Putting aside his ‘imposter syndrome’ feelings, video game journalist Elijah Lee asked, “Who was the first female video game designer” in his A First Lady of Gaming microdocumentary. Lee takes us through a bit of Muriel Tramis’ progressive and lightning-in-a-bottle career, laments the heartbreaking loss of history to the maw of time, and aims to support activism for young women.
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Kelsey Lewin 00:00
Welcome to episode number four of the Video Game History hour presented by the Video Game History Foundation. Every episode, we’ll be bringing in an expert guest: someone who’s done their research and has an interesting story from video game history to tell. My name is Kelsey Lewin, I’m the co-director of the Video Game History Foundation, and I’m here as always with Frank Cifaldi, the founder and co-director of the Video Game History Foundation.
Frank Cifaldi 00:20
Hi, that’s me! Our guest today is author Elijah Lee from theicon.com. Elijah recently published “A First Lady of Gaming | The First Black Female Game Designer,” an article and an accompanying micro documentary exploring the early career of designer Muriel Tramis. Elijah, welcome to the Video Game History Hour!
Elijah Lee 00:39
Thank you! I’m happy to be here.
Frank Cifaldi 00:41
So Elijah, tell us a little bit about yourself and the work that you do. We’re just meeting right now for the first time.
Elijah Lee 00:47
Yeah! So um, well, I’m a video game journalist. Still a little awkward for me to say that, still dealing with a little bit of imposter syndrome. But yeah, I’m a video game journalist. The thing is, I like to focus on issues with diversity because I am a black male. And there’s very few people of color and women and members of the LGBTQA+ community in the gaming industry so amplifying those voices has always been a passion of mine. So I guess it was back in February? I was doing a video for Black History Month where I just wanted to talk about people of color, contribution to gaming. And then I realized I had a lot of dudes and the video and not a lot of women. So wanted to even that out a bit. And I thought to myself, “Well, who’s the first black woman game designer?” And I didn’t know off the top of my head. Googled it, Carol Shaw popped up and I thought to myself, “Hmm, that? That doesn’t… that doesn’t seem right.” So this began this, I guess a small obsession of mine to find out who the first black female game designer was. And I’m happy to say that I found her!
Frank Cifaldi 02:06
Yeah. So it just seems like such a simple question, right? “Who was the first black female video game designer?” And it’s something that I mean, I’ll confess, it’s not something I’ve ever even thought of asking. And it’s just not something that, like you said, it doesn’t come up on Google. There’s not… I mean, Mariel is actually in Wikipedia’s list of women in the video game industry, but you know, It doesn’t even say that she’s black, first of all, let alone that she is the first black female video game designer. So you had to get pretty hardcore trying to figure this out.
Elijah Lee 02:53
Well, yeah, so the thing is, not a lot of people were even asking the question and it just goes to that kind of society, how society kind of like, puts people into these boxes, you know. “Video game development isn’t something that black women do, what are you talking about? So I’m not even going to approach the question of who was the first.” So it was a difficult thing because there wasn’t anyone talking about it. I didn’t really see any previous research into the issue. So my first step was to try to make a timeline. Like, starting in the mid ’70s going to the early ’90s was, like, where I was gonna first start my search. And I started off by going through company photos from different companies, like Atari, and just looking for any, like black employees that might be in one of these photos. Really didn’t find any there. Uh…
Frank Cifaldi 03:57
Wait, did you literally find no black employees in the Atari photos?
Elijah Lee 04:01
Um… like… no? I don’t think so.
Frank Cifaldi 04:04
Oh my God…
Elijah Lee 04:05
Well, no black women.
Frank Cifaldi 04:06
Elijah Lee 04:07
Yeah. But yeah, no, not really. So I went through, like, Atari, all these-
Frank Cifaldi 04:12
Sorry, sorry, I just keep backtracking because, like, there were hundreds of people there! That’s ridiculous.
