Just very recently, I found out that the old arcade game Centipede was programmed by a woman – Dona Bailey – the only woman programmer at Atari at the time. Although I sucked mightily at the game, I always loved Centipede. Unfortunately, the industry was not kind, nor did it recognize that she was worth keeping.
Did things change once you’d done Centipede?
Yes, but I’m not sure it was for the better! There was a lot of surly attention after that. It’s not always popular to do something [like] that — the first thing that happened, I was not ready for at all, and I still haven’t figured out how to deal with this part — people just started, y’know… the typical kind of thing that people would say was, either it was a fluke or I didn’t really do it, somebody else did it. I’m a very peaceful person, and I felt sick of fighting, so I really just disappeared, and I haven’t had contact with the industry for at least twenty years.
Eh, what can I say? Men weren’t very open to women in the industry then, and while I understand it is better now, I’m sure there are still places where women are viewed as outsiders to the gaming industry.
Regardless of that, though – the entire interview is pretty cool to read, really. She pretty much left gaming not too long after the success of Centipede, but is now back into it somewhat – she teaches a game design course at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.