How the First Female Game Developer Came to Be
Carol Shaw was the first female game developer and a true pioneer in the video game industry
Shaw first became interested in computers in high school where she would write basic programs and play video games at her schools computer lab. At the time, she was considered a math wiz, entering interscholastic math competitions and almost always winning first place.
After high school, Shaw enrolled at The University of California, Berkeley and majored in computer science engineering. She received her Bachelors degree in 1977 and continued her studies in the Computer Science Master’s program at Berkley. Since the program was considered one most elite in the country, she was able to interview with many organizations during her final semester and decided to take a job with Atari. When asked why she chose Atari, she famously states “I got paid to play games”. Although she was the only female video game designer in the world at the time, she didn’t feel awkward entering the field as most of her computer science classes were already male dominated.
Career in Video Games
At the time that Shaw was hired a game designer created the entire game from start to finish. This included programming, graphics, and even sound. Her first creation to actually hit the market was 3D Tic-Tac-Toe which took her six months to create.
Shaw was ahead of her time as she was able to create artificial intelligence in the game with limited RAM. Computer scientists around the globe spent countless hours analyzing the game looking for patterns and potential strategies. Shortly after the release of 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Shaw created and released Video Checkers and contributed to several other Atari titles. She was quite accomplished at Atari in her two years before the video game market hit a low and she began working at Tandem, a computer software manufacturer where she work as a assembly language programmer.
Although she loved working at Tandem, in her heart she was still a video game programmer. So, sixteen months later she was back in the gaming industry, this time working for Activision. Her first creation at the company was River Raid, a scrolling shooter game where the player controlled a jet. The game was inspired by the side-scrolling alien shooter Scramble. However, Shaw’s boss informed her that there were too many space games on the market so she went with a river-based game and River Raid was born.
She admitted that the game started out as a boat, but she didn’t like how it looked, so she went with her next choice which was a fighter jet. The game allowed players to accelerate and decelerate the jet on command which was different from most scrolling shooters at the time. River Raid went on to become a smash hit, winning several awards, including best Atari 8-bit game of the year by Infoworld and best action game.
Shaw didn’t realize how popular the game was until she walked on an elevator with Activsion sales reps and they all started clapping for her. After all, she was responsible for cash bonuses, company cars, and helped increase their salaries. After releasing Happy Trails, and contributing to a handful of other projects at Activision Shaw soon went back to Tandem, as working in the video game industry once again become too volatile. However, due to the success of her programming career, she was able to go into early retirement in 1990 .
Currently, Shaw is enjoying retirement, but she will always be remembered as one of the most historical women in the gaming industry. Although she was the first, there have been many other incredible women to continue her legacy such as Brenda Romero, Amy Hennig and Siobhan Reddy. Leaving the future of women game developers in good hands.https://www.gamerwomen.com/first-female-game-developer/https://i0.wp.com/www.gamerwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/carol-shaw-is-the-first-video-game-developer-1.jpg?fit=413%2C348&ssl=1https://i0.wp.com/www.gamerwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/carol-shaw-is-the-first-video-game-developer-1.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1Spotlightscarol shaw video game designer,Female Game Developer,gamer women,gamer women spotlight,Girl Gamer,video Game Designer,women and video games,women in game development,Women in gaming,women in the gaming industry,Women in video gamesCarol Shaw was the first female game developer and a true pioneer in the video game industry Shaw first became interested in computers in high school where she would write basic programs and play video games at her schools computer lab. At the time, she was considered a math wiz,... Gamerwomenco@gmail.comAdministratorGamer Women