Historians find Van Mai, the woman behind the first playable female lead in a console game

After a year-long search, historians tracked down and interviewed Van Mai, the woman who programmed Wabbit for the Atari 2600, notable for being the first console game with a playable female character who could actually be called a “character.”

The history of playable women in video games is surprisingly complicated and is the subject of an ongoing series of investigations by historian and YouTuber “Critical Kate” Willært. In short, the first playable female character was in an arcade game called Score, which had a gender swap on the front of the cabinet. The first games with dedicated female leads were slices of eroticism with titles like Streaking and Beat ‘Em And Eat ‘Em. Ms. Pac-Man innovated with the novel idea of ​​giving a female character a name, though whether a yellow circle with a bow actually counts as a playable female is a debatable issue.

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