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Two leaders who are making a difference in outstanding gameplay, diversity, and gaming as a business are the winners of this year’s Visionary Award and our Up and Comer Award at the GamesBeat Summit 2022 event.
This year, our committee of 10 industry judges honored Sarah Bond, corporate vice president at Microsoft and Dinga Bakaba, studio head at Arkane Lyon, a division of Bethesda, for our Visionary Award and Up and Comer Award, respectively.
Tammy McDonald, CEO of Axis Game Factory and a venture partner for Griffin Gaming Partners, hosted the awards, which began in 2018 as a way to honor industry leaders who showed a real vision for the future.
Our past winners for the Visionary 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; and Laura Miele, the top gaming executive at Electronic Arts.
Our past winners for the Up and Comer award were Eve Crevoshay of Take This and Natasha “ZombaeKills” Zinda. 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.
This year’s panel of judges included past winners such as Eve Crevoshay, Ted Price, and Natasha Zinda. Other judges included Tammy McDonald, Dean Takahashi, Shelley Andagan, Don Daglow, Cathy Simpson, and Ivan Fernandes Lobo.
And this year we have a prize that will immortalize the winners in digital form. Christina Heller, CEO of Metastage, has offered to “Metastage” our winners. That means she’ll use her company’s volumetric capture stage in Los Angeles (or later Vancouver) to capture our winners in complete 3D animated imagery.
For our first winner, Sarah Bond, vice president for game creator experience and ecosystem at Microsoft, we have a quote from one of our judges, Natasha “ZombaeKills” Zinda, who said:
“Sarah Bond has continuously moved with purpose and vision through the games industry. She has cultivated a gaming experience that is as cutting edge as it is diverse. Through her contributions to Xbox, we are able to see the future of gaming reflected in mentorship and leadership. Recognizing Sarah for her hard work was an obvious choice when thinking of someone in the games space who has consistently made her visionary work a reality. Sarah has been paving the way for a culture in gaming that is rich in experience and has depth in its diverse partnerships.”
We also have a video presentation from John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity with some words about Sarah, as you can see in the video.
“Yes, her accomplishments prove she has the intellect, the brain, and the drive,” said Riccitiello. “I’m here to say she also has the heart. She’s the full package.”
In her acceptance speech, Bond said, “I am just incredibly humbled and proud to accept this award.”
She added, “In life, we all have the power to imagine and dream about a better world. And I find myself doing that a lot these days, especially all that we have been and continue to go through over these past two years. But what I want to talk about today is how I believe we can move from dreaming to actually building a better world,” she said. “And the pivotal role that games and in everyone who makes games plays in making that possible. I fundamentally believe that the foundation to a better world is empathy.”
She said that in the modern world, we can have global relationships. But it’s harder to bond with people like we once did on towns and villages. Games have a unique power to bring people through the entire journey of empathy, she said.
“I think about games like Tell Me Why which allow us to virtually walk in someone else’s shoes and experience emotional insights into their point of view their perspective, in the case of Tell Me Why the perspective of a trans man know that entertainment that we consume, it just has a very profound impact on what we think and feel,” Bond said. “And games can allow us to connect across those huge divides. When we think about it, you complete a quest, escape a dungeon, build a city, you can do that with someone you may have never met, they can live on the other side of the world. And it doesn’t really matter, their gender, their culture, their ability, their language, all of that doesn’t matter in a game. And more than anything, you can just have that shared sense of accomplishment with someone. And that is what is truly required to break down barriers and create real deep human connection.”
Play is an empathy multiplayer, she said.
“If we open the tent and include everyone, if we empower everyone who wants to to be a creator, if we play together and become empathetic to each other’s humanity, if we do this, we will build a better world,” Bond said. “And I believe it will be the better world we’ve all been dreaming of.”
Harvey Smith, head of Arkane Austin, talked about meeting Bakaba as a job candidate and his abilities as a game creator. Smith said he worked closely with Bakaba for eight years on titles such as Dishonored DLC, Dishonored 2, and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider.
“No one works as hard as Dinga or as smart as Dinga. And just just knowing that he’s being acknowledged for that is in and of itself, a reward to those of us around him who treasure working with him,” Smith said. “After the success of Deathloop. I am just proud to see him leading the industry. And this acknowledgement is well deserved.”
He added, “What a tribulation to set out to reinvent the games that Arkane makes, and have the pandemic fall, and send us all home and really throw the world into a tailspin. And yet to produce, during that time, a game like Deathloop, which is … a masterpiece. And I consider Dinga’s work on Deathloop along with Sebastian Mitton and Dana Nightingale and everybody else who worked on on Death Loop — it’s just incredible. So I’m going to close just by saying what an absolute honor it is to acknowledge Dinga in this way. So much adversity he’s gone through to get to where he’s at. So diligently he has worked. And all through it all with style with humor with strength, with compassion for the people around him. He is really what the game industry needs more of.”
In her own tribute to Bakaba, Zinda said:
“Dinga Bakaba has made an impression in gaming and there is no denying that he will be in this space creating immersive games for a long time. Dinga is helping tell incredible stories and has now moved into leadership at Arkane Lyon as the studio/co-director. Dinga has the ability to see fresh new ways to tell stories and enrich the games space. And is on the cutting edge of game creation. Recognizing the work we have seen him doing and the work we know he will do was an easy choice. We cannot wait to see where his vision leads him.”
In an acceptance speech, Bakaba, head of the Arkane Lyon studio in France and creative director on Deathloop, thanked everyone who helped pave the way for him when there were so many obstacles.
‘I’m really honored and happy to receive this award. Not only because up and comer makes me sound young and sexy. But also because I love the idea that my best work with the team at Arkane is ahead,” Bakaba said. “My career is full of folks telling me that I was too ambitious, that someone like me would never get to participate in great things, that I should get back in line. And I know that too many game developers and students are hearing the same tune as we speak,” Bakaba said. “I was really lucky that some people did believe in me…. It is very important to have someone trusting you without being complacent, pushing you to do your best work by giving you tough challenges, but having your back when you have to take a hard decision. Also, I want to thank my successive teams, who helped me grow as a person, a game developer, and leader, because for introverts like me, I had to set up several soft skills that aren’t innate. And I’m really grateful that I had people to call me out when my character and my behavior wasn’t in sync.”
He also had a message for game developers.
“To all aspiring developers, and those who are making their way in this industry, please never underestimate the value of mentors, peers and reports. When they push you outside the comfort zone with respect and benevolence, they will keep you honest, as a person, and at the edge of your abilities as a developer,” he said.
And he thanked those who play his games.
“Thank you so much for reminding me every day why it’s worth it. Your smile is your memories, your thoughts, your ask your criticism, are the fuel of my passion, and quite honestly, my personal happiness,” Bakaba said. “So back to this wonderful award. All this is to say that if my best work is ahead of me, it’s thanks to the wonderful people I worked and wor with, and those for whom we build those amazing constructs that challenge the impossible and that we call video games. The players.”
Please join us in congratulating Bond and Bakaba on their well-deserved awards.