Van Mai, creator of one of many first feminine protagonists in videogame historical past, has been discovered and interviewed by gaming historians Kate Willært and Kevin Bunch. Mai had left the video games trade shortly after finishing her first undertaking, leaving historians and lovers struggling to search out her when the significance of her contribution was absolutely realized years later.
In 1982, Texas-based developer Apollo launched a sport referred to as Wabbit for the Atari 2600 (also called the Video Laptop 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 additionally holds an essential place in videogame historical past: Billie Sue is among the very first feminine sport protagonists we’ve on document, and is the primary named feminine protagonist to seem on house consoles.
Willært and Bunch’s seek for Mai was coated in a Polygon function by Patricia Hernandez final 12 months, 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 wanting again and making an attempt to match up credit, and likewise postulates that Mai’s coworkers might have misremembered her identify.
Each suppositions proved true: Van Mai’s maiden identify 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 had 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 Laptop Science and making use of her expertise to fields reminiscent of telecommunications and banking.
Mai expressed a sure gratitude for the constraints of early sport growth and the best way it ready her for future work in coding: “It taught me to jot down compact code, to jot down good code,” she defined to Bunch and Willært. “Afterward, after I went to College, they did not care a lot about RAM or pc area. They’d lots. I feel I am a very good coder due to that, as a result of to start with there’s not a lot room to jot down your logic.” Mai additionally fondly remembers her time at Apollo, and reminisced in regards to 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 Crucial Hit, on gaming historical past, along with her Video Dames sequence having helped lead her to Mai’s story. Kevin Bunch is energetic on YouTube together with his Atari Archive channel, telling the tales behind traditional video games for the writer’s house consoles.