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Atari founder Nolan Bushnell apologizes for past behavior toward women after award is pulled

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, 5:03 p.m.
Nolan Bushnell was a co-founder of Atari, a pioneer in the home video game industry with its Atari 2600 Video Computer System, which popularized cartridge-based systems in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Nolan Bushnell was a co-founder of Atari, a pioneer in the home video game industry with its Atari 2600 Video Computer System, which popularized cartridge-based systems in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The founder of one-time video game giant Atari is apologizing for his past behavior after a video game industry conference pulled a lifetime achievement award for him.

The Game Developers Conference planned to give its 2018 "Pioneer Award" in March to Nolan Bushnell, who founded Atari, a pioneer in home gaming, and, later, the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant chain.

The Game Developers Choice Awards Advisory Committee, which works with the annual conference, announced on Twitter Wednesday that it would not give out a Pioneer award this year "following additional feedback from the community."

"They believe their picks should reflect the values of today's game industry and will dedicate this year's award to honor the pioneering and unheard voices of the past," the tweet said.

The announcement came one day after GDC organizers announced Bushnell would receive the award, which honors breakthrough business, tech and game design milestones, according to GDC.

Backlash to Bushnell's honor appeared through the Twitter hashtag "#notnolan," detailing examples of sexist behavior toward female employees, USAToday reported.

Among them were a 2012 Playboy profile of Bushnell in which he detailed how he would hold meetings from the hot tub in his home; also, the code name for the Atari arcade video game Pong was "Darlene," an employee Bushnell described as "stacked and had the tiniest waist."

Bushnell responded by applauding the GDC for its decision.

"If my personal actions or the actions of anyone who ever worked with me offended or caused pain to anyone at our companies, then I apologize without reservation," Bushnell said in a statement on Twitter.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, or on Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

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