Carol Shaw was not your average girl as she first got exposed to computers in highschool. She immediately became fascinated by them when she found that you could play games on them, although text based at the time, and when she could play around with the school's time sharing system known as BASIC. Then she got her start programming when her math class would assign her some homework involving code. Carol was a bit intimidated at first due to the computer lab seeming like a place for boys but when she took a leap of faith she got into programming and playing games.

Afterwards, Carol went to UC Berkeley and gave a programming course a try. At the time, programming was all about Fortran which consisted of putting a pattern on a punchcard then putting it in a machine that would perform the tasks you asked it to. Due to the long processing time, you had to make as few mistakes as possible.

Soon she joined Atari then Activision and the rest is history as she became an industry icon.

Time at Atari

Getting Hired

Carol interviewed with Atari on campus. She got to take a tour of their office and played a few of their games. She had interviewed with several companies after she finished her degree, however the position at Atari peeked her interest as "she got paid to play games."


When they hired Carol on, she was immediately hit with the idea that women in the industry was not commonplace, especially when the President of Atari at the time said this to her: "Oh, at last! We have a female game designer. She can do cosmetics color matching and interior decorating cartridges!"

Although, Carol had not a single bit of interest in either subjects. Luckily, the other game designers had her back and encouraged her to do what she wanted to do. She was used to being the only woman among the designers due to her classes being the same regarding diversity.


Her first project was actually a Polo game. Ralph Lauren wanted a tie in game for their new Polo cologne. It is not really known whether or not they ended up using the game for their marketing campaign however it did make its way as a bonus game onto a few CDs.

Then, she worked on 3D Tic Tac Toe which had its ups and downs. The game could not actually show the board while the AI was making its decisions or else the game would not run properly as there was not enough RAM in computers at the time to do both.

Afterwards, Carol developed Video Checkers at the same time as another developer. Although both went for the same idea, they went with a different execution and though both had similar computation time, Carol's had the other developer's beat.

She left Atari and went to work at Tandem for a while, though it did not last long.

Time at Activision

Getting Hired

At this point, some of the Atari game developers split off to create their own company: Activison. This was due to how they were treated at Atari as the company did not want to give their developers any credit to the point where they called them "primadonnas" for requesting that they be credited for their work.

In any case, Carol was called by Activision as they were interested in hiring her. In the meantime, she intereviewed at IMagic although she did not get an offer since Carol had not worked on any action games before then which is what inspired her to take on her first project: River Raiders.


Unlike Atari, Carol got her own office just like all of the other developers did.Although, there was a central lab that everyone did work at for testing. At Activision, it seemed like they wanted to treat every developer like a superstar. On top of that,she got proper credit for her work. At the time, she was the only female game developer, however, they did hire Carla Meninsky later on.


River Raiders was her masterpiece that allowed her to get creative with some of the techniques used for level generation. She used a peudorandom number generator to determine the width of the next part of the river that would load in and had set it up so that the river would get even narrower as the player got to the higher levels.

The game was such a hit that she received a warm welcome at the Consumer Electronics Show and she even got a huge bonus for her work.