell basically founded the video game industry. To me the Atari era of the late '70s and early '80s is like this magical golden age that I never got to experience, as someone who only started gaming after the great video game crash. I envy the people who got to experience the Atari era.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #5 Roto13 9 months ago
    @SuperShinobi Eh, you didn't miss much. Even the best Atari 2600 games are pretty bad.
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  • Avatar for mobichan #6 mobichan 9 months ago
    @Roto13 In the context of being a kid in that era, they were actually pretty great games. They offered something new and compelling. Do they hold up to replay now? Probably not. But I would argue that I had more fun playing my Atari 2600 games then (as a 6 to 11 year old) than I do playing open world games now as a 43 year old.

    I find this controversy a bit silly, considering we look past the terrible flaws of other famous people and still recognize them for their great contributions.
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