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Nolan Bushnell 'applauds' GDC for rescinding his award amid MeToo

Levi Sumagaysay, The Mercury News on

Published in Science & Technology News

The latest person to be affected by the #MeToo movement is game and tech industry pioneer Nolan Bushnell, who was scheduled to receive an award from the Game Developers Conference but is instead apologizing for his past behavior.

The GDC said Wednesday that it would not be giving the Pioneer Award to Bushnell -- co-founder of Atari and more -- after feedback from the gaming community.

The committee that votes on the conference's awards believes "their picks should reflect the values of today's game industry," the GDC said on Twitter.

Bushnell is legendary in Silicon Valley and beyond not only for his co-founding of Atari and starting Chuck E. Cheese, but also for hiring Steve Jobs at Atari. Oh, and he has been described as brash, and was known for hosting naked hot-tub parties where business was conducted.

"Sexual harassment, or things like that, wasn't an issue," Bushnell once said when describing Atari's work culture during the 1970s, Silicon Valley historian Leslie Berlin wrote in her recently released book "Troublemakers." Bushnell -- who also had a beer tap in his office -- would later be replaced as CEO of the video game company he co-founded.

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Atari engineers also reportedly codenamed their games after female co-workers. The famous Atari game Pong, for example, was codenamed Darlene, after an employee whose physical attributes Bushnell praised in a 2012 Playboy interview.

Bushnell took to Twitter to comment on the award that wasn't.

"I applaud the GDC for ensuring that their institution reflects what is right, specifically with regards to how people should be treated in the workplace," he said, before apologizing to those who were offended by his or others' behavior.

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The rescinding of the award is drawing mixed reactions, with many people replying to the GDC's tweet by calling the committee "cowards," railing against the politically correct and saying it is applying today's standards to a different era.

But Brianna Wu, a game developer, critic of GamerGate and a candidate for Congress, applauded the GDC's decision.

"Thank you, @Official--GDC for rescinding this award for this self-admitted sexual harasser," Wu tweeted. "It's the wrong time to honor the man that helped create the toxic environment in tech that led to the #metoo movement."

The Game Developers Conference is scheduled for March in San Francisco.

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