The queen of adventure games. How Roberta Williams changed history

Classic Games

In March 2020, Williams received a Pioneer Award during the 20th Game Developers Choice Awards. Throughout history, only a handful of game designers have deserved such recognition as Roberta Williams. Not only was she a co-founder of Sierra On-line, but also the mother of classic adventure games like King’s Quest and Phantasmagoria.

Humble beginnings

The year was 1979 and nothing, absolutely nothing, indicated that Roberta Williams (née Heuer) would soon become one of the most iconic video game pioneers. At the time, she was a stay-at-home mom with two kids. Her husband, Ken Williams, was a freelance programmer. All in all, the Simi Valley, California household was pretty typical.

And then, lightning struck. One day, Roberta Williams witnessed the game Colossal Cave on her husband’s teletype machine. It was a very crude text adventure game, but it captivated our heroine for quite a period of time. It is one of those moments in history when two ideas meet and, as they say, the rest is history.

Roberta Williams didn’t have any experience in computers but had something more. Even when she was a child, she was a great storyteller and entertained her family with fantastic stories, which she called “films”. Ken Williams on the other hand, wasn’t a storyteller, but some computer programming experience. So, they thought, why not make a game of our own?

Rise to fame

The first adventure game by the Williams’ couple was called Mystery House. The story was set in a Victorian Era estate in which the player’s friend was killed. You were tasked with solving the murder case before becoming the next victim. Roberta Williams based the game’s story on her beloved Agatha Christie novels. She drew digital images on a digitizer board while Ken used assembly language to script them. The final …read more

Source:: GOG – Good Old Games


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