First Widely Recognized Female Game Designer Donates Collection

The Strong News Release
One Manhattan Square Rochester, NY 14607 585-263-2700

July 19, 2017

For Immediate Release

Shane Rhinewald, 585-410-6365,

Noelle McElrath-Hart, 585-410-6325,

First Widely Recognized Female Game Designer and Programmer

Donates Collection to The Strong Museum


ROCHESTER, New York—Carol Shaw, the first widely recognized female video game designer and programmer, recently donated an extensive collection of materials to The Strong museum, including printed source code, console games, design documents, sketches, and reference materials representing the games that she created for Atari, Inc. and Activision in the 1970s and 1980s. The materials will be included in future physical and online exhibits as part of the museum’s Women in Games initiative established earlier this year to tell the story of the vital role that women have played in the video game industry.

“Carol Shaw’s 1978 unreleased game Polo is perhaps the first documented game designed and programmed by a woman,” says Curator Shannon Symonds, who spearheads The Strong’s Women in Games initiative. “She went on to have a highly successful career in the industry and her 1982 game River Raid sold more than one million copies. In many ways, Shaw helped pave the way for the female game designers that came after her, and we’re proud to preserve this collection of materials that document her pathbreaking work.”

Shaw attended the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science in 1977 and a master’s degree in computer science in 1978. She started her career with Atari in 1978 and wrote Video Checkers (1980), 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe (1979), and co-wrote Super Breakout (1981) for the Atari 2600. In the early 1980s, she moved to a position with Tandem Computers and later Activision, where she wrote her best-selling River Raid (1982) and Happy Trails (1983).

“Little did I realize when I saved some of the material from my work at Atari and Activision that there would be interest in it several decades later,” says Shaw. “The Strong museum was highly recommended to me as a place for preserving these artifacts. The museum already has a substantial collection from the Atari coin-op division. I’m pleased that some of these items will be shown in the Women in Games exhibit being prepared for 2018.”

The collection includes five published versions of River Raid for various home consoles, the EPROM (erasable programmable read-only memory) containing the Polo game, and product packages for 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe (1979) and Video Checkers (1980) for the Atari 2600. Promotional materials, including a German River Raid flyer, a T-shirt, and two U-matic tapes with game commercials, serve as examples of marketing for Shaw’s games. Other archival materials include printed source code for 11 games and applications, such as Video Checkers, Super Breakout (1981), River Raid, and Polo. The collection also includes design documents, notes, sketches, and printouts of reference materials for an Atari calculator program (1979), Polo, Checkers, and 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe (referred to here as Qubic.)

“This wealth of materials provides great insight into the trailblazing work of one of the first women to design and program video games,” says Symonds. “They’re an invaluable resource to scholars, historians, gaming enthusiasts, and others wanting to examine the early video game industry.”

The materials strengthen and complement The Strong’s unparalleled holdings of materials related to its Women in Games initiative, which includes the Ken and Roberta Williams Sierra-Online Collection, Her Interactive, Inc. Collection, and Atari Coin-Op Division Collection. To learn more or engage with the Women in Games initiative, contact Shannon Symonds at


About The Strong

The Strong is the only collections-based museum in the world devoted solely to the history and exploration of play. It is home to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the National Toy Hall of Fame, the World Video Game Hall of Fame, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, the Woodbury School, and the American Journal of Play and houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play.