Veteran game developer Rieko Kodama will receive this year’s pioneer award at the 19th annual Game Developers Choice Awards, the event’s organizers announced on Thursday.
Kodama will be recognized for her contributions to the gaming industry during a career that’s spanned more than three decades, including her work on some of Sega’s most beloved classics like “Phantasy Star,” “Alex Kidd,” and “Skies of Arcadia.”
Kodama began her professional career at Sega in 1984. Her debut project was the SG-1000 game “Champion Boxing.” She also worked on arcade games like “Sega Ninja” and “Quartet” before moving onto the Sega Mark III (a.k.a. the Sega Master System in non-Japanese territories), where she contributed background designs for “Alex Kidd in Miracle World” and key artwork for “Phantasy Star.”
Kodama also contributed key artwork for games like “Altered Beast,” “Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle,” and “Sonic the Hedgehog.” In the ’90s and ’00s, she served as director on the Sega Saturn title “Magic Knight Rayearth,” and as a producer on “Deep Fear” and the Sega Dreamcast’s “Skies of Arcadia.” With three-and-a-half decades of game development behind her, Kodama went on to produce the “7th Dragon” series on Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, and PlayStation Portable. More recently, she produced the “Sega Ages” classic game ports on Nintendo Switch.
The GDC called Kodama a “trailblazing game artist, director, and producer” who established a career during an era when women game designers were rare and less recognized.
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“The Game Developers Choice Awards were conceived as a way to recognize the all-too-often unsung genius and dedication of game developers throughout history, and this year’s award honors a figure who helped pave the way for countless game creators to follow,” said Katie Stern, general manager of the Game Developers Conference. “After decades spent developing some of SEGA’s most indelible classics, Kodama-san could easily rest on her laurels, but instead has dedicated herself to creating games that transcend gender and generations to give us countless hours of joy. This award is a ‘thank you’ to Kodama-san and all creators who work so hard to achieve greatness.”
The Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony takes place on Wednesday, Mar. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Moscone Center during the 2019 Game Developers Conference.