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Queen of Graphic Adventure Games

Roberta Williams at a celebration of On-Line Systems’ first anniversary, 1981.

Roberta Lynn Williams was one of the most influential personal-computer-game designers of the 1980s and 1990s, becoming known as the “Mother” and “Queen” of video adventure games. Williams began her career in 1979 on a kitchen table in her Los Angeles home, playing a text-based adventure game titled Colossal Cave. She had no interest or experience in programming computers. Armed with her skills as a storyteller and reader of literature, and working with her husband, programmer Kenneth A. Williams, she made an art out of writing and designing graphic adventure games.

Mystery House is an adventure game released by On-Line Systems in 1980. It was designed, written and illustrated by Roberta Williams, and programmed by Ken Williams for the Apple II.

Her first, Mystery House in 1980, was an unexpected success that launched the couple’s business On-Line Systems. Soon renamed Sierra On-Line, Inc., the company grew to become one of the leaders in the computer-game industry, with growth increasing after the Williamses moved the company headquarters to Bellevue, Washington, in 1993. Roberta Williams worked on Wizard and the Princess (1980), Mission: Asteroid (1980), the King’s Quest series (1984-1998), Phantasmagoria (1995), and many other computer games, redefining adventure games and introducing women heroes. Sierra On-Line was acquired by CUC International in 1996 and Williams retired in 1999… read more >

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