GamesBeat Summit 2022 returns April 26-28 with its largest event for leading gaming companies. Reserve your place here!
Two leaders in excellence in gameplay, diversity and gaming as a company 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, with our Visionary Award and Up and Comer Award, respectively.
Tammy McDonald, CEO of Axis Game Factory and venture partner of Griffin Gaming Partners, hosted the awards, established in 2018 to honor industry leaders who showed real vision for the future.
Our previous Visionary Award winners include Rand Miller, co-founder 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 manager at Electronic Arts.
Our previous Up and Comer Award winners have been Take This’s Eve Crevoshay and Natasha “ZombaeKills” Zinda. This award honors someone who has distinguished themselves when it comes to achievements in the gaming industry. It is not based on age or experience in the gaming industry. Rather, it is recognized that the winner’s greatest potential lies ahead.
This year’s panel of judges included previous 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 an award that digitally immortalizes the winners. Christina Heller, CEO of Metastage, offered “Metastage” to our winners. This means she will use her company’s volumetric capture stage in Los Angeles (or later Vancouver) to capture our winners in full 3D animated images.
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 consistently moved through the gaming industry with purpose and vision. She has cultivated a gaming experience that is as modern as it is diverse. Through their contributions to Xbox, we can see the future of gaming in mentoring and leadership. Acknowledging Sarah for her hard work was an obvious choice when you think of someone in the gaming industry who has consistently turned her visionary work into action. Sarah has paved the way for a gaming culture rich in experience and depth in her diverse partnerships.”
We also have a video presentation from John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity, with a few words about Sarah, as you can see in the video.
“Yes, her achievements prove that she has the intellect, the brain and the drive,” said Riccitiello. “I’m here to say she has the heart too. She is the complete package.”
In her acceptance speech, Bond said: “I’m just incredibly humbled and proud to accept this award.”
She added: “In life we all have the power to imagine and dream of a better world. And I do that a lot these days, especially what we’ve been through and are still going through in the last 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 crucial role that games and everyone who makes games play in making that possible. I fundamentally believe that the basis for 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 used to do in towns and villages. Games have a unique power to guide people through the entire journey of empathy, she said.
“I’m thinking of games like Tell Me Why, which allow us to virtually step into someone else’s shoes and get emotional insights into their point of view, in the case of Tell Me Why, a trans man’s perspective, the entertainment 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 these vast differences. If 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 matter, their gender, their culture, their skills, their language, none of that matters in a game. And more than anything, you can just have that shared sense of accomplishment with someone. And that’s really required to break down barriers and create a really deep human connection.”
Play is an empathy multiplayer, she said.
“If we open the tent and include everyone, if we empower anyone who wants to be a creator, if we play together and empathize with each other’s humanity, if we do this, we will create a better world build,” Bond said. “And I believe it’s going to be the better world we’ve all dreamed of.”
Harvey Smith, head of Arkane Austin, spoke about meeting Bakaba as a job candidate and his skills as a game developer. Smith said he worked closely with Bakaba for eight years on titles including Dishonored DLC, Dishonored 2 and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider.
“No one works as hard as Dinga or as smart as Dinga. And just knowing that he’s recognized for that is in and of itself a reward to those of us around him who appreciate working with him,” Smith said. “Following the success of Deathloop. I’m just proud to see him at the forefront of the industry. And that recognition is well deserved.”
He added: “What a tribulation to set about reinventing Arkane’s games and dropping the pandemic, sending us all home and really spinning the world. And yet to produce a game like Deathloop in that time that is… a masterpiece. And I look at Dinga’s work on Deathloop along with Sebastian Mitton and Dana Nightingale and everyone else who worked on Deathloop – it’s just amazing. So I will close by saying what an absolute honor it is to recognize Dinga in this way. So much adversity he went through to get where he is. He worked so hard. And all with style, with humor, with strength, with compassion for the people around him. He really is what the gaming industry needs more of.”
In her own tribute to Bakaba, Zinda said:
“Dinga Bakaba has made an impact in the gaming space and there is no denying that he will be in the space creating immersive games for a long time to come. Dinga helps tell incredible stories and has now joined the leadership of Arkane Lyon as Studio/Co-Director. Dinga has the ability to find new ways to tell stories and enrich the play space. And is on the cutting edge of game development. Acknowledging the work we saw and the work we know he will do was an easy decision. We can’t wait to see where his vision takes him.”
In an acceptance speech, Bakaba, Head of Arkane Lyon Studio in France and Creative Director at Deathloop, thanked everyone who helped pave the way when there were so many obstacles.
“I feel very honored and very happy about this award. Not just because I sound young and sexy aspiring. But also because I love the idea that my best work with the Arkane team is yet to come,” Bakaba said. “My career is full of people telling me I’m too ambitious, that someone like me would never take part in great things, that it should be my turn again. And I know too many game developers and students hear the same tune as we speak,” Bakaba said. “I was really lucky that some people believed in me… It’s very important to have someone who trusts you without being complacent, who pushes you to do your best by giving you tough challenges, but has your back when you have to make a tough decision. Also, I would like to thank my successive teams who have helped me grow as a person, game developer and leader because for an introvert like me I needed to develop some soft skills that are not innate. And I’m really thankful that I had people calling me when my character and behavior were out of sync.”
He also had a message for game developers.
“To all aspiring developers and those making their mark in this industry, please never underestimate the value of mentors, peers and reports. If they push you out of your comfort zone with respect and benevolence, they will keep you honest as a person and at the limit of your abilities as a developer,” he said.
And he thanked those who play his games.
“Thank you for reminding me every day why it’s worth it. Your smile is your memories, your thoughts, your criticism, that’s the fuel of my passion and honestly my personal happiness,” Bakaba said. “So back to this wonderful award. All of this is to say that if my best work lies ahead, it’s thanks to the wonderful people I’ve worked and worked with and for whom we build these amazing constructs that challenge the impossible and we video games to name. The players.”
Please join us in congratulating Bond and Bakaba on their well-deserved awards.
GamesBeat’s creed in gaming industry coverage is “where passion meets business”. What does that mean? We want to tell you how important news is to you – not only as a decision maker in 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 more about and enjoy engaging with the industry. Learn more about membership.