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The First Penguin award looks back to the industry's history to recognize the courage and bravery of a developer who tested the proverbial "waters", uncertain of success or failure. A "first penguin" served as a lesson, and inspiration, to the rest of the community over the years.

7th annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2007)

Alexey Pajitnov

A lifelong love of puzzles and strategy gaming has led Alexey Pajitnov to worldwide recognition as one of the indutry’s most renowned game designers. He is best known as the creator of Tetris, the world’s most popular electronic game with sales of more than 70 million copies.

In 1985, while working for the Computer Center of the Moscow Academy of Science, a Soviet government-funded R&D center, Alexey developed “a charmingly simple and utterly addictive computer game” as an exercise to test a new computer, the Electronica. He based his game on a popular puzzle called The Pentamino Puzzle whose objective was to fit different geometric-shaped pieces into a box. The genius of Alexey’s computer game design, which he called Tetris after “tetra,” the Greek word for “four,” was to have players arrange puzzle pieces in realtime as the pieces fell faster and faster from the top of the screen.

A friendship with Blue Planet Software President and CEO Henk Rogers, then head of a Japanese software company, helped bring Tetris out of the Soviet Union in 1989 and into worldwide circulation in a historic licensing agreement with Nintendo that put millions of copies of the game on Game Boy and Nintendo consoles.

Prior to immigrating to the U.S. in 1991, Alexey founded AnimaTek, a 3-D software technology company in Moscow, with this friend Dr. Vladmir Pokhiko. Together with Henk Rogers, they established a domestic U.S. AnimaTek office which had its beginning in procedurally generated animation. Alexey has also produced games with Bullet-Proof Software for Nintendo and Spectrum Holobyte. Since then, several variants of Tetris have evolved, including not only Tetris 2 and Super Tetris but also Faces, Welltris, Knight Moves, and Harris.

When the rights to Tetris reverted back to Alexey in 1996, he partnered with Henk Rogers and Blue Planet Software to form the Tetris Company, the exclusive agent for all Tetris business licensing. Blue Planet Software currently holds the exclusive intellectual property management rights to Tetris.

Now a resident of Washington State, Alexey joined Microsoft in 1996 as the computer technology giant’s first staff games designer. He has worked for the Microsoft Entertainment Collection Puzzle Pack and MSN Mind Aerobics. Since 2004, he has been part of the Microsoft Zone Group to create games for MSN.

6th annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2006)

Will Crowther, Don Woods

This year's First Penguin is being awarded to the creators of Adventure, the first-of-its-kind, text interactive, fiction game created in 1976 by Will Crowther's superb imagination and expanded by Don Woods' programming wits a year later.

Crowther, an ardent cave explorer and programmer, developed the game for his young children. He then shared it with friends, word spread, copies were shared-one of which ended up on a computer at Stanford University. Woods, who was a Stanford Ph.D student at the time, was introduced to the game and became intrigued by it. It was the first computer game to present players with a realistic setting while letting their imaginations fill in the details.

"ADVENTURE made users feel like they were interacting more with the computer," said Woods. "It seemed to be responding to that you typed, rather than just making its own moves like a silent opponent. I think this attracted a lot of players who might otherwise have been turned off by the idea of playing against a computer. This was playing with a computer."

Woods expanded the game greatly and then opened it up to other players through the early stages of the Internet. He created new obstacles, added a pirate, twisted the mazes further and added several treasures that required some problem-solving before they were found. He added some scoring rules and the end-game, and then made the game source available on-request. The requests came thick and fast. Over the years, Don gave away over a hundred copies of the source. ADVENTURE has been converted from the original Fortran to several other languages, and has been adapted to run on hundreds of different machines. It also spawned many extensions and new, similar games.

Little did Crowther and Woods know that their program would revolutionize our videogame industry with a new category of games that are now referred to RPGs or Role Playing Games.

Crowther is retired and lives in Buffalo, New York. Woods currently works for Postini, and lives in Los Altos, California with his wife.

5th annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2005)

Dr. Richard Allan Bartle

Dr. Richard Bartle co-wrote the first virtual world game design system ("Multi-User Dungeon" -aka: MUD) in 1978, and has thus been at the forefront of the online games industry from its very inception.

As a Computer Science undergraduate at Essex University, Richard met Roy Trubshaw. Roy was a programmer who introduced Richard to the game Adventure and he soon decided to write a similar game which would allow several people to share a game world at the same time. Roy passed the game on to Richard, who added 75% of what constituted the final program. In his spare time, Richard completely redesigned the entire MUD system from scratch and wrote it anew. It had its own fully empowered programming language, MUDDLE, specifically intended to be used for writing MUD-like games but strong enough to be used for general programming.

A former lecturer in Artificial Intelligence and current Visiting Professor in Computer Game Design (both at the University of Essex, U.K.), Richard is an influential writer on all aspects of virtual world design, development, and management. As an independent consultant, he has worked with most of the major online game companies in the U.K. and the U.S. over the past 20 years. His 2003 book, Designing Virtual Worlds, has already established itself as a foundation text for researchers and developers of virtual worlds alike.

