Ralph Baer, Al Alcorn To Receive AIAS Pioneer Awards

by Jeff Cork on Jan 09, 2015 at 04:22 AM

The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences has announced the recipients of its 2015 Pioneer Award, which is given to people who have made significant contributions to the game industry. This year, Ralph Baer and Al Alcorn will be honored for their work in the earliest days of video gaming.

Baer, who died December 7, 2014, at the age of 92, invented the first game system, which would later become the Magnavox Odyssey. Alcorn was the chief engineer of the arcade game Pong, which introduced a generation of players to the concept of video games, as well as the highly influential Atari VCS console. 

"Ralph and Al are the very definition of Pioneers,” says Rich Hilleman, chief creative director at EA, who will be presenting the pair of awards. “Every publisher, every developer, every platform and all of the billions of players in the world stand on their sturdy shoulders. I am one of many who owe nearly all of what I have done to the remarkable talent and vision of these two giants. And, while Ralph is no longer with us, he was aware of this award and I know he was honored to be receiving this recognition from his peers. It will be one of my greatest pleasures to see Baer and Alcorn, these two visionary lights, join our Pioneers.”

Ralph Baer's son and grandsons will be accepting the award on his behalf at the ceremony, which will take place during the DICE awards February 5 in Las Vegas.

Baer and Alcorn join the ranks of previous recipients David Crane (Activision co-founder and creator of Pitfall), Bill Budge (Pinball Construction Set), Ed Logg (Centipede, Asteroids), Dave Lebling and Marc Blank (Infocom co-founders and creators of Zork), and Eugene Jarvis (Defender, Robotron: 2084).


Our Take
It's difficult to imagine two more deserving honorees. It's surprising that it's taken so long for their work to be officially recognized by the AIAS, considering the organization (and industry as we know it) would likely never have existed without Baer and Alcorn's foundational work.