Organizers of the 21st annual Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCA), the leading peer-based video game event celebrating the industry’s top games and developers, have revealed the recipients of this year’s Pioneer Award and Lifetime Achievement Award. Tom Fulp, creator of Newgrounds and trailblazer of the Macromedia Flash games that helped define a generation of indie developers, will receive the Pioneer Award, while influential game designer with 28 years of experience working across all genres, but particularly on ground-breaking MMO games, Laralyn McWilliams, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The awards ceremony will take place at the 2021 Game Developers Conference (GDC) on Wednesday, July 21 at 4:30pm PT and held in conjunction with the Independent Games Festival Awards (IGF). The ceremony will be available to watch for all GDC 2021 pass-holders.
The Pioneer Award, which honors breakthrough business, tech and game design milestones, goes to Tom Fulp for, among other achievements, creating the hugely popular website Newgrounds, as well as Newgrounds Portal, the first system to allow instant publishing of games and movies to a website. The advent of Newgrounds brought about an explosion of creations and gave a platform for independent developers’ Flash games.
Fulp then created the game studio Behemoth, developing the hit game, Alien Hominid. When the game launched on PlayStation 2 and GameCube in 2004, it ushered a new wave of indie console games. Behemoth’s follow-up game, Castle Crashers, won XBLA Game of the Year in 2008 and PSN Best Downloadable Game of 2011. Fulp continues to operate Newgrounds as a champion of web gaming, animation, art and music, as well as Flash preservation.
Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Laralyn McWilliams began her video game career nearly three decades ago and has led the design for award-winning adventure, social, strategy, simulation, platform, brawler, FPS and massively multiplayer online games. She was Creative Director for the ground-breaking MMO Free Realms at Sony Online Entertainment and was lead designer for the critically acclaimed Full Spectrum Warrior, the most nominated game of E3 2003. McWilliams shared the top spot in Massive Online Gaming’s 2010 list of the Top 20 Most Influential People in MMOs and she was on Beckett’s list of the top women in MMOs for 2010.
Currently a Principal Creative Design Director for Customer Success Engineering at Microsoft, McWilliams is a frequent conference speaker on topics ranging from design to analytics and more recently on wellness and inclusion in game development. She’s an outspoken proponent of games for everyone and a fierce advocate for increased diversity in game development.
“Tom Fulp and Laralyn McWilliams have left an indelible impression on the video game industry and enabled and inspired so many others to create games,” said Katie Stern, who oversees the GDC as VP of Entertainment Media at Informa Tech. “We are honored to have them join us at the Game Developers Choice Awards and they could not be more deserving of these awards.”
Recipients of the Pioneer and Lifetime Achievement awards were chosen by this year’s Game Developers Choice Special Awards Jury, which includes game industry veterans Mark Cerny, lead system architect of PlayStation 4 and 5, Chris Charla, [email protected] director at Microsoft, Emily Greer, founder and CEO of Double Loop Games, Caryl Shaw, VP of development at Double Fine Games and Brandon Sheffield, creative director at Necrosoft Games.
The all-digital 35th edition of GDC will take place from July 19-23, 2021 and feature over 400 unique sessions, along with opportunities for education, inspiration and networking all from the comfort of attendees’ own desks.
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