Do you enjoy playing video games? Do you know who was the first female game designer in the country? Well, the tech-savvy woman who played a monumental role in shaping the gaming industry is Carol Shaw.

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Birth and Education

The computer scholar was born in 1955 and was raised in Palo Alto, California. Her father worked as a mechanical engineer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

She had started showing signs of her inclination towards science when she shunned playing with dolls. Instead, she enjoyed playing with her brother’s model railroad set.

She, then, started gravitating towards computers in high school when she used a computer for the first time. That’s when she realized that she was adept at playing text-based games on the system.

She acquired a master’s degree in Computer Science at Berkeley.

“When I was in junior high and high school, I was good at math. I entered a bunch of math contests and won awards. Of course, people would say, “Gee, you’re good at math — for a girl.” That was kind of annoying. Why shouldn’t girls be good at math?”

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Work tenure

She started working with Atari, Inc. as a Microprocessor Software Engineer in 1978. That’s when she designed the unreleased Polo game and 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe in the same year.

Later, she joined Activision, known for being the very first third-party video game software publisher where she programmed her best-known game, River Raid. After another stint in Tandem, she retired in 1990.

“In those days, one person would do the entire game. The design, programming, graphics and the sound were all done by one person. Then you’d get feedback from the other designers, but basically one person did the whole thing.”


She was recently awarded the “Industry Icon” honour at the Game Awards 2017.

Her story of becoming the pioneer in the gaming industry is the quintessence of how inspiring women like Carol broke stereotypes and manouevred their way in a field that was largely dominated by men during those times.

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