The Ambassador Award honors an individual or individuals who have helped the game industry advance to a better place, either through facilitating a better game community from within, or by reaching outside the industry to be an advocate for video games and help further our art.
22nd Annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2022)
The 2022 Ambassador Award was presented to Steven Spohn for his work advocating for accessibility in video games as a streamer, award-winning author and the Senior Director of Development of the AbleGamers charity. Featured on CNN, NBC and other mainstream news outlets as an assistive technology and game accessibility expert, Spohn champions for people with disabilities to use the video game space as a means of defeating social isolation. Spohn and the AbleGamers charity have pushed the inclusive efforts of the industry forward by training and consulting studios while connecting them directly with players who can share their personal experiences.
21st Annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2021)
No Lifetime Achievement Award was presented at the 21st Annual Game Developers Choice Awards in 2021.
20th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2020)
Kate Edwards is the Executive Director of the Global Game Jam, as well as the CEO and principal consultant of Geogrify, a consultancy which pioneered content culturalization. She is also a Board Member of Take This and is the former Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) from 2012 to 2017. In addition to being an award-winning advocate who serves in several advisory board roles, she is a geographer, writer, and corporate strategist. Following 13 years at Microsoft, she has consulted on many game and non-game projects for BioWare, Google, Amazon, Facebook, LEGO, and many other companies. Fortune magazine named her as one of the "10 most powerful women" in the game industry in 2013 and in 2014 was named by GamesIndustry.biz as one of their six People of the Year. In 2018, she was honored with Reboot Develop’s annual Hero Award and also presented with IndieCade’s annual Game Changer Award, and in 2019 she was presented with a Special Award from GameRome for her ongoing service to the global game industry. She was also profiled in the December 2018 publication Women in Gaming: 100 Professionals of Play.
18th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2018)
Rami Ismail is a Dutch-Egyptian game developer, public speaker, and one half of independent studio Vlambeer - creators of Independent Games Festival nominee Super Crate Box, LUFTRAUSERS, Apple Design Award Winner "Ridiculous Fishing", and Nuclear Throne. Rami is known for his global efforts to democratize game development, build creative and commercial communities in emergent territories, and the creation of free development tools such as presskit(). Over the years, he has worked on or on behalf of initiatives including #1reasontobe, Train Jam, Indie MEGABOOTH, and Ablegamers, and has assisted and consulted on incubators, accelerators, community efforts, and games industry policy around the world. He is a frequent speaker at games events, universities, and digital media and art institutes, where he talks about development, marketing, business, diversity, and the opportunities and obstacles of the medium.
17th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2017)
Mark DeLoura is an engineer at heart: a game developer, maker, and advisor who loves building things and finding ways to broaden the community of people that can express themselves through games and technology.
In 2013, Mark was honored to join the Obama administration at the White House. As Senior Advisor for Digital Media for the Office of Science and Technology Policy, he spent nearly two years working to encourage innovative uses for games, and initiated the administration's interest in K-12 computer science education. Teamed with the US Department of Education, Smithsonian, and NASA, Mark 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.
Mark got his start working in virtual reality labs at the University of Washington and UNC Chapel Hill in the early 1990's, and co-moderating the Internet's VR discussion forum, USENET's sci.virtual-worlds newsgroup. Passionate about the potential for this expensive technology, Mark dived in - only to watch the industry come apart in the mid 1990's.
Joining the game industry, Mark continued to work with 3D graphics, at first building 3D tech for arcade games, and then at Nintendo teaching game developers how to use 3D for games on the Nintendo 64. At Sony Mark spearheaded Sony PlayStation's developer relations group, and he joined Google briefly to help spin up a game developer strategy team. He also worked in technology leadership roles at Ubisoft and THQ, and performed a lot of game development consulting work.
In his off hours, Mark started the Game Programming Gems technical book series, which eventually became nine large volumes filled with wisdom from veteran game developers around the industry. His passion for making game development more accessible turned into a year as editor-in-chief of Game Developer Magazine, and time working on the boards of IGDA, GDC, and Gamasutra.
Since returning to Seattle from Washington DC, Mark has been consulting on learning games and education initiatives, particularly focusing on computer science education and digital equity. His popular Level Up Report newsletter on education through games, making, and coding is in its 4th year reaching innovative teachers and policy makers each week. Mark has been working with Washington State on K-12 computer science teacher endorsements and student standards, and focusing on diversity and tech inclusion through the City of Seattle's Community Technology Advisory Board. He's a board member for Games for Change and Games and Learning.