Richard lives in Essex, with his wife and daughters.

4th annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2004)

Masaya Matsuura

Masaya Matsuura was first to make beat-rhythm and music a breakthrough game experience for the mainstream game audience. What began as a successful career in music became the impetus for a whole new game genre. Masaya receives the First Penguin Award for pioneering the beat-rhythm and music genre which continues to increase in popularity today.

December 1996 saw the release of Parappa The Rapper in Japan. It was like no other game that came before it, and it took Japan by storm. Parappa The Rapper went on to win the 1996 CECA Award, the Japan Software Award, and was named Japan Game of the Year 1997 by the readers of eighteen domestic game magazines. In 1999 Masaya crossed over from rap to hard rock with Um Jammer Lammy, and the game won an SCEI Gold disc after just two months. Masaya's imagination doesn't end with music games. Vib-Ribbon, released in Japan and Europe in 1999, is another game revolution that creates gameplay from the player's own favorite music CD. Parappa The Rapper 2 was released in Japan in 2001 and is now available worldwide. In 2003, Masaya produced and composed sounds for the new and experimental Aibo,"ERS-7"

In November 2003, Masaya released mojibribbon for PS2 in Japan, a network title that has very unique style of blending rhythm and Japanese calligraphy using speech synthesis technology to convert text into rap sound.

3rd annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2003)

David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Jim Levy, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead, founders, Activision

The recipients for this year's First Penguin Award are the founding team members of Activision. We honor the founding team for establishing the first third-party developer of videogame software.

In 1979, Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller, Bob Whitehead and David Crane left Atari to form Activision, with former music industry executive Jim Levy at the helm. With a focus on the game designers themselves, the founders set a business model that has become the industry standard.

As a development house the Mountain View, CA upstart counted among its credits Dragster, Crane's adaptation of the 1977 Atari/Kee coin-op Drag Race, as the first game independently released for the Atari VCS, in 1980, followed closely by Checkers, Boxing and Fishing Derby. 52 games in total were released by the company between 1980 and 1988, with the designers' identities prominently featured in all packaging and advertising.

In an industry continually challenged by the impact of consolidation, buyouts and the complex relationship between publishers and developers, these pioneers were the first to model a solution.

2nd annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2002)

Hubert Chardot

The recipient for this year's First Penguin Award is Hubert Chardot for his work on Alone in the Dark, a game that started the "survival-horror" genre. Chardot, along with Frdrick Raynal and a small team of developers at Infogrames overcame all odds to make a game that nobody wanted them to make. Passion and perseverance prevailed, and a game that has influenced and inspired countless developers was created. Alone in the Dark was the first of its kind, with a rich story and dark foreboding atmosphere that introduced to the gaming world elaborate cinematography, complex puzzles and a unique gameplay experience previously unknown. Since its introduction in 1992, Alone in the Dark has spawned three sequels and remains a classic among gamers today.

Chardot continues his career in games at Infogrames as game designer and scene artist. Among his celebrated game titles are the Alone in the Dark series, including Alone in the Dark 1, 2, 3 and 4, Shadow of the Comet, Jack in the Dark, Prisoner of Ice, Time Gate, The Ring, Pitfall IV, Mission Impossible, Devil Inside, Faust, and From Dusk Until Dawn.

1st annual Game Developers Choice Awards (2001)

Chip Morningstar & Randy Farmer for Habitat/Club Caribe (LucasFilm)

This year's First Penguin Award recipients are Chip Moringstar and F. Randall Farmer for their development of Lucas Film's Habitat, among their other great technical contributions. These two visionaries are recognized tonight for being the geneses of the virtual world.

Chip Morningstar was one of the founders of Electric Communities (aka,where, as Chief Scientist, he was the lead architect of communications protocols and object technology which they developed to facilitate commercial and social interaction over computer networks. He was also heavily involved in the development of Fujitsu's WorldsAway service. Prior to founding Electric Communities, Chip managed the development of the AMiX online information marketplace. Before that, he worked at Lucasfilm Ltd where he was the designer and project leader for Lucasfilm's Habitat, the world's first large scale commercial multiperson online graphical Virtual world. Chip is a graduate of the University of Michigan and a high school dropout.

Randy Farmer has been building virtual communities for over 25 years, including multiplayer games, chat systems, bulletin boards, and commerce-oriented interactive systems. He has developed MUDs, B2B, eCommerce, MMORPGs, P2P, distributed object models, BBS's, and Avatar Chat. As Chief World Builder for or significant contributor to SPB, Lucasfilm's Habitat, Q-Link's Club Caribe, Fujitsu Habitat, AMiX (The American Information Exchange), WorldsAway, Fujistu Habitat II, Microcosm, The Palace, and Passport, Randy probably knows more about creating and managing more different types of online communities than anyone else around. Frequently published, Randy was named a "Tomorrow Maker" by NetGuide Magazine. He has yet to strike it rich with any of this work, but is quite happy anyway.