Elijah Lee 04:17
Yeah. So there is… so I went through company photos that I could find online. End up trying to find company memos and documents that had lists of employees and then I tried to cross reference that with known black women who have graduated from college in IT – or something like that – to try to find out who it was. That took a while and didn’t lead me anywhere. There was… it was a lot. I’ve read several books on… Like, I mentioned, Women In Gaming. That was a book that I read to try to find out if that was mentioned. And it was just, for a while I was beating my head against the wall trying to find anything.
Kelsey Lewin 05:02
And she was in that book, right? Muriel Tramis is in the book?
Elijah Lee 05:05
She was in the book.
Kelsey Lewin 05:05
Elijah Lee 05:06
Yeah, but it doesn’t mention her being the first or anything like that, but she is in the book. And she was actually one of the… Like, I’ve had the book actually for months. So I read it and she was actually, like, one of my top suspects of who it might be. But I wanted to confirm it, so it was just going through all these documents. And then eventually, I reached out to Ed Smith. He’s one of the black men to work on – like, one of the first black men to work on a video game console. And just asked him, “Did you know of any black women that worked in video game design or development at the time that you were working?” And I’m just… because I’m thinking to myself, it would have to be like a small-ish community at the time. You know, we’re talking about, like, the 70s, and stuff like that in video games. And he wasn’t aware of anyone. So I was just like, “Crap.” I was just, I was hoping that he would give me like a good lead on something. So it was just months and months. And throughout my research, it just kept pointing back to Muriel. And I remember what I did was reached out to college professors that specialized in video games, technology, technology history, and all that stuff, asked them if they knew anything. And to my surprise: they didn’t know. And they reached out to other people that actually are currently working in the video game industry as a designer, as a developer, and they didn’t know as well. So I’m just like, “This is this, this… can’t be a thing. This can’t be real. I’m not gonna believe that this is real.” But yeah, so I searched and I research and then it just kept going back to Muriel, Muriel Tramis, Muriel Tramis. So I reached out to her. And I was just like, “Hey, Muriel…” When I messaged her Originally, I didn’t want to like say, “Hey, Muriel I think you’re the first black woman to ever work as a game designer!” I didn’t want to do that. So I just tried to have a casual conversation with her. And it eventually came up and I was just like, “So… like, do you know about the, uh… who first black female game designer is?” And she’s like, “Well, I’m pretty sure that it’s me!” And I’m like, “OK.”
Frank Cifaldi 07:33
OK, so that’s actually something I wasn’t clear on, that she already kind of knew this.
Elijah Lee 07:38
Yeah, she kind of had a suspicion that she might be.
Frank Cifaldi 07:43
So… sorry to interrupt you but, I mean, OK. You’re looking through company photos, you’re looking through company directories, you’re talking to college professors, right? You are talking to other people who were black in the industry in the earliest days. And you have impostor syndrome about being a journalist?
Elijah Lee 08:03
Frank Cifaldi 08:08
Elijah Lee 08:08
Kelsey Lewin 08:10
So I actually love that you brought that up at the beginning of your article, because I think that’s something that a lot of historians – and journalists probably as well – struggle with is that feeling of imposter syndrome, especially when you have a story like this one. You know, how has no one in the English speaking world thought to try to discover what the answer to this question is yet, right? So how did it take until 2020? And I can totally relate to that feeling of like, “Am I really the person to break this story? How has no one talked about this yet?” And I just am bringing that up, because I think that it’s something… video game history is so young, still, that we kind of need all hands on deck. I mean, a lot of the big questions still have not been answered yet, like this one. We’re still excavating, like, 90% of the dig site, right? So we need everybody to be here answering these big questions because as surprising as it is that no one’s figured out the answer to this in the English speaking world until you, that’s the reality we’re living in right now.
Elijah Lee 09:18
Yeah. Yeah, so it was definitely hard and I was definitely going through a lot of imposter syndrome. Just like, “I… this isn’t possible. I’m not the one to find this? Like, no… I, I have a silly YouTube channel and a small website. Am I really the one to find this out? OK.”
