Any fan of PC gaming history knows who Roberta Williams is. As one of the co-founders of Sierra On-Line, she and her husband Ken revolutionized the industry with their innovative (and frustratingly obtuse) adventure titles. Now she’s picking up another award for her contributions, the GDC Pioneer Award.
The story goes that Roberta was stuck at home when Ken brought in a computer from work. Back then, in the primitive days, computer adventure games were told entirely with text. Frustrated with this, Roberta set out to make the kind of games she wanted to play, and in 1980 she and Ken self-published Mystery House, Sierra’s first title and the venture that snowballed into beloved projects like the King’s Quest series.
“It’s hard to truly measure the impact of Roberta Williams’ landmark titles; they not only pushed the technological envelope at the time, but they helped establish video games as a legitimate storytelling medium, and one that could appeal to men and women alike,” says Katie Stern, general manager of GDC. “Modern blockbuster titles now incorporate compelling stories as a matter of course, but those fundamental narrative elements were created anew by Roberta and her colleagues in the 1980s and her groundbreaking work helped establish what games could and should be. For that reason, we’re proud to recognize her ingenuity, creativity and hard work with the Pioneer Award.”
You might have heard that this year’s GDC has been postponed, if not outright cancelled. Well, the same isn’t true for the award ceremonies, which will take place on schedule, though they will be streamed on Twitch instead of held in an auditorium. Were this a traditional presentation, we couldn’t say for sure if Roberta would be in attendance. But it should be relatively easy for her to flip open her laptop and say hi from home.