Hello and welcome to our seventh installment on pioneering women of the computer world, written by Heather Elizabeth Ross.
Roberta Williams is one of the most important figures in the history of video games. In 1979, she was inspired after playing the text-only computer game Adventure and designed an interactive game combining text with graphics. The game, Mystery House, was an instant hit and the graphical adventure genre was born. The couple formed the company On-Line Systems which became Sierra On-Line and is now owned by Activision Blizzard. The pair became leading figures in the graphical adventure game genre of the eighties and nineties. By the time Williams retired in 1996, she was credited with over 30 top computer games, the majority of which she wrote and designed for Sierra. Games she either wrote herself or helped write include King’s Quest, Phantasmagoria, Colonel’s Bequest, and Mixed-Up Mother Goose.
In 1978, Carol Shaw was the first woman to program and design a video game, 3DTic-Tac-Toe for the Atari 2600. Shaw then designed Super Breakout for Atari in 1978. Originally an Atari employee, Carol Shaw joined Activision where she programmed the 1982 classic, River Raid, for the Atari 2600 and Happy Trails in 1984. In 1983, the final game that she would completely program and design herself, Happy Trails, was released just when the video game market crashed. With the industry in shambles, she took a break from creating games, but returned in 1988 to oversee the production of River Raid II. She also worked on the Polo and the Atari Basic reference manuals. Shaw is noted for anticipating the industry’s procedural content generation by 25 years using algorithms to create River Raid’s continuous, but non-random, landscape.