Carmack's involvement in the design of game engines led to the Doom and Quake franchises as well as the numerous games based off of his engine code.
The announcement from GDC reads:
John Carmack and his team at id Software, the company he co-founded in 1991, pioneered real-time 3D graphics in game, setting the pace and the standard for other developers to follow. Carmack and his colleagues at id are credited with essentially creating the modern-day first-person shooter (FPS) genre with the PC game Wolfenstein 3D in 1992, and helping to popularize networked multiplayer gaming on PCs with the release of Doom in 1993.
id has gone on to create other major FPS and action game franchises such as Quake, and Carmack and id Software are currently in development of a number of projects, including the free-to-play, web-based title Quake Live, the upcoming new franchise RAGE, and DOOM 4.
As a largely self-taught technology purist, Carmack has devoted himself to pushing the limits of hardware and software. He's helped to set the technical and gameplay standard for modern 3D gaming - and in the process, created some of the most popular video game franchises in history, which is why he's being honored by the Game Developers Choice Awards this year.
Former Game Developers Choice Lifetime Achievement Award recipients include Sid Meier, Shigeru Miyamoto, Will Wright - who will be presenting the award to Carmack at the ceremony on March 11, 2010 during Game Developers Conference 2010 in San Francisco - and other legendary game creators.