“I think we miss a lot when our sole attraction to Sierra’s legacy is fixated on Roberta [Williams], or even on Sierra’s larger cadre of female designers” says [assistant professor of media industries at New York University, Laine] Nooney. “…it reinforces very conservative ideas about creative authorship and authorial intent.” In other words, neither Roberta nor any other talented game designer is solely responsible for the final product; it’s a group effort. The reason Sierra makes for such a compelling case is because it “reveals a history that intersects labor, class, and gender—a history the game industry very much needs to understand right now.”
It’s certainly not the history Roberta ever set out to write. She was never a crusader for equity, never a spokesperson for the women in her company, let alone her industry. And it’s not just Roberta, it’s all the women we cherry pick as signs of progress. We like to assume that any woman who once stood alone, surrounded by men in the tech world—or the science world, art world, or political world—must have held a torch fueled by some inner Joan of Arc or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The role of Roberta, Queen of Inclusion and Gender Parity, is something we’ve collectively written into the historical record. It’s not only wrong to place the weight of feminist activism on the unsuspecting shoulders of women like Roberta, it’s dangerous. This revisionist history may be inspiring for young women today, but a falsely positive story is a false story nonetheless. “Video game history doesn’t know how to make sense of her except to single her out,” says Nooney.
Perrin Drumm on the.
I confess that, as a young girl, seeing Williams’s face on the King’s Quest box was definitely effective marketing, if nothing else.