We're not sure why, but every year, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS) feels compelled to award one prominent contributor to the gaming industry with recognition for their proficiency with wild frontier survival. We're talking about raccoon cap-wearing, log cabin-living souls who, with little provocation, will load up their family's small Conestoga wagon and ship out for parts west, which -- wait, you mean the AIAS Pioneer Award has nothing to do with literal pioneering? We're a little disappointed, if we're being honest.

This year's pioneer award (which will be handed out during the DICE 2011 Interactive Achievement Awards on February 10) will go to Bill Budge, an illustrious creator of engines for other people to create their own games and experiences, such as the 3-D Game Tool and Pinball Construction Set -- one of EA's earliest titles. He's also done stints with Sony Computer Entertainment and EA, and he currently works at Google, helping to improve the world of browser-based gaming.

Also, he knows the proper way to open and neutralize a rattlesnake bite. We think. Probably.
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CALABASAS, Calif. – January 21, 2011 – The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) has announced that Bill Budge will be its second AIAS Pioneer Award recipient. The Pioneer Award recognizes the contributions made by the men and women who helped to create the interactive entertainment industry. Budge has been an innovator in the video game space for more than 30 years and is recognized for a number of advancements in software engineering technologies that have helped pave the way for past and present generations of game designers everywhere.

The Pioneer Award will be presented by Don Daglow, president and creative director, Daglow Entertainment , at the 14th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards, during the 2011 D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, and Entertain) Summit on Thursday, February 10, 2011 at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas. The awards will be hosted by actor, comedian and game enthusiast Jay Mohr.

"From writing quality codes to designing games that paved the way for future program designers, Bill Budge has been nothing less than an inspiration to everyone around him," said Martin Rae, president, Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. "Rational, realistic, competent, professional and humble are all words I've heard people use to describe him over the years, but I feel nothing describes him better than pioneer."

Early in his career, while working for Apple, Budge designed games independently including the popular Raster Blaster in 1981 designed for the Apple II and distributed through his own company, BudgeCo. From on the start, Budge was compelled to write programs allowing people to build their own games. This led to the 3-D Game Tool, which allowed non-programmers to create simple 3D games and applications.

Taking inspiration from the graphical user interface work at Xerox PARC and Apple, Budge created Pinball Construction Set in 1983, a program that allowed users to create and play their own video pinball games and one of Electronic Arts' debut titles. The games presented players with the first user-generated toolkit, and one of the first iterations of a mouse-like interface in a game. Pinball Construction Set was inducted into GameSpy's Hall of Fame and won a technical Emmy award in 2008.

In 1992, after a short retirement, Bill returned to games programming with a role at 3DO where he remained for the next nine years. With 3DO, he built a 3D engine for the graphically acclaimed Blade Force. Budge then returned to Electronic Arts followed by a six year career with Sony Computer Entertainment as a Lead Tools Programmer. Recently, Budge joined Google where he is helping to make the Web a better platform for games and game makers.

"I always want to be playing, exploring and having fun when programming," said Bill Budge. "Having that spirit, I feel incredibly honored to receive this Pioneer award."

"Bill has had a huge influence on my career," said Will Wright, CEO, Stupid Fun Club. "Pinball Construction Set was the first game that introduced me to the idea of constructive games and systemic thinking. I doubt SimCity would have existed without it."

The Pioneer Award's previous and first inductee was David Crane, co-founder of Activision and creator of games such as Pitfall and A Boy and his Blob.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.