From the assembly line to the marketing department, women have shaped the game industry through hard work, creative coding, artistic imagination, and business savvy. A Brief History of Women in Gaming: The 1980s tells this vital but underappreciated part of history.
Changing the Game
While at home caring for a young child, Roberta Williams became enthralled with text-based computer adventure games. Her obsession inspired her, along with her programmer husband Ken, to found software company Sierra On-Line and create and publish the first graphic adventure game Mystery House in 1980.
Programming a Universal Hit
Atari’s first female coin-op programmer Dona Bailey joined with Asteroids designer Ed Logg to create the frantic, bug-blasting 1981 arcade game Centipede. The game’s alluring pastel-colored graphics and track ball-controlled game play appealed to both male and female players.
Creating Game Graphics
While at Dave Nutting Associates, Janice Hendricks programmed and developed video graphics for Bally’s video games. In 1982, she designed the computer animation for Williams’ Joust, an arcade game whose surreal imagery of ostrich- and stork-riding knights made it a fan favorite.
Reiko Kodama was among the first female video game artists. After designing characters for Sega arcade games, she created the art and characters for the iconic 1987 role-playing game Phantasy Star, a science fiction-inspired game starring a strong, revenge-seeking female protagonist Alis.
Listening to Players
Mary Takatsuno (now Fujihara) began work at Atari as a marketing assistant alongside Linda Butcher (now Adam). Under Colette Weil’s supervision the two helped create the industry’s first game user research program, which carried out countless focus groups and surveys to better understand players.
Hope Neiman led Vectrex home game console manufacturer General Consumer Electronics’ marketing efforts in the early 1980s. In this photograph, Neiman prepares race car driver Jackie Stewart for a television commercial promoting a home version of the adrenaline-fueled racing game Pole Position.
In 1988, Nintendo tapped advertising manager Gail Tilden to create and edit a new customer magazine, Nintendo Power, which not only promoted the company’s video games but also provided the tips and maps that taught a generation of gamers how to master Super Mario Bros. and other favorites.
A Brief History of Women in Gaming is produced by The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games.
Learn more about The Strong's Women in Games Initiative.