Girl Power 2

Girl Power 2
Women at the Pinnacle

Justin McElroy | 20 Jun 2006 12:01
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In the late '80s and '90s, Sierra Entertainment was practically synonymous with female designers, women who created some of the most beloved franchises in gaming history. With their vision, the company broke boundaries, reinventing several times over what a computer game could be.

Flash forward to 2006: One of the company's most recent press releases heralded the hiring of "five of Hollywood's sexiest actresses and models" to lend their ... talents ... to the upcoming Scarface: The World is Yours.

"Tony Montana said it best: 'You gotta make the money first. Then, when you get the money, you get the power. Then, when you get the power, then you get the women,'" said Cindy Cook, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer for Vivendi Games. "Scarface: The World Is Yours will be a faithful recreation of living the life of Tony Montana, so we had to cast the hottest women in Hollywood."

Somewhere, even Leisure Suit Larry is weeping.

Ken and Roberta Williams had been married for seven years when Ken founded On-Line Systems (soon to become Sierra Entertainment) in their Los Angeles home. While tending to a new baby at home, Roberta found a game Ken had been playing, called Colossal Cave. The game whetted her appetite for more adventure games, but she found there were few other titles that fit that description. Frustrated with her lack of choices, she began designing a game of her own at her kitchen table.

"I wanted something with a good story, but it also had to be a game," Roberta was quoted as saying in 2002's High Score!. "Stories tend to be linear - beginning, middle, climax - and I needed to expand into 'What if they want to do this? Or that?'"

Roberta said her husband was skeptical of the scheme at first, but at a candlelit dinner she arranged, she managed to sway Ken with her idea, spellbinding him as she would so often in the coming years.

"I still remember the moment when he actually started listening," Roberta said. "I could see it in his eyes. I'll never forget it. It changed our lives."

In 1980, On-Line Systems released Mystery House: Hi-Res Adventure #1, considered the first graphical adventure game. Their kitchen table product sold 10,000 copies at local computer stores, and the Williamses soon expanded their operation to their den and spare bedroom.

Crafting the first graphic adventure would just be the first milestone in the company's illustrious history. In the coming years, they would be the first to use sound and video cards, first with a color-filled graphic adventure and the first to release a CD-ROM game. That's not even counting The Sierra Network, one of the world's first online gaming services.

Unlike the developers of today, who strive for record-setting gore or polygon counts just for the sake of flexing their technological muscles, Sierra's innovation was born from necessity. The company was pushed to the cutting edge by the creativity of a few women, some of the first real storytellers in the emerging medium of computer entertainment.

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