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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!

 

This Month in Gaming History December

This Month in Gaming History December

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It is a magical time of the year. There is a chill in the air. Lights are everywhere and there are all kinds of treats. Children are excited for gifts. Oh wait, gifts! For many people, December is also a time for gift giving. Maybe some retro games will give you ideas for the gamers in your life…or, you know, yourself.

Consider me your personal ghost of games past. Ready? Here we go.

Final Fantasy

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Record breaking doesn’t even begin to describe this game. Final Fantasy is an extremely popular series of games. In 1987, the first Final Fantasy RPG was released by Square Enix. The newest installment of the game was just released in November of this year, which is a strong indication of just how much people love these games.

Commander Keen

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The first Commander Keen game was released in December of 1990. It is a side scrolling game. Play as Commander Keen, AKA the kid genius protagonist. He uses his ray gun to help protect the Earth from alien invaders.

Monkey Island 2

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Sequels are always fun.  Monkey Island 2 was released by LucasArts in 1991. The game continues with its wannabe pirate protagonist. It has had a lot of commercial and critical success. Monkey Island 2 was even able to get a HD remake in 2010.

Doom

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Doom was first released as sharewhere in December of 1993. Doom is a first person shooter game that was playable on PC. id Software encouraged the game to be shared freely which lead to its huge numbers of gameplay. The game would be released worldwide on multiple platforms years later.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

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It only seems fitting to end this month with a Star Wars game, since we will have a new movie this month. Star Wars: The Old Republic was released in 2011. Players are able to choose between different classes. They also get to choose whether they are Republic or Sith. The different classes give the player different stories to level up with. So, which side you would choose? Leave us a comment below. 

Hopefully Real Women of Gaming’s little helper here has given you some ideas for gifts while we looked back on Christmas past. I also hope that, whatever you celebrate, this season is full of fun and love. I wish you all the happiest of Holidays!

Much love and always keep sparkling. 

This Month in Gaming History November

This Month in Gaming History November

November is an odd month. For some people it is a month of abundance. Of food and fun times with family. For some the prospect of family get togethers are not an option or worse. Wherever you land on that spectrum, here are some games to discuss or play this month.

pong

Pong

In 1972 Atari released the first commercial video game. Pong revolutionized video games. It was like playing table tennis in an arcade. The player uses the buttons to keep the ball moving back and forth to score points.

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Alien Carnage was released worldwide in 1993 for DOS. It is a cartoon style game. The player is trying to stop aliens from taking over the planet. The player uses various weapons, including a flamethrower, which the player can purchase. The player is also able to free hostages along the way.

Warcraft

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This one lead to the game that has become a favorite for some of the staff here at Real Women of Gaming. Warcraft was released by Blizzard Entertainment in 1994. The first game was a real time strategy game where players would control their army. Warcraft has inspired multiple games, books, trading cards and a whole horde (haha, get it?) of other merchandise.

Baldur’s Gatebaldurs_gate_box

Baldur’s Gate was released in 1998. It is a role playing game set in the Forgotten Realms. That’s right Dungeons and Dragons. Baldur’s Gate was very well received with gamers. It is even credited with helping to revitalize computer role playing due to its popularity. It has also had many expansions for players to choose from.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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In 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim  was released. Not surprisingly with this series, Skyrim was hugely popular. It sold in the millions. It is a game with a playable character who is trying to destroy a dragon who is prophesied to destroy the world. The character improves their skills by completing quests to get to their ultimate goal.

Whew. There were a lot of big names released in Novembers past. Hopefully I gave you some dinner conversation. Even better, I have given you something to play this month.

In the spirit of gratitude, I would just like to thank you, my friends and readers. Thank you for all the views you have given us. Thanks for sticking with me this year while I found great games for us to remember. Thanks for just being amazing. I, and the rest of the staff, are just so grateful for all of you.

Always keep sparkling!

This Month in Gaming History: October

This Month in Gaming History: October

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Here it is again, my favorite time of the year. October. A time to remember old traditions and a time for treats…or is it tricks? Which reminds me, we ought to take a moment to remember the games of old.

Here is are some games that have been released this month in history.

Sega Genesis

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Sega Genesis was released in October 1988 in Japan. This was Sega’s first console. The Genesis was later sold in America in 1989. The player would use a cartridge that would be inserted into the console to play the games. This gave the player access to many different games that they would purchase.

Monkey Island

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On October 1990 LucasArts released a game called Monkey Island. Monkey Island is a point-and-click adventure game. The player would assume the role of the young protagonist who dreams of becoming a pirate and gets to explore fictional islands while solving puzzles.

Tomb Raider

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Oh, Tomb Raider. I have to gush a bit here, readers. Lara has been something that many females, not even gamers, hold dear. Released in October of 1996 by Eidos, players were given a female protagonist who solved puzzles, fought and was sexy all at once. Lara Croft was a chance to play a fleshed out character who was as cool as Indiana Jones and also happened to be female. I think that is the reason why so many of us hold Lara so dear. That and the adventures are just fun to play. 

Grand Theft Auto

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Grand Theft Auto was first released by Rockstar Games in October 1997. The player would choose a playable character. Then the player is allowed to do almost whatever they would like with a limited amount of lives. The goal is to commit different crimes for respective syndicates.

Age of Empires

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Also released in October of 1997 was Age of Empires. Age of Empires was a series of computer games that focus on events of the past and the building of, well, empires. Multiple spin off games have been released in this highly successful series.

