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Game Developers Choice Awards Honors RPG Pioneers, Hecker & Harmonix

The 6th annual Game Developers Choice Awards will devote a portion of the ceremony to honoring a group of individuals whose efforts stand out in the advancement of the interactive entertainment industry. The ceremony, which is produced and hosted by the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and presented by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), will take place on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 at the San Jose Civic Auditorium.

Will Crowther and Don Woods, creators of the text-based game ADVENTURE, will receive the First Penguin award for leading the path to unchartered grounds by creating the first text-based Role Playing Game (RPG); Chris Hecker, technology researcher for Maxis/Electronic Arts, will receive the Community Contribution award for his research and involvement with technical innovation; and the founders and executives of the independent developer Harmonix Music Systems, Inc. will receive the Maverick award for their groundbreaking work.

The First Penguin award acknowledges developers who dive head first into unknown territory and pave the way for the rest of the development community. This years award will go to Will Crowther and Don Woods, who are credited with pioneering the videogame genre of Role Playing Games (RPGs).

We are touched to be thought of for this prestigious award, said Crowther. ADVENTURE was an experiment in interactivity, which took hold and has blossomed into new forms, joining other popular games that exist today.

In 1976, the two pioneers created the text-interactive fiction game ADVENTURE. Crowther initially developed the game for his children, but it soon spread to friends, colleagues and even made it onto a computer at Stanford University. Woods was a Stanford PhD student when he expanded the games reach by opening it up to other players through the early stages of the Internet. He formed new obstacles, added scoring rules and made the game source available. Over the years, Woods gave away over a hundred copies. The game was translated into several languages and adapted to run on different systems. ADVENTURE revolutionized the industry by expanding the games market and forming a new category of interactive entertainment: RPGs.

The Community Contribution award is presented to a developer who embodies the spirit of community and encourages improvement among peers. Chris Hecker, technology fellow, Maxis/Electronic Arts, will receive this years honors for his work with progressive game design research.

Hecker has spent most of his time in the past years formulating solutions to game design and technical problems that raise questions about gameplay, visual arts and engineering. In addition to his research work, Hecker helps organize the annual Indie Game Jam and the Experimental Gameplay Workshop. Both special events test developers skills in design and explore interactivity within the context of treating games as an art form.

Chris bucks the natural human tendency to nod in agreement, and provides a much-needed jolt of disruptive but cogent innovation to the field of game design, said Jamil Moledina, director, Game Developers Conference. Add his progressive outlook to the sheer volume of energy he pours into the Indie Game Jam and the Experimental Gameplay Workshop, and its clear what a significant asset he is to the community.

Hecker has been on the advisory board for the Game Developers Conference for several years and is a regular speaker at the GDC, SIGGRAPH as well as other conferences. Hes also a contributor to GAME DEVELOPER magazine where he previously wrote the technical column. Before joining Maxis, he was an independent game developer for eight years with his company definition six, inc. He is also on the board of the computer graphics research publication, The Journal of Graphic Tools.

The Maverick award recognizes those who take risks by experimenting with unconventional methods. The recipient of this years award are the founders of Harmonix Music Systems Inc., Alex Rigopulos (ceo) and Eran Egozy (cto), and executive colleagues Mike Dornbrook and Greg LoPiccolo. Rigopulos and Egozy established the independent company in 1995 after having worked together at MIT Media Laboratory, a computer music group. Harmonix initially created interactive music attractions for theme parks, including Disneys Epcot Center. Now, Harmonix has shifted to incorporating music into gameplay.

The guys from Harmonix have not only taken a risk by using music as a centerpiece for game design, but they have turned out titles that expand videogames into the mass market in a meaningful way, Jason Della Rocca, exec director, IGDA, said.

The company has developed a number of successful music-based games, including THE AXE, FREQUENCY (2001) and AMPLITUDE (2003). FREQUENCY and AMPLITUDE are the worlds first and only online multiplayer music titles. Their hugely popular KARAOKE REVOLUTION series turns the console into a karaoke machine and lets players test their singing skills. EYETOY: ANTIGRAV (2004), Harmonixs first non-music based game, is an extreme sports title featuring hoverboards where players must use their entire bodies to move the characters and not just their thumbs.

The companys most recent title, GUITAR HERO, features a guitar-like controller, allowing gamers to play rock anthems they grew up with and still love. The game topped most of 2005s best games lists and received numerous accolades, including OFFICIAL PLAYSTATION MAGAZINEs description ridiculously awesome.

The 6th annual Game Developers Choice Awards, which takes place during the GDC, will also hand out honors for Best Game, New Studio, Audio, Character Design, Game Design, Technology, Visual Arts, Writing, and Lifetime Achievement. For more information about the ceremony or award nominees, please visit www.gamechoiceawards.com.

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