16th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2016)
Tracy Fullerton is an experimental game designer, professor and director of the USC Games program. Her research center, the Game Innovation Lab, has produced several influential independent games, including Cloud, flOw, Darfur is Dying, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, and The Night Journey, with artist Bill Viola. She is currently working on Walden, a simulation of Henry David Thoreau's experiment at Walden Pond, supported by grants from the NEA and NEH. Tracy is the author of "Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games," a design textbook used at game programs worldwide, and holder of the Electronic Arts Endowed Chair in Interactive Entertainment. Prior to USC, she designed games for companies including Microsoft, Sony, and MTV, among many others. Tracy's work has received numerous honors including an Emmy nomination for interactive television, Indiecade's "Sublime Experience," "Impact," and "Trailblazer" awards, Games for Change "Game Changer" award, and Time Magazine's Best of the Web.
15th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2015)
Brenda Romero is an award-winning game designer, Fulbright Scholar, entrepreneur, artist, writer and creative director who entered the video game industry in 1981. Brenda has worked with a variety of digital game companies as a game designer, creative director or consultant, including Atari, Sir-tech Software, Electronic Arts and numerous companies in the social and mobile space. She is presently the Program Director of UC Santa Cruz's Master's in Games & Playable Media Program, Co-Founder/Chief Executive Officer of Loot Drop, a casual game company, and an independent game developer at Romero Games, LLC. Brenda has extensive experience in PC, console and casual gaming. She is a 2014 Fulbright Scholar, and the recipient of the 2013 Women in Games Lifetime Achievement Award awarded by Microsoft. Romero was previously a nominee in Microsoft's 2010 Women in Games game design award. In 2013, she was listed as one of the industry's top 10 game developers by Gamasutra.com, along with the likes of industry giants Naughty Dog, Nintendo and Rockstar North. Develop magazine also listed her among the 25 people who changed games in 2013. Romero was also named one of Forbes' "12 Women in Gaming to Watch" in 2013, one of the top 20 most influential women in the game industry by Gamasutra.com in 2008 and one of the 100 most influential women in the game industry by Next Generation magazine in 2007. Nerve magazine also called her one of the 50 artists, actors, authors, activists and icons who are making the world a more stimulating place.
14th annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2014)
Anita Sarkeesian is a media critic and the creator of Feminist Frequency, a video webseries that explores the representations of women in pop culture narratives. Her work focuses on deconstructing the stereotypes, patterns and tropes associated with women in popular culture as well as highlighting issues surrounding the targeted harassment of women in online and gaming spaces.
Anita lectures and presents at universities, conferences and game development studios internationally. She has been interviewed and featured in publications such as The New York Times, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, The Globe and Mail and The Boston Globe. Her videos are freely available via the Feminist Frequency YouTube channel and widely serve as educational tools in high school and university classrooms.
13th annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2013)
Ambassador Award recipient Chris Melissinos started his career at Sun Microsystems in 1994 and spent much of his 16-year tenure driving an industry-wide movement toward Java technology-based game development and building infrastructure programs for massively connected game play. Melissinos is well known in the industry for his role in cross-platform video game technology development, video game preservation and advocacy, virtual world applications, and lectures on the future of games and computer technology. Building upon his successful career in technology development and preservation, he is exploring new forms of game interactivity as a co-founder of gopop.tv.
Melissinos' work as the creator and guest curator for the groundbreaking Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibition 'The Art of Video Games,' helped to cement the message of interactive entertainment as a form of modern culture. The 6,000 square foot installation presented four decades of evolution in the video game industry as an artistic means, earning the distinction of becoming one of the most successful exhibitions in the history of the museum, and saw more than half a million visitors during its initial six month exhibition. Melissinos' 'The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect,' co-written with Patrick O'Rourke, also serves as the exhibition catalog at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the exhibition will travel to ten additional museums in the United States through 2016.
"Chris' work on the Smithsonian's 'The Art of Video Games' exhibit is a testament to his commitment to the industry," added Scavio. "The success of the installation only confirms that his dedication to communicating the mission of the game development community to larger audiences is not only authentic, but extremely effective. We can think of nobody more deserving of this year's Ambassador Award."
