Carol Shaw is a game designer and program engineer. She was born and raised in 1955 in Palo alto, California. Her father worked at Stanford as a mechanical engineer. Perhaps because of her parent’s influence, she enjoyed playing with railroad models and assembling them rather than playing with dolls “like girls of her age” from an early age. Dueto her characteristics, people asked her why she didn’t play with dolls and why she liked math and was good at it. She was angry at the people who told her like that. [1]And one interview she said, “Of course, people would say, ‘Gee, you’re good at math for a girl.’ That was kind of annoying. Why shouldn’t girl be good at math?”

When she was in high school, she first used a ‘computer’. Then she enjoyed playing the game, and from then on she became interested in computers, so she studied Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at University of California Berkeley. She then joined a company called Atari and created the 2,600 VCS console, the hackers, and the 3D tic-tac-toe. [2]She worked for a company called Atari, where she had story about gender stereotype, and in one interview, she mentioned Ray Kassar, who is president at Atari, said “Oh, Finally, we have a female game designer. She can do cosmetology because she is a women!’  Carol said she wasn’t happy about this stereotype. Because she has no interest at cosmetic at all. It wasn’t until 1920 that women were able to freely engage in politics and raise their voices in the United States, so if you look at these historical and social situations, people’s reactions are somewhat understandable. However, I understand her feeling as well.

After she works at Atari for 2years and she moved to Activision. And she designed and created the game ‘River Raid’. At that time, an engineer also had to design the game, so she drew all the graphics by herself. A month ago, I had a chance to play a very old video game and computer game and I realized the interaction and graphic was not that great quality and not comfortable to play. I thought it is because, at that time, the technology was not developed nowadays, so this was the limitation. But I guess that reason also makes sense but, at that time, game design was in the charge of computer engineers, and they are not professional designers, so they might code easy ways to create systemically not visually. I’ve looked up this game on YouTube and this is a very typical arrow game. Very repetitive, easy but at the same time it is hard to understand without any explanation about the game. First of all, I saw 25mim and 1hour 22min video but it was still hard to understand the rule of the game. There is some comment that also asked what is the rule and what’s going on with the captain. It’s hard to realize how can I get the point for the next level and how can I lose the game. I believe this is an engineer’s limitation. So, I believe this is a very good example of early computer and console games but still has room for development.  And then she created Happy Trails. What I feel about those games is, they have a similar pattern for playing and you can easily expect what is your action. But still hard to get why are they losing. 

The thing I want to highlight from her work is ‘that she is the very first woman who design and create a game and after she jumped into the game industry, many women can participate to develop and design games.  “According to a 2017 report by the International Game Developers Association, people who identify as women only make up about 21% of the gaming industry”. This is an alarming fact.  It’s getting better, it’s getting better, but we still have a lot of gender stereotypes. The typical image of the game company still has a lot more male-dominated. There is a female game engineer whom I got to know while researching about her. Her name is Donna Bailey, and she was the company’s only female game engineer since Carol moved from Atari to Activision. After she successfully released several games in a row at the company, she is making great efforts to help women pursue careers in the game industry. I hope that there will be a day when I can pursue and choose a career and industry as a person without putting meaning on women and men’s gender in all industries (not just game industries. To make it easier, I think people who are currently active in certain jobs and industries should be active for the next generation of women. In that sense, I believe this is the most important and should be highlighted movement that Carol Shaw and Donna Bailey made which is the biggest social change in their achievements. The world has changed a lot in recent decades, but I still think the gender issue should be considered more socially. 


Atari women, Carol Shaw is widely recognized as the first woman who design video games


Allison Murray, Carol Shaw: Atari Superstar, Lifewire for human, 03 Feb. 2021, 04:54 p.m.


Carol Shaw is believed to be the first professional female video game designer. She first used,  

Computing history

Womengineered, #TechTuesday with Carol Shaw, 13. Aug. 2019,

[1] Tech Tuesday with Carol Shaw,

[2] Atari women

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Gina Park