Game Developers Choice Awards

The Game Developers Choice Awards are awards annually presented at the Game Developers Conference for outstanding game developers and games.[1] Introduced in 2001, the Game Developers Choice Awards were preceded by the Spotlight Awards, which were presented from 1997 to 1999.[2] Since then, the ceremony for the Independent Games Festival is held just prior to the Choice Awards ceremony.

Game Developers Choice Awards
Awarded forOutstanding game developers and games
Presented byGame Developers Conference
First awardedMarch 24, 2001 (2001-03-24)
WebsiteOfficial website

Winner selection process

Votes for games are by made by International Choice Awards Network (ICAN), a group of leading game creators.[3] Votes are then additionally made by editors of Gamasutra. Upgrades, expansions, and mission packs are not eligible to be nominated.[3]

The top voted games are then voted on by final voting body, made up of ICANs, and editors of Gamasutra.[3] In this final stage of voting, games with the highest votes in a category are the winners.[3]

Winners for Special Awards (Lifetime Achievement, Pioneer, Ambassador) are decided by a "Special Awards Jury", which appears to consist of a variety of 5 people.[4] This group may consider recommendations from ICAN members.[3]

GDC related properties are owned by the UBM technology group.

Historical process

In 2007, took over management of the awards from the IGDA.[5] An advisory board selected by the editors of and Game Developer magazine oversees the selection process.

In the past, nominations are accepted from registered users, confirmed to be game developers, and from the advisory board. Once the nomination process is complete, the advisory board identifies five finalists for each regular category.

The recipients of the Lifetime Achievement, Pioneer (formerly known as First Penguin) and Maverick awards are selected by the advisory board. For the other awards, a vote open to all those who participated in the nomination process chooses a recipient from each category's finalists.[6]

List of winners

Note: Events held for awards are held early in the following year. Winners are listed first and highlighted in bold.

Game of the Year

The Game of the Year Award recognizes the overall best game released during the previous calendar year, as interpreted by the members of the Game Developers Conference.

Year Game Genre Platform(s) Developer(s)
2000The Sims[7]Life simulationMac OS, Microsoft WindowsMaxis
2001Grand Theft Auto III[8]Action-adventureMicrosoft Windows, PlayStation 2DMA Design
2002Metroid Prime[9]Action-adventureGameCubeRetro Studios
2003Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic[10]Role-playingMicrosoft Windows, XboxBioWare
2004Half-Life 2[11]First-person shooterMicrosoft WindowsValve
2005Shadow of the Colossus[12]Action-adventurePlayStation 2Team Ico
2006Gears of War[13]Third-person shooterXbox 360Epic Games
2007Portal[14]Puzzle-platformerMicrosoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360Valve
2008Fallout 3[15]Action role-playingMicrosoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360Bethesda Game Studios
2009Uncharted 2: Among Thieves[16]Action-adventurePlayStation 3Naughty Dog
2010Red Dead Redemption[17]Action-adventurePlayStation 3, Xbox 360Rockstar San Diego
2011The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim[18]Action role-playingMicrosoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360Bethesda Game Studios
2012Journey[19]AdventurePlayStation 3, Microsoft WindowsThatgamecompany
2013The Last of Us[20]Action-adventurePlayStation 3Naughty Dog
2014Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor[21]Action-adventureMicrosoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox OneMonolith Productions
2015The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt[22]Action role-playingMicrosoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox OneCD Projekt Red
2016Overwatch[23]First-person shooterMicrosoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox OneBlizzard Entertainment
2017The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild[24]AdventureNintendo Switch, Wii UNintendo
2018God of War[25]Action-adventurePlayStation 4Santa Monica Studio

Best Audio

Best Audio award recognizes the overall excellence of audio in a game, including sound effects, musical composition, sound design and orchestration.

Best Debut

The Best Debut Award recognizes the best game from any development studio which released its first publicly available title during the calendar year. This was formerly known as the New Studio of the Year Award. In years prior to 2008, the award was awarded to the studio name, as opposed to the game title.

