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Anita Sarkeesian, Riot co-founders win GDCA 2014 Special Awards
Anita Sarkeesian, Riot co-founders win GDCA 2014 Special Awards
February 11, 2014 | By GDC Staff

February 11, 2014 | By GDC Staff
More: Console/PC, Indie, Design, GDC

Organizers of the 14th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, the highest peer-awarded honors in video game development, have revealed its two final Special Award winners for this year.

The Ambassador Award, honoring someone who is helping video games “advance to a better place” through advocacy or action, is going to media critic Anita Sarkeesian, creator of Feminist Frequency, a video series that deconstructs representations of women in game and pop culture narratives.

The Pioneer Award, honoring a breakthrough tech and gameplay design milestone, will go to Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill, the co-founders of Riot Games.

Ambassador Award winner Sarkeesian, whose honor was bestowed after open nominations from the game development community and voting by the Game Developers Choice Advisory Committee, has explored the representation of women in pop culture, with a particular focus on representation within the medium of video games.

In her work Anita Sarkeesian has deconstructed the stereotypes, patterns and tropes associated with women in popular culture, and highlighted issues surrounding the targeted harassment of women in online and gaming spaces. In doing so, Sarkeesian has herself been subjected to harsh reactions ranging from epithets to misogynistic threats of violence. This online harassment did nothing to stifle the success of her Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of the "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games" online video series, which quickly reached -- then exceeded -- its funding goal.

Pioneer Award winners Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill are the minds behind League of Legends, a game that is played by more than 27 million players every day and by more than 67 million players every month. The duo created Riot Games with the mission to be the most player-focused company in the world, and the Pioneer award is built upon the Staples Center-sized growth of eSports by the company.

Riot's community outreach and support initiatives have earned League of Legends a remarkable level of commitment from players, who regularly spend more than a billion hours a month in the game as of March 2013. As President of Riot Games, Merrill has led development, publishing, and live operations on League of Legends, while Beck drives Riot's strategy and creative vision as CEO.

Finally, as part of the awards evening that includes both the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards, the team behind the Hey Ash Whatcha Playin’? video series, Ashley and Anthony Burch, will contribute brand-new videos to the Independent Games Festival this year. They augment the efforts of ceremony favorites, the video game sketch anarchists Mega64, who are returning to make videos for the Game Developers Choice Awards this year.

The Game Developers Choice Awards are produced in association with GDC. The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 6:30 pm at the San Francisco Moscone Center and is open to all GDC attendees. As previously announced, the Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony will be hosted by Respawn Entertainment’s community manager, Abbie Heppe, also the voice of Sarah in Respawn’s upcoming Titanfall, and will be immediately preceded by the Independent Games Festival Awards hosted by Capy president and co-founder Nathan Vella.

More information about the 14th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards can be found on the official website.

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Dan Robinson
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This one, but not for the reasons most people seem to have. I think what Anita Sarkeesian is doing is important because it inspires discussion. I am hopeful that her videos will inspire change in this medium. That being said, I am not keen on a media critic being honored in this way. To me, it would be the equivalent of Roger Ebert being honored by the Academy of Arts and Sciences for his film reviews with a special achievement award. If Adam Sessler was chosen for this honor, I'd feel the same way.

If Anita won the Pulitizer Prize for Criticism, that would be something to celebrate.

Elaine Barlow
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Mr Robinson ... "The Ambassador Award, honoring someone who is helping video games “advance to a better place” through advocacy or action" ... I think fits what she has done and is doing and has started all over the world not just through videos but her seminars, public speaking, and classroom materials.

Roel Schuring
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Personally I think Anita shouldn't have won it as she uses the taxas sharpshooter fallacy to prove her point. All here videos come from the idea that women aren't equal to begin with, which isn't true anymore. Not to mention all her cited "academic" papers are feminist papers, which often use the same fallacy or are already disproven. And of course all here own claims can be easily switched around to apply to men.

In the end she is an feminist that want's equal representation of women, which is admirable. But in that completely forget to who'm those games she cites are marketed to. And starts out biased, and uses biased studies, to prove her claims.