12th annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2012)
Ken Doroshow and Paul M. Smith
Ken Doroshow and Paul M. Smith led the legal team which resulted in the Court ruling that content-based restrictions on games are unconstitutional. The landmark ruling established First Amendment rights for those who create, develop, publish and sell video games, and is incredibly important to the past, present and future of video games as a creative medium.
Of the two honorees, Ken Doroshow was the Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) in Washington, D.C. As the ESA's General Counsel, Ken oversaw all of the association's legal matters, including litigation, business affairs, and intellectual property policy.
The lead external lawyer on the case was Paul M. Smith of Jenner & Block LLC, Chair of the Appellate and Supreme Court Practice and Co-Chair of the Media and First Amendment, and Election Law and Redistricting Practices at his firm. He has had an active Supreme Court practice for nearly three decades, including oral arguments in 14 Supreme Court cases involving matters ranging from free speech and civil rights to civil procedure.
11th annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2011)
Tim Brengle and Ian MacKenzie
Brengle and MacKenzie oversee the GDC's Conference Associates program, which consists of hundreds of volunteers—selected from more than 1,600 applicants from around the world—who staff the GDC each year and help with many aspects of the conference.
Tim Brengle lives games. From video games to live-action role-playing, he plays, organizes, programs, and designsthem. For Christmas 1999, he and partner Ian MacKenzie shipped a top-ten best selling PC game. Tim has attended every CGDC/GDC. As a former Director, he created the Conference Associates (CA) volunteers in 1989 and still directs/co-manages them. Tim's focus: foster an atmosphere of excellence among the CAs, encouraging each to perform at the highest level, serving others enthusiastically.
As a divisional manager, Ian MacKenzie specialized in software as an engineering discipline. He delivered every project on time, on budget, and with zero bug reports for six years. Next, founding a company with Tim Brengle, they did 11 SKUs their first year including the 3rd best selling PC entertainment title that Christmas. Ian loves his 21 years serving the CAs at GDC and spending time with his wife and their little boy.
10th annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2010)
Jerry Holkins, Mike Krahulik, and Robert Khoo
Holkins, Krahulik and Khoo received their award for their genuine, gamer-friendly empire they've built over the past decade, lovingly skewering video game culture and developers while building up a following, events and an industry-leading video game charity that help epitomize the positive elements of 'gamer spirit'.
Penny Arcade itself was began in 1998 when high school friends and life-long gamers Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik began to pen the webcomic, which featured two semi-autobiographical gamers who joked, argued and swooned over all things video gaming. The website soon grew in popularity as gamers spread their favorite comic strips to friends, and the comic garnered a loyal following of like-minded game fans. After years of financial difficulties, the comic duo met Robert Khoo, who quickly became the team's business manager, and helped to create a burgeoning empire centered around the comic, which now includes the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), a huge bi-annual gathering of gamers that hosts tabletop, console and PC games while celebrating gaming culture.
As well as drawing over 100,000 game-positive geeks to the events in Seattle, Washington and now Boston, Mass. every year, the team created the Child's Play charity in 2003, leveraging their large fanbase to help support children's hospitals with games, toys and money. In 2009 alone, the charity raised $1.78 million dollars in donations from gamers and a host of game development and publishing studios. For these community and philanthropic successes, the Penny Arcade team is jointly receiving the Ambassador Award.
9th annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2009)
Tommy is the founder of the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.), which is a non-profit organization formed in 2002, and tasked with educating on interactive audio by providing information, instruction, resources, guidance and enlightenment not only to its members, but to content providers and listeners throughout the world.
In addition, Tallarico, who has created music for games over the past 18 years, from Earthworm Jim through Sonic & The Black Knight, co-founded Video Games Live, a public concert series started in 2005 which features music from notable video games performed by top orchestras and choirs around the world. The concert show has been performed worldwide to hundreds of thousands of people, from the Hollywood Bowl to major venues in Europe, Asia and South America, and continues to raise the profile of game music as an art form in its own right.
8th annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2008)
Jason Della Rocca
The Ambassador Award honors an individual or group of individuals who have helped the game industry advance to a better place, either through facilitating a better game community from within, or by reaching outside the industry to be an advocate for video games to help further the art.
Jason Della Rocca's focus as executive director of the IGDA on connecting developers with their peers, promoting professional development and advocating on issues such as quality of life, creative freedoms, workforce diversity and credit standards are qualities for which the Choice Awards Advisory Committee are naming him this year's recipient.