Visionaries and Legends

This year, Nite to Unite is privileged to honor LearnDistrict CEO and founder, Laila Shabir. A Pakistani immigrant raised in the United Arab Emirates and graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Shabir founded LearnDistrict, which makes educational games and interactive experiences. Through her experience developing games, she began to question why young women were not a part of the video game industry and ultimately founded Girls Make Games. Through workshops and summer camps, girls are taught game development and are encouraged to express their shared love of playing and creating video games.  Just a few years later, Girls Make Games operates in 41 cities around the globe and continues to grow.

A video game developer and passionate gamer herself, Shabir’s goal is to teach one million girls how to makes video games through her work by 2020. Shabir is the third recipient of the Nite to Unite Visionary Award since its creation in 2016. Previous recipients include Jeromy Adams, founder of Extra Life, and John Graham, founder of Humble Bundle.

Click the video above to learn more about Laila's work.

ESA Foundation scholarship winners will also be celebrated. These are the video game makers of tomorrow – who benefit directly from the evening’s proceeds.

Past Honorees

For the past 19 years, the Entertainment Software Association and the ESA Foundation have had the pleasure of bringing members of the computer and video game community together to celebrate our industry and raise funds to support the next generation of computer and video game professionals.

An important part of this celebration, since the first event took place, has been honoring an individual whose work has made a positive impact on the industry with the Champion Award. ESA Foundation’s Visionary Award, which was introduced last year, recognizes an organization or individual who is leveraging entertainment software to inspire and support kids. The inaugural recipient of the Visionary Award was John Graham, who founded Humble Bundle – a digital video game storefront whose sales directly benefit charitable organizations.

These honorees exemplify the outstanding applications of entertainment software. We are proud to celebrate the tremendous work being done to improve our own industry and to achieve meaningful social impact. 

  Isao Okawa   Segway Enterprises,          2001 Honoree         

Isao Okawa
Segway Enterprises,          2001 Honoree     


  Gabe Newell   Valve Corporation,                   2012 Honoree

Gabe Newell
Valve Corporation,                 2012 Honoree

  Kaz Hirai,   Sony Corporation,              2013 Honoree

Kaz Hirai,
Sony Corporation,              2013 Honoree

2017 Sid Meier, Director of Creative Development at Firaxis Games; Jeromy Adams, Founder of Extra Life

2016 Peter Moore, Electronic Arts, Vice President and Chief Competition Officer; John Graham, Humble Bundle, Co-Founder

2013 Kaz Hirai, Sony Corporation, President and CEO

2012 Gabe Newell, Valve Corporation, Co-Founder

2011 Mike Morhaime, Blizzard Entertainment, President and Co-Founder

2010 Robbie Bach, Xbox, Former President, Entertainment and Devices Division

2009 Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft, CEO

2008 Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo, Creative Fellow 

2007 Ken Kutaragi, Sony Corporation, Chairman and CEO

2006 Dan DeMatteo, GameStop, Former CEO and Co-Founder

2005 George Lucas, Lucasfilm/Industrial Light & Magic, Filmmaker

2004 Bing Gordon, Electronic Arts, Former Chief Creative Officer

2003 Jeff Griffiths, Electronic Boutique, President and CEO

2002 Will Wright, Electronic Arts, Game Designer, The Sims

2001 Isao Okawa, Sega Enterprises, Former Chairman

2000 Howard Lincoln, Nintendo, Former Chairman

1999 Michael Goldstein, Toys 'R Us', President and Chief Executive