Van Mai, creator of one of many first feminine protagonists in videogame historical past, has been found and interviewed by gaming historians Kate Willært and Kevin Bunch. Mai had left the video games business shortly after finishing her first venture, leaving historians and fanatics struggling to seek out her when the significance of her contribution was absolutely realized years later.
In 1982, Texas-based developer Apollo launched a sport known as Wabbit for the Atari 2600 (also referred to as the Video Pc System or VCS). Wabbit is a shooter the place you are taking management of a younger lady, Billie Sue, as she fends off marauding rabbits from her carrot patch. It was well-received on the time, and had some spectacular sprite work for the VCS, but in addition holds an vital place in videogame historical past: Billie Sue is without doubt one of the very first feminine sport protagonists we’ve on report, and is the primary named feminine protagonist to seem on house consoles.
Willært and Bunch’s seek for Mai was lined in a Polygon feature by Patricia Hernandez final yr, and the problems that report raises show startlingly correct. Hernandez factors out that the customized of ladies altering final names after marriage can result in confusion for these trying again and making an attempt to match up credit, and in addition postulates that Mai’s coworkers may have misremembered her title.
Each suppositions proved true: Van Mai’s maiden title of Van Tran was reported as “Ban Tran” by Atari fan websites after which mistakenly confirmed by former Apollo staff, hindering Willært and Bunch’s search.
Aided by members of the Video Recreation Historical past Basis’s Discord, Bunch and Willært tracked down Texas chapter data from the closure of Apollo, together with data of royalty checks paid to programmers like Mai. The historians have been capable of finding Mai and discuss to her about Wabbit, in addition to her life after video games.
Contrasting her relative obscurity in gaming historical past till now, Mai went on to pursue a dynamic profession after Apollo, incomes a level in Pc Science and making use of her expertise to fields resembling telecommunications and banking.
Mai expressed a sure gratitude for the constraints of early sport growth and the way in which it ready her for future work in coding: “It taught me to write down compact code, to write down good code,” she defined to Bunch and Willært. “In a while, after I went to College, they did not care a lot about RAM or laptop house. That they had a lot. I believe I am a great coder due to that, as a result of to start with there’s not a lot room to write down your logic.” Mai additionally fondly recollects her time at Apollo, and reminisced concerning the inventive, collaborative surroundings there.
The mini-documentary on the Video Recreation Historical past Basis’s YouTube channel goes into higher element about Mai’s life and circuitous path to Apollo and Wabbit. Kate Willært runs a channel, A Critical Hit, on gaming historical past, together with her Video Dames sequence having helped lead her to Mai’s story. Kevin Bunch is lively on YouTube together with his Atari Archive channel, telling the tales behind traditional video games for the writer’s house consoles.