GamesBeat unveiled its 2023 Visionary Awards at the close of the GamesBeat Summit 2023 event in Los Angeles today.
The winners are Visionary Award winner Meggan Scavio, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, and Up-and-Comer winner Rich Vogel, a veteran of the online gaming industry.
The GamesBeat Visionary Awards started in 2018 as a way to honor game industry leaders who showed real vision for the future. Zsuzsa James, senior trade commissioner of the consulate of Finland, hosted the awards.
Our past winners for this award include Rand Miller, cofounder of Cyan and co-creator of Myst; Ted Price, founder of Insomniac Games; John Smedley, studio head at Amazon Game Studios San Diego; Laura Miele, the top gaming executive at Electronic Arts; and Sarah Bond, corporate vice president at Xbox at Microsoft.
GamesBeat at the Game Awards
We invite you to join us in LA for GamesBeat at the Game Awards event this December 7. Reserve your spot now as space is limited!
We also presented our fifth annual Up and Comer Award as part of this program. Our past winners for this award were Eve Crevoshay of Take This, Natasha “ZombaeKills” Zinda, and Dinga Bakaba. This award honors someone who is an up-and-comer when it comes to achievements in the game industry. It isn’t based on age or experience in the game industry. Rather, it recognizes that the biggest potential of the honoree lies ahead of them. One of the things that we like about our awards is that they come from out of the blue and surprise the winners.
This year’s panel of judges included me, Christina Heller, Ted Price, John Smedley, Ivan Lobo, Don Daglow, Shu Yoshida, Samantha Ryan, Sarah Bond and Dinga Bakaba.
For the winner of this year’s Visionary Award, our judges agreed on Scavio as the winner for her lifetime of service for games.
Visionary Award presentation
Sibel Sunar, CEO of fortyseven communications, presented the award to Scavio. Sunar said that she has worked with Scavio in different capacities for more than 20 years.
“I am particularly excited about Meggan’s award because it helps us think about what it means to have vision in games. It’s not just about impact on technology or game design; it’s also about impact on the community and the people that make up the increasingly rich tapestry of our art form,” Sunar said. “Meggan’s path through games should be inspiring to all leaders. “
Scavio started her long tenure at the Game Developers Conference running operations, a behind-the-scenes role where her job was to make sure attendees had a great experience. She worked closely with the advisory board and developers, and eventually ran the show for many years before becoming the head of the AIAS, and organizing the DICE Summit.
“Meggan’s vision comes from her heart. Her initiatives and her volunteer work are driven by a passion for the industry and its people. And she has a long list of accomplishments big and small that all add up to a huge impact,” Sunar said. “Meggan has started, improved, or grown many programs that support, celebrate and lift the craft of games, as well as teams and individuals behind them. Perhaps you already know this because you’re thinking about the people she puts on stage, the Awards programs she has been a major part of, like the Choice Awards, IGF Awards, and DICE Awards, or the celebrations of developers and artists through the likes of Game Maker’s Notebook and Game Maker’s Sketchbook.”
What you might not know is the extreme care that Meggan puts into making sure all of those efforts are inclusive and aimed at increasing representaitn in games.
“Meggan started and led a special non-profit program called Amplifying New Voices with a small volunteer army and sponsor support, to help under-represented professionals learn to promote themselves and get speaker and media training,” Sunar said.
Today, hundreds of graduates of the program have become speakers, spokespeople, and have more confidence being a public face for their work.
Her contributions to the Academy Foundation and its scholarships are also lesser known, but are incredibly important. The scholarship program welcomes talented and diverse students and newcomers, and gives them a hand to reach their goals, Sunar said.
In DEI conversations, we always acknowledge a pipeline issue, but it’s rare to find someone who works tirelessly to create those pipelines, Sunar said.
Ted Price, an awards juror, said, “Meggan has been a transformative leader in the games industry… facilitating important and challenging conversations.”
And fellow juror Don Daglow pointed out that Meggan has done all this “without personal publicity.”
“At the DICE Awards in February, there was a classic Meggan moment. Tim Schafer was accepting the lifetime achievement award and — it was Tim so… we laughed, we cried, we had the time of our lives. Meggan was standing, clapping, tears in her eyes … proud of someone who was recognized for decades of work… when Tim thanked Meggan from the stage, and as she stood there looking stunned, our whole table erupted into calls for Meggan to receive her own award,” Sunar said. “I’m sure we weren’t the only table who thought that – that night, or at any other gathering.”
Sunar added, “Yesterday on a panel, Leo Olebe gave concrete advice about how we can help build better representation. He said, ‘Just do something.'”
“Well Meggan does something. Every single day,” Sunar said. “So, it is my great pleasure to present this award to my good friend, Meggan Scavio.”
