The Pioneer Awards are given to individuals whose work has “helped shape and define the interactive entertainment industry.” Dan Edwards, Martin “Shag” Graetz, Steven Winer, Steve “Slug” Russell, Peter Samson, Robert Sanders, and Wayne Wiitanen will meet to discuss how they created “Spacewar!” in their spare time while working with MIT’s first PDP-1 computer. The talk will be moderated by Bethesda Softworks’ founder, Christopher Weaver, as the group chats about how computer technology has changed over the past half-century.
The award will be presented by Meggan Scavio, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. “Partnering with The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for this special event helps to further share these historical events for future posterity for video game enthusiasts,” she said in a statement.
Audience members will be able to participate in person and online, while those who attend in-person can try historic video games, possibly with the creators of said games. The event is part of the Videogame Pioneers Initiative (VPI) at the Smithsonian, which is a program meant to preserve the history of gaming and the industry’s evolution over the years.
“Spacewar!” was developed in 1962 and is considered the first video game to be played on various computer installations. It’s an iconic title that features two spaceships locked in a dogfight, both controlled by human players. Both ships come with a very limited amount of fuel as well as a few torpedoes, and they remain moving when the player eases off on the acceleration.
It enjoyed a massive amount of popularity during its heyday and became one of the most influential and important games in the medium’s infancy. Titles like “Asteroid” were, in fact, inspired by “Spacewar!” as well. Cementing its influence even further, it was given a space on a list of the ten most important video games of all time, kicking off the collection of video games at the Library of Congress.