Frank Cifaldi 09:38
So OK: it’s Muriel. It’s Muriel Tramis. I was not familiar with her work. I take that back, I actually played Gobliiins for a minute way back in the day, but you know, I wasn’t familiar with her name or anything like that. Tell us about Muriel.
Elijah Lee 09:57
Well, ah, she was born on the Caribbean Island of Martinique. She had an interest in technology and gaming from a very young age. And then eventually she went to school, graduated. She started off working for a weapons manufacturer making unmanned aerial vehicles for a while, or UAVs. And she was working on the maintenance procedures for them. And after a while of working there, I think it was five years, she realized that that just wasn’t her thing. It wasn’t feeding her, her artistic side, and she had kind of like a moral quandary, moral quagmire with working for a weapons manufacturer. So she ended up leaving the company and she started to get interested in advertising. And she thought that was a good outlet for her, a good creative outlet for her. And then she ended up working at Coktel Vision and she impressed them so much that eventually, like within a year I believe it was, they had her working on her first game, which was Méwilo. So, you know, from there, it was all down hill or up hill depending on how you want to see it, where she just realized she loved making video games. And she did Méwilo and then she made her directorial debut with Freedom the next year. And the games that she makes draws from her culture. Méwilo, for instance, takes place on the island of Martinique. It deals with slavery and discrimination and stuff like that. And the games themselves, like, the writing and the storytelling in them is very, very good! Like, it’s a simple point-and-click adventure game by our standards, but the story in there still, like, very heavy. And this really… we really don’t make stories like that right now? There’s like, you can’t go out and buy a triple-A title that’s about slaves overthrowing their master on the plantation.
Frank Cifaldi 12:13
Elijah Lee 12:13
Kelsey Lewin 12:14
Do you have a sense for how these games were received at the time because they are pretty heavy subjects.
Elijah Lee 12:21
So Méwilo did really good for the company, so did Freedom. Most, from what I understand, the games were pretty well received at the time of their release.
Frank Cifaldi 12:35
They were released in France specifically, do you know? Or were they released elsewhere?
Elijah Lee 12:40
They released in France and I believe… I don’t… Some of her later stuff, like her erotic games, I believe they were also released State-side as well.
Frank Cifaldi 12:52
Okay. Um, what I found really interesting is just right out the gate with Méwilo, she’s tackling, you know, the the history of slavery in Martinique. So, you know, it’s kind of interesting to… I don’t know. It just feels unheard of for me for someone’s first game right out the gate to actually be, you know, a passion project like that.
Elijah Lee 13:20
Yeah, I think that’s also, you know, the company that she worked at gave her the freedom to do that. But also, I think it was a product of the time, you know. Video games are still this new, fresh thing that you can kind of… you were really allowed to push the boundaries of what you could do, you know what I mean?
Frank Cifaldi 13:41
Elijah Lee 13:42
And really push the boundaries, talk about topics that were really, what we would consider what we would consider today as taboo, you were really allowed to experiment when it’s the, when you’re just like, the open frontier. There are no rules at this point, because you’re pretty much making the rules.
Kelsey Lewin 14:02
And I wonder how much of this is also like difference between a French landscape and a US landscape where, you know, that might not have been accepted right out of the gate, even in the ’80s here? And I mean, I have no sense of what the scene was really like in France in in the 1980s, 1990s. But it sounds like they were ready for some of that. I mean, if these were really well-received games and didn’t have a ton of controversy and stuff around them, as you would imagine they might here, I think that’s, that’s a really interesting difference that we don’t really explore a lot of times. We kind of get this ethnocentric view of video game history being US, Japan and sometimes UK, and that’s kind of where people stop looking.
