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Women in Gaming: Carol Shaw

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As an old-school gamer, it’s always been a part of life that women game, and women develop games.  From the beginning, advertising has included boys and girls playing Nintendo together, men and women at the arcade, and in company photos from some of the greats.  While there’s never been an even split, it never seemed strange to me that girls in my neighborhood liked video games as much as I did.  It was only within the last ten years or so that people have not only raised the question “Is it enough?” but also began to inundate our gaming news with so much negativity about being a woman in this industry.

I’ve interviewed female developers and gamers about this, and while their experiences vary greatly, most agree that the lack of positive coverage of women in gaming is a hindrance to making any substantial change.  When young women start looking at gaming as a possible interest, many will be turned away by the lack of any good examples in the media.  Let’s face it, bad news sells, but it also skews our perspective.  Take a look yourself and you’ll find top searches are a mix of contradictory stories, negative and frightening press, and too few articles about the women who have helped shape this hobby we all love.  So I’m glad to be able to do a little profile on one of the first, Carol Shaw.

Carol Shaw is credited as the first female game designer with two titles for the Atari 2600 in 1978.  Polo, which was never released, and 3D Tic-tac-toe.  She worked for Atari, Activision, and Tandem Computers during her career.  Her game credits are not long, but as far as I and many gamers are concerned, they are pivotal in early game development.  Her lesser known credits include Othello, Video Checkers, Calculator, and Happy Trails.

Her early childhood, she notes, was mostly spent with an interest in her brother’s railroad set rather than the typical girl’s toys of the time.  Her father was an engineer and she excelled in mathematics in school, all of which likely lent themselves to her interest in computer sciences.  In fact, her first introduction to gaming and computers was together in high school with text-based games many of us can remember if we’re old enough.  She attended Berkeley, achieving a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, and eventually finishing a master’s in Computer Sciences.  From there, it was onto Atari, who was the leading video game company at the time.

Before we talk about the game most consider the best of her work, and one of the top games Atari ever had, I want to bring up Super Breakout.  We had a lot of games on the Atari growing up, but there’s only a handful I remember.  One of those is Super Breakout.  It’s a game where you control a flat paddle, similar to what you find in Pong, and use it to bounce a ball around the screen.  At the top of the screen are bricks you are trying to destroy with said ball.  Let it hit the bottom of the screen and you lose a ‘life’, or ball.  I believe you had three balls to use.  Higher levels added a double layered paddle, and sometimes balls were trapped in the bricks, that once released into play, could all be bounced around to destroy more bricks.  As long as you kept at least one ball in play, you were in the game.  To this day, its one of the more challenging and fun games I’ve ever played, and we have Carol to thank for it.

Then there’s River Raid.  We had this on the Atari 5200, which Carol helped port over from her original design.  This game was by far my favorite, and is probably the reason I later fell in love with flight simulators.  River Raid, if you’re never played it, is based around navigating a plane through an obstacle course inside an ever-narrowing channel.  The screen moves forward and you can speed that up, but you can navigate the plane left or right.  You have to dodge, or shoot, balloons, helicopters, and other planes while avoiding contact with the sides of the channel.  It was probably more difficult than any game I’ve played, and I never did beat it.  This game is considered by many to be the best 8-bit game Atari ever put out.

There’s a great, and thorough interview with Carol over on Vintage Computing and Gaming.

Let us know what you think about Carol Shaw’s games in the comments below!

 

MaxUrso’s Top 10 Rants From E3

MaxUrso’s Top 10 Rants From E3

top 10 e3 rants

I’ve said it before: I’m an old gamer. I’m not old enough to remember Pong, but close. The start of each school year found my friend Eric and me exchanging news of what arcade games we had seen in our summer travels. One year it was a boxing game with a swivel mounted monitor. You controlled two arms and had to duck and weave. Now each year I look forward to the news from E3, anxious to see what technology is coming, what titles I’ll be waiting for. This year I’m disappointed. There’s nothing from the highlights that has me excited. On the contrary, I’m finding myself rather annoyed. In no particular order, here are my Top 10 E3 Rants:

10: Microsoft is putting out the Xbox One S.