Call of Duty

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The first game of the Call of Duty series was released in October of 2003. It is a first person shooter game. Call of Duty had its start on Windows and then came to be on other gaming consoles. Call of Duty is a highly popular shooting series that has also been graced with many spin-off games.

There you have it, my frightful friends. Lots of treats and no tricks. Happy haunting and gaming this month from your favorite Bard.

Happy Halloween and always keep sparkling!

This Month in Gaming History: September

This Month in Gaming History: September

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Yes, September is here. The start of my favorite time of the year. If you need something to get you more excited than the start of pumpkin flavored everything, then perhaps a look back on some games that were released in Septembers past will help.

Here is This Month in Gaming History:

Atari 2600

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On September 11, 1977 Atari released Atari 2600. It popularized the use of cartridges for storing games. Before then, the games had been stored in the machine, thus bringing some of us the fond memories we have of blowing into the game cartridges of our childhood.

Super Mario Bros

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Nintendo Entertainment System released a favorite game of my family’s. On September 13, 1985, Super Mario Bros was released. In this extremely successful game, the player controls Mario as he moves forward trying to avoid blocks and other obstacles.

Wing Commander

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Wing Commander is a PC game that was released on September 26, 1990. The player starts off by leaving a space station to fight in a war in space. The player must complete missions to win the game. Wing Commander has proven so successful that it has been remade.

Myst

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On September 24, 1993 Myst was released for Mac from Broderbund. It is a puzzle game where the players use a special book to travel to the Island of Myst. The game has multiple endings depending on the choices of the player.

Battlefield 1942

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Battlefield 1942 is a World War II first-person shooter game. It was released by Electronic Arts on September 10, 2002. This game was the beginning of a very successful franchise with multiple games and expansions.

Steam

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On September 12, 2003 a digital game software was developed that has been a huge deal for many of my gamer friends. Steam was developed by Valve Corporation. It basically provides players with a place to play and save games. Players can also use friends lists, in-voice and chat functions while playing. It has made gameplay much easier and more dependable, since you do not have to be on the same computer every time to log in and play.

Hopefully you don’t have too many blues about the end of summer. I also hope that you will have lots of fun gameplay this autumn. 

Always keep sparkling!

This Month in Gaming History: August

This Month in Gaming History: August

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August is a such a magical month. It is crammed full of the end of summer fun before school starts when we are children. It can be a lot of activity and fun. It can also be bittersweet for many people. Like the memories of summer that we cherish let us look back on some games that have been released in history in this month.

Magnavox Odyssey

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On August 21, 1969 Ralph Baer Filed for a US Patent. That patient described playing games on  television which would later lead to part of the Magnavox Odyssey. Magnavox Odyssey was the first home game console. The box pictured above would be plugged into a television. The screen would turn black with three white dots that behaved depending on the game play.

Tombs and Treasure

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Tombs and Treasure was first released in Japan on August 3, 1988. Tombs and Treasure is a first-person puzzle solving game. At the start of the game, the player finds out that Professor Imes has gone missing with almost his whole team. The player then looks for clues to try to find the professor.

Ghouls ‘N Ghosts

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Published by SEGA Enterprises, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts was released in Japan on August 3, 1989.It is an action platform game. The player controls a knight who must defeat undead creatures in order to bring back his beloved princess from the dead.

The Need for Speed

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The Need For Speed was released for PlayStation on August 19, 1994. This game became very popular with multiple installments. It is a racing game where the player can choose different cars and tracks to race.

Hammerwatch

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August 12, 2013 gave players a game called Hammerwatch on Steam. Hammerwatch features slash and hack gameplay. The player chooses from a class to play. The player then disposes of enemies throughout a castle.

So there are some games that have been released in days of August old. Hopefully something on this list has sparked a fond memory or will entice you to try a game that you haven’t played before.

This Month in Gaming History: July

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This Month in Gaming History: July

Summer is officially here. If you need a break from the outdoor festivities, here are some games you may have forgotten about. Maybe one of them will catch your fancy for a replay.

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Donkey Kong

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Donkey Kong was released on July 9, 1981. Donkey Kong started out as an arcade game. This first version features the character maneuvering around platforms while trying to avoid obstacles. Donkey Kong became incredibly popular in America and produced many spin offs.

King’s Quest

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Released In July of 1983, King’s Quest was a revolutionary game in the the computer game industry. It was commissioned by IBM and would eventually be made for other platforms. The story features a knight who is trying to help his King regain lost treasures to help restore the Kingdom back to its former glory.

World Empire III

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Windows 3.x released World Empire III in July of 1991. The game is turn based. Players try to conquer the world. The player will start off with a country, a flag and an army. Then players strategize how to best use these to meet the objective of taking over the world.

Max Payne

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Max Payne was released on July 23, 2001 for the PC. Max Payne a third person shooter game. The player is guided through the game by Max Payne’s inner thoughts on what to do next. Progression through the game gives the player access to new things such as different guns and painkillers, which they need to regain health. The Max Payne series has won many awards and is a favorite among many PC gamers.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

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Released worldwide on July 27, 2010, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was the anticipated sequel to StarCraft. It was sold 12 years later by Blizzard Entertainment.Wings of Liberty was a military game that featured heavy science fiction themes. The game is set four years after the first game and follows the leader of an insurgent group.

So, there are some games that made up this month in gaming history. Hopefully your summer is treating you well.

Happy gaming!