Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 4 or 5 months, I am sure that you have heard about this movement. For those of you that do not know what this movement is about, here is a brief definition.
According to Google:
Me Too movement. "Me Too" (or "#MeToo", with local alternatives in other languages) spread virally in October 2017 as a two-word hashtag used on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.
Ars Technica: Amid furor over past sexism, Atari co-founder loses prestigious award
This year the Game Developers Conference was going to honour Nolan Bushnell (co-founder of Atari) with the Pioneer Award. The Pioneer Award celebrates individuals who developed a breakthrough technology, game concept or gameplay design. The announcement was made on Tuesday, January 30th, 2018.
The next day, the conference had reversed their choice for the award. The reason that they rescinded their decision is due to public outcry about Bushnell's sexist behaviour back in the days at Atari. Seems that there was a hashtag on twitter, #notnolan, that was trending as well.
From what I can tell, unlike most outed by the #metoo movement, a lot of the issues with Bushnell, is that he bragged about how he would conduct business back in the day. He has gone on record advising that he would have meetings in hot tubs as an example. It has also been reported that he would walk in the office with a T-Shirt that said "I love to F***". He would name projects (code names) after females with bigger breasts. Keep in mind that he was never convicted of any crime.
This is kind of a tough one. On the one hand, you have to admire what Bushnell has done for the gaming industry. Who knows where the gaming industry would be without Atari. May be Nintendo would not be the gaming company that it is today. Would there be an XBOX, Playstation or Switch? That is something to think about.
Also, you also have to look at those particular times. Remember the #MeToo movement is fairly recent. Back in the 70's this was somewhat accepted behaviour. The 70's were right after the sexual revolution. In general, industries were ruled by men. The small gaming industry was no different. I am not saying that it was right, but that is just how things were.
On the other hand, we have to look at the times that we live in. This is a movement that needed to happen, in my opinion. It has given many individuals courage to out their aggressors. Too many men and women were kept quiet. Although we have to look at it on a case by case basis. People should still be innocent until proven guilty.
So I see both sides of the argument. This reminds me a little bit about Pete Rose in baseball. He was caught betting on baseball while he was manager in the MLB. He has been blacklisted from Major League Baseball ever since. However, he is one of the best players to have ever played the game. He had the most career hits ever in MLB history. Even though, he did a lot for baseball, he has been blacklisted. Some say that they should not look at what he did outside of the diamond and they should look at what he did as a baseball player. Although the subject is different the general idea is the same.
On pure achievement alone, Bushnell has done a lot of good for the industry of gaming and no one can deny that. However, his sexist remarks and sexual endeavours cannot be dismissed. Yes, this happened over 40 years ago and I am sure that it has happened since. Did he abuse his power for his benefit? Probably. Although, he was never convicted of any sexual crime.
Did the GDC take the right decision? I will be very honest, I am on the fence. On the one hand, he has bragged about how he was back then. He was basically a pervert, if anything. Not sure that I would have done the things that he did in the office but it is what it is. On the other hand, without him, we may not have a gaming industry. That is how important he has been to the field of gaming. I think that time just caught up with Bushnell. I always had a rule of thumb that if I was not sure, I always go with not giving the award. So in this case, I think the GDC made a right decision.
We live in different times and there is a cleansing happening in our culture. So whatever you did a long time ago, will eventually catch up to you, no matter who you are. I know that I will get a lot of hate messages for this piece. It is a very delicate subject and we need to discuss it. Without discussion things do not get better.
Edit: Since I wrote this article there have been women that have worked at Atari over the years that call this bogus. Some of them advise that Atari had a laid back atmosphere and that Bushnell was never out of line. So may be all this that happened was ok. Like I said, it was a different time and things were way different back then. A laid back atmosphere now is pretty much a start up and that's what Atari was in the 70's. So there have been push back about these allegations and the women that came out to defend Bushnell say that it is insane that he is being robbed of an award that he deserves.
What do you think? Is the GDC wrong in taking away the award or were they on the money? Let me know at the coordinates below.
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