Best Design

Best Design award recognizes the overall excellence of design in a game, including gameplay, mechanics, puzzles, play balancing and scenarios.

Best Mobile/Handheld Game

Best Mobile/Handheld Game Award recognizes the overall best game commercially released on any handheld platform.

Innovation Award

The Innovation Award recognizes games that demonstrate innovation and push the boundaries of games as an expressive medium. Multiple awards per year were given before 2007.

Best Narrative

Best Narrative award recognizes the quality of writing in a game, including story, plot construction, dialogue and branching narratives.

Best Technology

Best Technology award recognizes the overall excellence of technology in a game, including graphics programming, artificial intelligence, networking and physics.

Best Visual Art

Best Visual Art award recognizes the overall excellence of visual art in a game, including animation, modeling, art direction and textures.

Best VR/AR Game

Special Awards Recipients

Audience Award

These awards are voted by the audience for best game of that year.

The Pioneer Award

Known as the First Penguin award until 2007, the Pioneer Award celebrates individuals who developed a breakthrough technology, game concept or gameplay design.

GDC had announced their intention to award Nolan Bushnell (co-founder of Atari) the 2017 Pioneer Award.[28] However, after several people asked the GDC to reconsider this in light of documented sexist activities in Bushnell's past in light of the current #MeToo movement, GDC opted to not award the Pioneer Award and instead "will dedicate this year's award to honor the pioneering and unheard voices of the past".[29][30]

Ambassador Award

The Ambassador Award is given to individuals within or outside the industry who helped video games "advance to a better place."[31] It replaced the IGDA Award for Community Contribution after 2008.[32]

Lifetime Achievement Award

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes the achievements of a developer who has impacted games and game development.

Retired awards

The following award categories have been retired or replaced with a different focus.

Best Downloadable Game

Best Downloadable Game Award recognizes the overall best game released on console or PC platforms specifically and solely for digital download - with an emphasis on smaller, more 'casual'-friendly titles.

Character Design

The Character Design award recognizes the overall excellence of non-licensed character design in a game, including originality, character arc and emotional depth.

Excellence in Level Design

Excellence in Programming

IGDA Award for Community Contribution

The IGDA Award for Community Contribution recognized developers for significant efforts "building community, sharing knowledge, speaking on behalf of developers and/or contributing to the art form of game development".[32] The Ambassador Award replaced it after 2007.[31]

Original Game Character of the Year

Maverick Award

The Maverick Award recognizes the current achievements of a developer who exhibits independence in thought and action while experimenting with alternate/emerging forms of digital games.

Best New Social/Online Game


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  2. "Archive". Archived from the original on May 29, 2010. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
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  23. Dornbush, Jonathan (March 1, 2017). "GDC 2017: Overwatch Wins Game of the Year at Game Developers". IGN. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  24. Chan, Stephanie (March 21, 2018). "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is GDC 2018's game of the year". Venture Beat. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  25. Williams, Mike (March 20, 2019). "God of War Wins Another GOTY at 2019 Game Developers Choice Awards". USGamer. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  26. "Anita Sarkeesian, Riot co-founders win GDCA 2014 Special Awards". Gamasutra. February 11, 2014. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  27. "Trailblazing Sega dev Rieko Kodama to be honored with Pioneer Award at GDC 2019!". Gamasutra. January 17, 2019. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  28. "Nolan Bushnell, Tim Schafer, and Rami Ismail to be honored at the 2018 GDC Awards!". Gamasutra. January 30, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  29. Fogel, Stefanie (January 30, 2018). "GDC Re-Examines Award for Atari Founder After Outcry Over Past Conduct". Glixel. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  30. Kim, Matt (January 31, 2018). "GDC Announces It Will Not Award Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell After Controversy". US Gamer. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
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  34. Takahasi, Dean (January 20, 2017). "Epic Games' Tim Sweeney to receive lifetime achievement award at GDC". Venture Beat. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  35. Sinclair, Brendan (December 11, 2018). "Amy Hennig to receive lifetime achievement award". Retrieved December 11, 2018.
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