Megan Scavio’s acceptance speech
Scavio said it felt strange because she was used to being the one that gives awards.
“I’m a behind the scenes person,” she said.
She said she still starts out every day playing games.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been fueled by the vision of an industry that is simply a welcoming and inclusive,” Scavio said. “One that face faithfully represents the creative and diverse network of game makers responsible for bringing us so many different, impactful and just fun playing experiences. Representation in the games industry has come a long way, but there’s still work to be done.”
She noted that during GamerGate, someone called a bomb threat into the GDC one year because they chose to give an award away to a woman. In this case, it was Anita Sarkeesian, founder of Feminist Frequency. After that, Scavio chose not to do any press for a full year out of fear of drawing attention to the things that she ran.
“Many people lived in fear every single day. And frankly, most in the industry remained silent,” she said. “But I strongly believe those days are behind us. I’m confident about that. We speak out now. We are not afraid to shout our values from the rooftops and I am for one grateful for turning that corner.”
She added, “Because our industry has the power to break barriers, challenge stereotypes, and provide platforms for underrepresented voices. It’s our responsibility to foster environments within our organizations that allow and encourage equity and inclusion at every level.”
And Scavio said, “Let us work together to continue building a future where every individual finds a place to belong and our community is defined by” acceptance and kindess. She asked for people to give back and get involved with the academy’s programs that support the game industry, as the group always needs volunteers and funding.
Up and Comer Award presentation
Raph Koster, CEO of Playable Worlds, presented the award to Vogel. I noted the judges felt like they expected good things to come from in Vogel in the future.
“It might seem a little odd to give an Up and Comer award to somebody whose career is quite a bit longer than mine, to somebody who’s managed to get through it with a lot less gray than I already have all over my head,” Koster said. “I first met Rich when I was a punk kid of 25 at my very first industry job and he already had an established career on titles like Meridian 59 pioneering online games. And there he was seeing me that punk kid and mentoring me as I worked on Ultima Online. He was the one who first said, ‘Hey, you know, might you be interested in talking at the Game Developers Conference maybe? And introduced me and taught me how to put together a proposal and got me out on stage to wing it.”
Koster noted that Vogel pulled him off of layoff list at one point “because he believed in me, and believed that maybe I might have a future in games.”
He taught Koster the ins and outs of attending an expo and booth crawl and how to get useless swag. Vogel invited Koster to join a new studio and Koster followed and they helped create Star Wars: Galaxies, another pioneering MMO.
Koster said Vogel has been a mentor for 25 years, but this award was apt because Vogel is good at building up teams and invest in the future of others.
“That’s why it’s a safe bet to always give someone like that and Up and Comer award. Because his legacy and his future is not just what he does, but also what everyone he has ever built up does. And that means that his best work is going to be hitting the industry for years and years to come,” Koster said.
Rich Vogel’s acceptance speech
Vogel said the award was a very big surprise for him.
“When I first saw an email, I said, do they have the right person?,” Vogel said. “And I told my wife and she started laughing. And she sai, ‘Maybe you’re a late bloomer.’ I said, ‘OK, I’ll go with that. Now.”
He said the irony was that the award notification came at the exact same time that his new studio was funded by a strategic partner. He noted it was his fourth game studio, and the timing was “cool.”
“I always want to get passionate people together to build a new world with great player experiences and a great viral community around it. And that’s my passion,” Vogel said. “And I’m find people around me to mentor and build up. I enjoy doing that. I’m very proud of the people that work for me, and I’ve been associated with and helped mentor.”
He noted some are CEOs and presidents and CTOs of other companies.
“It’s really cool to see all that. Because to me, that’s the blessing that I’ve been able to get back to the industry. And my goal was to keep doing this. I always feel like the most important thing people should do is always learn, always evolve. Don’t stop, don’t accept things. I am looking forward to the next two or three years when AI really comes into form for generative tools because I think it’s going to change the landscape for a long time — forever, actually. And I’m very excited to be part of that experience. So my next up and coming thing and I’m gonna build a game very ambitious game. I always do that. I try to go to areas where people haven’t gone before. That’s crazy. And it doesn’t matter,” Vogel said.
He added, “The energy I want to bring around me is the energy of young people getting into the business. I’m a big proponent of getting young people out of school and developing them. And with this remote workplace, it is going to be challenging, but I’m going to figure it out how we’re going to do it. And I want to build this great experience.”
He said he wants to build a virtual world that people will talk about for a long time.
“I’ve got a great team around me, and I’m very excited about the future. And I look forward to this award today because it says, ‘Okay, this is a great start of great things to come,” Vogel said.
Once again, congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to all of the judges and participants.
GamesBeat's creed when covering the game industry is "where passion meets business." What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you -- not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.