The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) will give special recognition to an academic, an industry professional and the founders of a media artists' group whose contributions have been invaluable to the evolution of interactive entertainment, during the 5th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, Wednesday, March 9, 2005, at the Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco.
Recipients include Richard Allan Bartle, Ph.D, founding father of Multi-User Dungeons (MUD), who will receive the First Penguin award; Sheri Graner Ray, a revered advocate of women's interests in game development, the Community Contribution award; and Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr and Nick Tandavanitj, the founders and leaders of Blast Theory, an internationally renowned interactive media artists' group, for the Maverick award.
The IGDA's First Penguin award celebrates the courage and bravery of a developer who is the first to test the proverbial waters, in the face of uncertainty of success or failure. Receiving a " penguin" serves as an inspiration and lesson to the community. Richard Allan Bartle, Ph.D, who has been at the forefront of the online gaming industry from its very inception, embodies the spirit of this award. As co-creator of the first virtual world MUD's in 1978 he paved the path for many of today's massively multiplayer online role-playing (MMORPG) and persistent-world games.
"I'm touched the IGDA thought of me for this award," Richard Allan Bartle said. "The fact that MUD's have a direct connection to the imagination is what hooked thousands; computer games will always innovate, as long as people have imagination."
More than 20 years have passed since Bartle fired the first neutron and the chain reaction shows no sign of stopping. With more than 1,670 MU games in existence, Richard continues be an important player in the industry.
Bartle is currently a visiting professor in the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering at Essex University, Essex, United Kingdom. He is also a highly acclaimed writer on all aspects of virtual world design and development. He authored "Designing Virtual Worlds," which rapidly became the standard work for anyone developing persistent world games. His current musings can be viewed at his popular research blog Terra Nova.
Sheri Graner Ray, the world's leading expert on the topic of gender equality in the games industry, has the spirit of community building and improvement ingrained in her life's work. Her dedication to propagating women's issues in the game industry made her a natural pick for the Community Contribution award.
"I hope we can actually increase the number of women in the industry as well as their visibility so they are taken into consideration during game design," Sheri Graner Ray said. "That way we’ll start seeing more games that appeal to women which will increase the number of women playing which should finally encourage more women to enter technical computer industries."
In 2004 Ray was recognized by the Hollywood Reporter as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Women in the Computer Game Industry. She recently authored a book, "Gender Inclusive Game Design – Expanding the Market," which ignited conversation about gender biases within the industry. Ray continues advocating for women's issues via the IGDA's Women in Game Development Special Interest Group and the upcoming Austin Women's Game Developers Group.
Utilizing cutting-edge technologies in combination with rigorous research, Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr and Nick Tandavanitj, the founders of Blast Theory, lead a team of UK-based interactive media artists, creating highly interactive and socially engaging cultural performances. Their work inspires debate and critical reflection on contemporary issues found in popular culture. Award judges commented: "In a time where the intersection of interactive media, art and society remain relatively unexplored, Blast Theory intrepidly forges ahead into intersection of real and digital worlds."
The Blast Theory gang says their work "confronts a media saturated world in which popular culture rules. They use video computers, performance, installation, mobile and online technologies to ask questions about the ideologies presented in the information that envelops us."
"While technology is heading in one direction, Blast Theory recognizes that cultural norms and society will have something to say about the process," said Jason Della Rocca, executive director, IGDA. "By engaging the public in this kind of discussion over how experiences will be designed poses questions about the way we will all live for decades to come."