GDC Cancels Nolan Bushnell Pioneer Award, Following #NotNolan Backlash

A man who once wore a "I love to fuck" t-shirt might not have been the best person for the moment.
Image courtesy of Nolan Bushnell

Every year, the Game Developers Conference holds an awards ceremony, celebrating the games of the past year and recognizing notable members of the industry. Last year, the Pioneer Award went to Prince of Persia's Jordan Mechner. This year, it was due to be Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. But the news was met with criticism; in the past, Bushnell has bragged about the sexualized nature of Atari’s freewheeling office in the 1970s. The result was a #notnolan hashtag, where his comments took center stage.

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Today, the Game Developers Conference announced there will be no Pioneer Award this year “following additional feedback from the community.”

These comments by Bushnell were not part of a grand expose, they've been around for years. It's inexcusable the folks behind GDC wouldn't have done more homework on this one, given all the attention paid to the stories of women in the past year.

The Verge’s Megan Farokhmanesh covered the backlash yesterday, collecting a number of the uncomfortable and braggadocious stories Bushnell has recited:

In a 2011 interview, former Atari exec Ray Kassar recalls arriving on his first day in a suit, only to find Bushnell wearing a T-shirt that said ”I love to fuck.” In a Playboy profile from 2012, Bushnell wistfully recalls the “wild environment” of the ‘70s Atari era. “It was post–flower revolution, women’s liberation, no AIDS yet, and lots of company romances.” It also describes how the engineers at Atari codenamed their projects after attractive female employees; “Darlene,” the codename for the home version of Pong, was inspired by a woman who Bushnell described to Playboy as “stacked.”

Bushnell has not made a public comment about the decision.

Update: He's since released a statement on Twitter.

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