I wasn't sure about this whole "computer" thing the first time my parents brought home a Tandy 1000 from Radio Shack. They set it up in the basement and told me to type my homework on it, something I sucked at doing.
I really didn't get into it until they brought home King's Quest, a very early adventure game where you were played a little animated knight named Sir Graham wandering around having adventures in a fairy tale-type kingdom and recovering treasures in hopes of one day inheriting the throne of the aging king.
And you died when you screwed up. You died A LOT, which horrified the Chalicerelative.
Unlike previous text games, this was like a cartoon that you were involved in. You could control what Sir Graham did and watch him walk where you told him to. You didn't proceed through a linear adventure arcade-style. You could do a lot of wandering around, and indeed, had to. To little CC, it was awesome, though it sounds completely ridiculous to be praising this stuff more than twenty years later.
King's Quest was produced by the team of Ken and Roberta Williams, and written by Roberta.
Roberta Williams had been a housewife when her computer programmer husband brought home a game called "Colossal Caves," a very popular text adventure game that Roberta started playing constantly. She realized that she could write something similar, and better.
So she did. She wrote a game called Mystery house at her kitchen table. And then she took her husband out for a steak dinner and convinced him to program it for her. It was the first computer game to ever use graphics and its colossal success gave Ken and Roberta the capital they needed to start up their own game company, Sierra, which would be one of the most influential game companies of the 1980's and early 1990s.
Mystery House was released in May 1980. By 1982, Roberta was writing King's Quest, which would also prove to be one of the most important video games of all time.
Roberta wrote and produced so many influential games that ten years ago, Sierra released the "Roberta Williams" anthology, which includes fifteen of the eighteen titles she wrote, excluding two she had written under contract for Disney and her last game Phantasmagoria, which was huge by the standards of the time. (And sold a million copies, which was great at the time, but of course sounds sort of pathetic now.)
Roberta Williams has retired from gaming. She won't comment on other people's games, though every time one plays World of Warcraft, one is doing a bunch of things that people didn't do in video games before Williams. Now, she takes a lot of vacations and she is working on a historical novel.
But her work and her innovations paved the way for the video games we have today.
And they showed one little girl that computers could be pretty cool.
Ps. So far, and Ada Lovelace day is almost over, only one other person has written about Roberta Williams. Here is that post.
And here's one more.