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Non-RPG General News - Roberta Williams Interview

by Hiddenx, 2024-05-17 16:27:06

Couchpotato spotted a Roberta Williams interview at Investors Business Daily:

Queen Of Adventure Video Game Design Isn't Done Yet

Roberta Lynn Williams is one of the most influential American video game designer and writers

Video game designer extraordinaire Roberta Williams has repeatedly displayed her leadership skills by doing whatever the hell she wants. Whenever the hell she wants.

That was true way back in 1980 when she combined her enchantment with mystery author Agatha Christie and her fascination with the board game Clue, and designed "Mystery House."

"Mystery House" is widely credited as being the first graphic adventure game.

It was also true back in 1995, when the longtime Stephen King fan also designed "Phantasmagoria," a terrifying, full-motion video that turned the industry on its head by combining terrifyingly frightful scenes — even one that featured a husband apparently assaulting his own wife — with live actors painstakingly acting out much of the 500-page script.

Stay Relevant Like Roberta Williams
It is also vividly true right now, with the feisty, 71-year-old video game design legend — whose games have sold more than 15 million copies — recently opting to make a professional U-turn after more than 25 years of retirement. She recently returned to a cosmically different video game industry where her sterling credentials as one of the industry's most influential creators are being seriously tested by a young audience that mostly doesn't know her.

Each one of these is a challenge that only a top-flight leader could take on. Yet, Williams says, she's never even thought about herself as a leader.

"No one has ever asked me about my leadership before," she said. "It's always been about my creativity."

Find A Partner So You Focus On Strengths
Williams and her husband Ken launched a wildly successful video game company called Sierra On-Line. The company was ultimately sold to CUC International for more than a billion dollars. The company's finances had been mostly overseen by her CEO husband, Ken Williams, the super-programmer and tech guru with the industry acumen that not only got Sierra off the ground but made it an industry force for decades.

But Roberta Williams provided the creative leadership. And it all comes down, she says, to the single quality that every great leader must possess: confidence.

"You have to be very self-confident," she says. "If you question yourself, you will show weakness and you'll lose your best people."

It was that boundless self-confidence that led to the unlikely creation of "Mystery House."

Follow Your Passion Like Williams
Way back in 1975, Ken Williams brought home a copy of something called "Colossal Cave Adventure," the first text-only adventure video game that he stumbled upon. Roberta Williams saw it and instantly fell in love with it. It was a text-only video game where you could basically move X's and O's around, but not much else.

"It was my light bulb moment," she said. "Something opened up in my mind that told me I had to develop something like this game. Never mind that I'd never done anything like that before."

She was in her early 20s and had done a smidgen of programming, but not much. So she posed the question to herself that any great leader would;  "How can I do this?"

That's when she gathered lots of paper — massive pieces of construction paper that she could roll and unroll and use as a flow chart. "I was basically developing a storyboard, but I didn't know what I was doing."

Just Get Started
Most great leaders don't know exactly what they're doing — at least, at the beginning, she says. They just have to do it.

She went wild. Williams started scribbling with a pencil on the construction paper. She drew a house with huge circles for each room — modeled after the Clue board game. But it kept getting more and more complex. She added more and more rooms, characters and objects.

Even as Roberta worked on her project, husband Ken had huge ambitions to start his own company where he could create software for personal computers. "He initially thought my flow chart was silly, while he was doing the he-man programming work," said Roberta.


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Non-RPG General News

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