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Roberta Williams: The mother of computer video games

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Complaints are rife that the video game industry treats female employees and female players as outsiders or worse. But it wasn’t always that way.

Laine Nooney, a doctoral candidate at Stony Brook University, has been looking at the contributions of Roberta Williams, who in the early 1980s co-founded one of the early video game companies, Sierra Online.

“[Williams] was actually the designer of the first home computer adventure game with graphics,” says Nooney. The game was called Mystery House and was a murder mystery set in an abandoned Victorian house.

As adventure games took off in the early ‘80s, Sierra Online became one of the largest independent producers of home software in the country.

According to Nooney, at the time, developers and players did not see gaming as stictly a “guy’s thing.”

“[Williams] had a passion project about encouraging families to play together,” says Nooney, who notes that Williams railed against the couch-potato stereotype of gamers.

To hear more about Roberta Williams and the early days of video games, click on the audio player above.

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