Ada Lovelace Day Mar 24, 2009

I hadn't heard about Ada Lovelace Day until today, but I think it's a great idea.  Thus, I'd like to write a post to highlight my technology heroines.

Sierra On-Line was certainly the biggest single reason I got into computers and technology.  They pioneered the graphic adventure game genre and published a long string of amazing games throughout the 80's and 90's.  Notably, Sierra had a very good (for the computer games industry) gender balance among their high-profile game designers.

This is probably due in no small part to Roberta Williams, who co-founded the company with her husband Ken.  Although Ken ran the business end of the company largely behind the scenes, Roberta was the public face of Sierra and the creative force behind its most successful games, including Mystery House, the King's Quest series, Phantasmagoria, and the Laura Bow Mysteries.  Without Roberta Williams' creative vision, the modern graphical adventure game probably would never have existed.

Another of Sierra's designers was Christy Marx, who wrote the "Conquests" series: Conquests of Camelot, a game about King Arthur, and Conquests of the Longbow, about Robin Hood.  While Marx certainly wasn't as prolific as a game designer as Williams, her takes on these often-told tales are extremely unique and creative.  The Marx versions don't shy away from portraying the characters as human beings, and highlight the religious undertones and the historical context of these stories.  The games can be downloaded from her web site. In addition to her work for Sierra, Christy Marx also has designed computer and video games for a variety of other companies.

Lori Ann Cole and her husband Corey created the Quest for Glory series.  These games were unique in their combination of RPG and adventure game elements; while most games attempting to combine these two genres end up resembling an RPG with some puzzles and dialogue trees, QfG plays like an adventure game with stats and combat.  Another innovation in this series is the ability to bring a character from one game to the next, keeping their stats, items and abilities.  The Quest for Glory games combine just the right levels of humor and seriousness, and manage to be challenging without ever becoming tedious.

But probably my favorite game designer of all time is Jane Jensen, creator of the Gabriel Knight mysteries.  Jensen brought a new level of maturity in writing to the computer games field, and tackled difficult, human stories that dealt with themes of the occult and disturbing.  But don't let that description scare you off: Jensen's games are universally fast-moving, gripping, and fun.  The Gabriel Knight series, more than perhaps any other out there, makes the case for computer games as literature.  And, I can't wait to see her upcoming game.

Without the games of Sierra On-Line, I might not be in the technology field today.  Although I didn't end up working on games for a living, the works of these designers started me down my eventual career path.  Similarly, a lot of my work on LARP has been influenced by these games.  It's fair to say that they are my technology heroines.

Who are your technology heroines?