Carol Shaw

Carol Shaw (1955- ) is a retired video game developer, and was one of the first female video game designers. She was born and raised in Palo Alto, California. Her father was a mechanical engineer, and she preferred playing with her brother’s model railroad set over her own dolls. When her father got laid off, her mother went back to work at the Stanford Library, working in serial records and periodicals. She played arcade games at the miniature golf course, specifically the first commercial arcade game, Computer Space, where she would partner with her brother or a friend to control all the buttons. She first used a computer in high school, and discovered that she could play text-based games on it. She became interested in computers, and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1977 with a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a year later received a master’s degree as well, in Computer Science. She was hired by Atari to program games for the new VCS console. While working for Atari in 1978, although her official job title was Microprocessor Software Engineer, she designed Polo (unreleased), 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe, and Video Checkers. She left Atari in 1980 to work for Tandem Computers, but was contacted by Activision just over a year later to join their team: at Activision, she designed Happy Trails, and River Raid, which is universally regarded as a masterpiece of game design for the Atari 2600. She returned to Tandem from 1984-1990 before retiring early, which she credits to the success of River Raid.