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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Research Paper Roberta Williams

When looking at the early days of computer gaming one does not see women taking a strong role. Roberta Williams role in the computer gaming industry and technology was monumental. In the book Hackers, Williams is displayed as a woman who has creativity and imagination in making computer games. Roberta was shy but broke that shyness with her exploration into design and idea exchange with others in the computer industry. Her accomplishments were a major part of a company that was once ran out of a garage, now a 10 million dollar a year company, with her husband and today speaks enthusiastically and proudly of the input she made to the company, Sierra On-Line. She is known for creating some of the most popular games in the world.
Roberta Williams was a housewife with two children. She initially did not start off with any experience, or even interest, in computers or the computer world. Roberta learned her interest in computers from her husband, Ken Williams a computer programmer. She became involved quickly and was inquisitive and imaginative about the future of gaming, and wanted to do more than just play. While shopping for a new game she realized there was not much out there in the genre she liked (action/adventure) and thought if there was a need for these kinds of games she could be the one to write and design them. While she did not know how to program computers, her husband did, and they worked on the game Mystery House for the Apple II. This was important because it was the first computer game that had graphics not text only. After the great and overwhelming feedback they got from the game they opened their own computer company now known as Sierra On-Line (
While Hackers only keeps its readers updated until the mid 80's the computer world has gone on to great technological advancements since then. Williams went on to create more games after the end of the book such as Mickey's Space Adventure (1984), Mixed-Up Mother Goose (1988), The Colonel's Bequest (1989), The Dagger of Amon Ra (1991) and Phantasmagoria (1995). According to MIT she was approached to have some of her games turned into Saturday morning cartoons, board games, and even motion feature films. (
In an interview on in 2000 she was helping her husband start an internet company World Stream Communications and was taking time off from her previous accomplishments in the computer gaming industry. Her status as a female in the gaming industry also is something that makes her unique. She said in the interview that she never felt pressured by men or other women in the industry because it was the type of environment where age, race, ethnicity, culture or gender, did not matter, but rather the skills that were important for success and respect. (
In her most recent interview in July of 2006, she said she had not created anything new since1998 and said, “I also have to say that I have not played any adventure games since then and really have no idea what today’s adventure games are like”. Coming from a woman that changed the way the computer gaming worked by giving players full control over the characters movements and multidimensional images was unseen at its time, its quite ironic. Her imagination and pushing boundaries is the reason current games even exist. In the same interview she revealed her true hacker ethic on how she created her games. First, she started on a storyline, characters, how the game would run, play and its overall appearance and perspective of the character and animation. Then she would have the programers create it. She pushed the boundaries of gaming and basically build the game around her idea. She believes that today it is the other way around and said if she were to create another game she would create it her way and never try to take an existing engine to make it fit her ideas, like today. Her effects on the gaming industry can still be seen through the advancements of today’s gaming and is responsible for the adventure genre going mainstream. (
While she is not currently active in gaming she admits that designing computer adventure games are in her past and is currently into personal adventuring. On an interview on her website, a fan club maintained by Roberta Williams herself, states there are no up and coming projects, but the Sierra company is deciding on what to do next and asks her fans for help in their decisions. She also plans on writing a book on a topic totally different from her computer game past but rather a historical novel set 150 years ago in Ireland and the United States relating to her ancestors (
According to her website, Roberta and her Husband Ken are now located outside Seattle, Washington near the Seirra Headquarters. Nowadays she spends time with her family, and has become active in psychical fitness such as aerobics and biking. It has been noted that she is a savvy business woman that helped found and direct a billion dollar corporation that doesn’t get the respect she deserves (
In March 2002, listed Roberta Williams as one of the 30 Most Influential People in Gaming. They noted the significance of her career rather well with the following quote, "With a large catalogue under her belt, Williams has achieved a legendary status in the adventure gaming community both as a highly successful female and talented designer".

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