It’s 40% smaller, has an internal power supply,  and puts out in 4k resolution with HDR. 4k is the latest thing, and I’ve read we really can’t see the difference in resolution that great, so I’ll pass. What has me irked is not only the size of the console, but the INTERNAL power supply. Come Fricking ON! The real estate at my gaming station is so cramped I can’t reach for my ice cold beverage without bumping the power button on my Xbox One. I hate power bricks. If they could make the whole thing smaller and still put the brick inside, why didn’t they do that to begin with?

9: While Xbox is putting out a 4k monster machine with Project Scorpio, Sony is showing off a VR headset.

Wonderful, another new fad that everyone will be jumping on. Does it have to cost as much as the console?! Is VR really worth that much?  I’m sure it will make Final Fantasy 15 really stand out among the rest of the sequels, reboots, and re-mastered games.

8: Speaking of which, there’s God of War.

Kratos has taken off to invade Skyrim it seems and he’s dragging along his kid. Didn’t his family die…at his own hands? Isn’t he covered in their ashes? Is this kid really safe with this god-killer? Who’s going to call Child Protective Services?

7: Perhaps Link will in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

There has to be phone somewhere in this open-world version of Hyrule. It is still Hyrule, right? I mean I can’t be sure, but if Nintendo is finally putting their money maker in an open-world/climb the walls like Assassin’s Creed style game, I wouldn’t be surprised if they changed which world it was in. At least other companies showed off more than one game.

6:  Take EA for example: They had lots of games at E3.

Battlefield 1. Wait what? The series started with Battlefield 1942 back in 2002 and now, 14 years later they’re retconning the whole thing and putting out Battlefield 1?! Sequels normally go up in digits, right Titanfall 2, and Fifa 17? They could also just use the intellectual property and just add a new sub-title, like Mass Effect: Andromeda or whatever laundry list of Star Wars games they’ll put out.

5: Even Bethesda, my current favorite company is resorting to the recycle machine that plagues both video games and Hollywood.

Another Prey that sounds like a reboot and Dishonored 2 gives us another sequel while Skyrim is simply being re-mastered. At least Quake Champions is original…oh wait, another 4 on 4 shooter. Lovely. Fallout 4 and Doom get the VR treatment here as well and that’s a few hundred I don’t have, so pass.

4: Perhaps the rebels at Ubisoft will save us with an original idea?

Star Trek VR puts us in control of the bridge crew. Fine, but it’s VR.  Watch Dogs 2 takes us to San Francisco, or we could head back to Colorado for South Park: The Fractured But Whole and engage in a kids version of Captain America: Civil War. Perhaps one of the snipers from Ghost Recon: Wildlands, another sequel, will put me out of misery. If I’m left with only Steep, an extreme sports title, to keep me interested, then I am doomed.

3: Activision, not satisfied with one re-mastered title, is being back and entire series: Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, and Crash Bandicoot: Warped.

There’s also another Call of Duty, and Skylanders. Even Disney gave up on the collectible figure gimmick.

2: Repackage, reboot, repeat, resell.

Can nobody create a new game? The list of the rehashed is huge: Call of Duty : Modern Warfare Remastered, Civilization VI, Crackdown 3 Dead Island 2, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2, Mafia III, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Pro Evolution Soccer 2017, and another Forza title.

1: Now, I’m no prude, and most of my friends would tell you I can be pretty vulgar when it’s funny, but Naughty America had a VR booth at E3. Really?

An adult film studio had a booth at the Electronic Entertainment Expo? Isn’t there another venue for this; somewhere better suited like…Fallout: New Vegas? Maybe that’s why it’s finally getting backwards compatibility on the Xbox One.

Let us know your opinion in the comments below!