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GTA, 'Half-Life 2' battle for best game

International Game Developers Association announces nominees in fifth annual Choice Awards.

The International Game Developers Association has announced nominees for the fifth annual Game Developers Choice Awards, a venue for peer-to-peer recognition in the industry.

The awards will be handed out at a March 9 awards ceremony at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Up for best game are "," "," "Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude," "Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door" and "Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords." Other awards will be handed out in categories including audio, character design, game design and writing. Also set to be given out on March 9 are the Community Contribution, First Penguin and Maverick awards.

Richard Allan Bartle, inventor of multiuser dungeon (MUD) games, will receive the First Penguin award; game developer and women's advocate Sheri Graner Ray will receive the Community Contribution award; and Blast Theory founders Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr and Nick Tandavanitj will nab the Maverick award.

The First Penguin award recognizes groundbreaking game development. With the ever-increasing popularity of online gaming, and especially persistent-world settings, little could be seen as more groundbreaking than Bartle's 1978 co-creation of the first virtual-world MUD.

"The fact that MUDs have a direct connection to the imagination is what hooked thousands; computer games will always innovate, as long as people have imagination," Bartle said in a statement last week.

Ray, winner of the Community Contribution award, got her start as a "Dungeons and Dragons" gamer, then worked with Origin Systems on the Ultima franchise for PCs. Since then, she has become an outspoken activist for women in the game world and has served as co-chair of the IGDA's Women in Game Development special interest group for four years. She wrote the book "Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market," and is currently a developer at Sony Online Entertainment.

The Maverick award honors the achievements of developers who think "outside the box." At U.K.-based Blast Theory, Adams, Farr, and Tandavanitj create interactive multimedia performances, drawing from inspiration found in club culture and the game world, among other places. Last year, they brought the first mixed-reality game for 3G mobile phones to Adelaide, Australia. Their ongoing partners include BBC Interactive, the Science Museum in London and BT.

Beth Winegarner reported for GameSpot.