Home / Technology / #No longerNolan: Why game creators are speaking out against the founder of Atari

#No longerNolan: Why game creators are speaking out against the founder of Atari

The annual Game Developers Conference is one of the maximum prestigious occasions in gaming. Unlike expos like E3, the place publishers arrive to make bulletins and show off their new merchandise, GDC has a extra tutorial intention, with panels from best builders educating the finer issues of their craft. GDC could also be house to an awards display that honors the maximum esteemed, ingenious, and essential video games of the 12 months, in addition to the other people at the back of them.

Today, organizers introduced that at the 18th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, 3 males could be given the tournament’s best honors: Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail will obtain the Ambassador Award; Double Fine founder Tim Schafer will get the Lifetime Achievement Award; and Atari founder Nolan Bushnell will obtain the Pioneer Award. “Nolan Bushnell helped guide Atari to becoming a dominating force in the video game world,” the award announcement reads. But the choice to spotlight Bushnell in the wake of actions like #MeToo and Time’s Up has sparked backlash on-line, with business execs pointing out a large number of experiences of beside the point sexual feedback and behaviour by means of Bushnell, specifically in the early days of Atari.

In a 2011 interview, former Atari exec Ray Kassar recollects arriving on his first day in a go well with, simplest to seek out Bushnell dressed in a t-shirt that stated ”I like to fuck.” In a Playboy profile from 2012, Bushnell wistfully recollects the “wild environment” of the ‘70s Atari technology. “It was post–flower revolution, women’s liberation, no AIDS yet, and lots of company romances.” It additionally describes how the engineers at Atari code-named their tasks after sexy feminine workers; “Darlene,” the code-name for the house model of Pong, used to be impressed by means of a girl who Bushnell described to Playboy as “stacked.”

Steven L. Kent’s 2001 ebook The Ultimate History of Video Games describes how a lot Bushnell preferred to have “fun” at paintings — once in a while, an overly sexually competitive shape of amusing — and “made sure that the men around him agree with his philosophy.” They “held meetings in hot tubs, drank heavily, experimented with drugs... Sometimes Atari board meetings seemed more like fraternity parties than business meetings.”

The ebook additionally quotes Pong clothier Al Alcon, who describes one such assembly. “Nolan needed some papers and documents so he called his office and said, ‘Have Miss so and so bring them up.’ We were in this tub [when she arrived], so he proceeded to try to get her in the tub during the board meeting. Nolan’s attorney was miffed [because] we got his papers wet. He was not in the hot tub and he was not amused by any any of this. That was the sort of fun we had.”


After the announcement by means of GDC, game developer and US House of Representatives candidate Brianna Wu tweeted her considerations, calling the award “wildly inappropriate with the #metoo movement” in an extended thread highlighting the issues of Atari’s tradition at the time. “Bushnell is an important figure. But this isn’t the year to honor him,” she concluded.

Other builders have voiced their considerations on Twitter. “So many journalists kept trying to dig out our MeToo stories in the past months,” stated Opaque Space game design lead Jennifer Scheurle on Twitter. “This one is out there in plain sight, in a book for everybody to read. You don’t have to dig hard for it, Nolan Bushnell’s inappropriate behaviour towards women is no secret — and we give him awards.”

Gillian Smith, an assistant professor of laptop science at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, tweeted that she hopes the choice might be reversed. “While other industries are distancing themselves from the abusive and sexist behaviors of powerful men, GDC is giving a pioneer award to one of them,” Smith stated.


“UMB: don’t give the Pioneer award to anyone this year,” tweeted clothier Elizabeth Sampat. “Or rather, award it symbolically to all of the women who built this industry and are no longer here, in large part due to men like this.”

Bushnell is frequently referred to as the “father of the video game business“ for his accomplishments, from the introduction of the first arcade video game, Computer Space, to co-founding Atari, one of the maximum prolific and influential game firms of all time. His contributions additionally transcend the gaming business and come with the founding of circle of relatives leisure middle Chuck E. Cheese and involvement in a single of the first Silicon Valley Incubator Catalyst Technologies.

The problem of the #MeToo motion calls for popularity no longer simply of harassers, predators, or members to an another way poisonous tradition of sexism. It additionally calls for the tricky reconciliation that proficient other people are succesful of deplorable movements; that being likable or a success does no longer imply that even key business figures aren’t succesful of displaying habits that is affecting the general tradition, and drives girls of their business away.

Although many industries, from Hollywood to media, have had their “me too” second highlighting the predatory or sexist habits of distinguished males, video video games has no longer, regardless of the business’s lengthy and checkered historical past as an frequently antagonistic house for ladies. But GDC’s choice to spotlight Bushnell — without a doubt crucial determine in the historical past of video games — might deliver that uncomfortable dialog to the fore. Asked for remark, a GDC consultant instructed The Verge by means of e-mail that the convention and nominating committee had no longer recognized about the experiences of Bushnell’s habits, “but will look at these more closely.”

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