The 17th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, the premier accolades for peer recognition celebrating the industry’s top games, studios and developers, will award this year’s Pioneer Award, which honors breakthrough tech and game design milestones, to Jordan Mechner, the acclaimed video game designer, author and screenwriter, best known as the creator of the pioneering action-adventure series, Prince of Persia.
The Ambassador Award, honoring someone who is helping video games advance to a better place through advocacy or action, will be given to Mark DeLoura, who has had a strong history of helping the video game community, and advocated for video games and digital entertainment as the Senior Advisor for Digital Media during the Obama administration.
The Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony takes place on Wednesday, March 1 at 6:30pm PT at the San Francisco Moscone Center during the 2017 Game Developers Conference, and in conjunction with the Independent Games Festival. The ceremonies are available to attend for all GDC 2017 pass-holders and will be livestreamed on the GDC’s official Twitch channel.
Jordan Mechner has enjoyed a sterling career that has spanned multiple decades. Mechner began developing games in high school in Chappaqua, New York during the 1980s, eventually developing and programming his first game, Karateka, as a student at Yale University. That title’s use of realistic graphics and cinematic storytelling made it a bestseller in 1984. Mechner’s next project utilized a refined version of the advanced rotoscoping animation technique he developed for Karateka.
That project was called Prince of Persia, and its release on Apple II in 1989 became an instant sensation, and serves as a huge influence on the design of the modern action-adventure video game genre. His follow-up CD-ROM adventure game, 1997’s The Last Express, is considered one of the most ambitious and artistically successful interactive narratives to date. In collaboration with Ubisoft Entertainment, Mechner designed and wrote Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which became a huge global franchise, totaling 20 million games sold to date. Mechner went on to successfully adapt the franchise into a major motion picture by the same name. He is currently at work on an unannounced project.
Ambassador Award recipient Mark DeLoura has dedicated his life to education and the productive use of technology within academia, the media, and at some of the biggest game publishers. His positive influence was further magnified in his role as a Senior Advisor within the Obama White House.
Starting his career in tech as an engineer and developer of virtual reality (VR) technology in the early 90s, DeLoura moved on to the game industry, joining Nintendo to help teach developers how to create games in 3D for the Nintendo 64. His services found him in high demand, securing him a role as Editor In Chief of Game Developer magazine, as the originator of the Game Programming Gems book series, and with supervisory and industry liaison roles at companies including Sony PlayStation, Google, and Ubisoft. In 2013, DeLoura joined the Obama White House as the Senior Advisor for Digital Media for the Office of Science and Technology Policy. DeLoura dedicated two years there working to encourage innovative uses for games, and initiated the administration's interest in K-12 computer science education.
Teaming up with the US Department of Education, Smithsonian and NASA, DeLoura brought the first “game jam” to the White House, drawing 135 game developers, researchers, and educators together to build innovative learning technologies for the classroom. DeLoura’s work was among the highlights of an administration that used technology and education to engage the minds of children, helping organize brain games at a Smithsonian Super Neuroscience Saturday event, a White House Maker Faire and Science Fair and a Kids’ Coding Hackathon with robots, STEM toys, Maker activities and coding games.
In addition, organizers are announcing that Mega64, the video game sketch anarchists, will return to create videos for the Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony this year. These will complement new videos by Ashly and Anthony Burch, the sibling team behind the “Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’?” video series, who are returning to contribute original videos to the IGF Awards ceremony.