John Romero honoured alongside the teacher who made world's first edutainment game

A side-by-side image of John Romero, who is throwing up the sign of the horns, and Mabel Addis
(Image credit: John Romero / Doune44)

John Romero, famous for his work on Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein and, ah, Daikatana, is finally getting the recognition he deserves. Not for his hair, which remains inexplicably snubbed by awards committees across the globe, but for his entire career up to this point. At the annual Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCA) in March, Romero will take home the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on "iconic and genre defining first-person shooters" over the years. We are still making plenty of Doom clones, after all.

Romero isn't the only one being honoured. The judges will also give a posthumous "special award" to Mabel Addis, regarded as the first female game designer, who died in 2004. Addis worked as lead designer on The Sumerian Game in 1964, using her knowledge of ancient history to design something that paved the way "for game elements that wouldn’t become mainstream for decades". 

The Sumerian Game was a piece of edutainment that took the form of "photo slideshows accompanied by synchronized audio". Lacking modern display tech, it "used a computer printer to express dialogue and prompts,"  which came from an "in-game narrator/character who conveyed game information and asked questions of the player". I don't know about you, but The Sumerian Game sounds like a banger, and I feel comfortable retroactively declaring it PC Gamer's 1964 Game of the Year.

"This year, the Game Developers Choice Awards will recognize two of the most impactful game development talents in history, Mabel Addis and John Romero," said Stephenie Hawkins, a director at Informa Tech, which runs the GDCA. She continued that the GDCA is "proud to honor two artists with wildly divergent career trajectories," but who nevertheless "shared a creative passion and ingenuity that would help define entire game genres".

Addis worked as a grade school teacher when she wasn't doing trailblazing game design as a side-hobby—which makes her award alongside Romero a real chalk and cheese.wad scenario—and I'm not sure anyone ever asked what she thought of Doom. I imagine she'd think it could be a little more educational than it is, though. At least we still have time to get Romero's take on The Sumerian Game. Perhaps someone can ask him at the GDCA ceremony on March 22 this year.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.