Elijah Lee 14:48
Yeah, it’s very interesting. From what I understand of the culture in France, they’re a little more… a little more open with the whole issue of race and diversity than we are here in the States. Just because we went through, like the 80s was kind of a time where… You know, you had like the Civil Rights movement. And then you had the 80s, where the 70s and the 80s, where everyone was kind of like, “Our way of dealing with racism is just not to acknowledge race or racism at all, because it’s over now. Because it was cured with the civil rights movement. So now it’s OK.”
Frank Cifaldi 15:28
That’s I was taught!
Elijah Lee 15:30
Yeah, oh yeah, that’s what we were taught. It’s like, “Slavery was bad! Abraham Lincoln fixed it! But they were still racism left, so then Martin Luther King came, he made it all go away, and it’s okay!”
Video Game History Foundation 15:42
Well, the thing is, he’s the first one who asked nicely.
Elijah Lee 15:45
Frank Cifaldi 15:47
Is what I was taught.
Elijah Lee 15:48
That, that’s what it was because, you know, Malcolm X? He was he was he was too radical.
Frank Cifaldi 15:52
Right, yeah. He was the Magneto to the Xavier in this relationship.
Elijah Lee 15:59
And then growing up is realizing, “You know? Magneto has a real reason for being angry. And Professor X is kind of a jerk because he could, like, make everything better if he wanted to and he chooses not to…”
Frank Cifaldi 16:15
OK, Kelsey, we’re going to talk about X-Men now, sorry.
Kelsey Lewin 16:17
OK… I expect this occasionally.
Frank Cifaldi 16:22
Actually, no, let’s talk about Mewilo, specifically. Did you have a chance to play it? I know there was some footage in the micro-documentary.
Elijah Lee 16:30
Yes. So the footage, if you look, the footage was not mine, I credit the YouTuber that I grab the footage from. I did play it but playing it and actually recording it was too much of a task. Because it was, yeah, it was… I had to go to jump through hoops because I have a really nice gaming computer. But that kind of, like, worked against me when it came to like playing these these older titles. And it was just kind of a mess. But I was able to play them a little bit. The story is interesting. Like I said, this is a game that came in the late ’80s so there wasn’t really that much music or anything like that. A lot of the game, I don’t… See, it’s kind of hard for me to say how the game is because I don’t know if it was just me trying to emulate a game from the ’80s in 2020 or if it was the game itself, but a lot of it didn’t have audio. There was some audio here and there. But you know, it’s the story and the imagery that they have on there that was really, really interesting. That really kind of like captivated me and kept me going.
Frank Cifaldi 17:42
Yeah, and I believe it was an Amstrad CPC game, so I wouldn’t expect audio. I don’t think that’s your fault that there was a lack of audio. I think that was pretty simple tech on the Amstrad. But yeah, can you can you recall the story? I thought it was pretty interesting; it’s based on a real legend, right?
Elijah Lee 18:01
Yeah so, it’s based off of the legend of the golden jars, where basically slave masters who wanted to protect their gold had a very trusted slave go out with a jar that had their gold in it. They had them dig a hole and once they were done digging the hole, they killed the slave, pushed them in the hole with the golden jar, burried them so their spirits could keep outsiders away. And essentially what you do, you pay a specialist in paranormal and ghosts and stuff like that, and what you’re doing is you’re trying to figure out the secrets of the gold jars. You’re trying to find these ghosts and you have to bring their descendants to them and perform this ritual. And after the ritual is done, the spirit can be laid to rest.
Frank Cifaldi 18:51
Yeah, that’s pretty heavy stuff for video game, even now.
Elijah Lee 18:55
Yeah. I would love to see more games like that produced today. Just because I find the topic very interesting and I do think that it would help in terms of pushing diversity forward. But I don’t know, I feel like we’re still maybe some time away from getting a game like that.
Kelsey Lewin 19:14
At least in the AAA sphere, right? I’m sure there’s some indies tackling some of this heavier stuff. There’s a Native American one that comes to mind, its name is escaping me now. It’s, like, five years old at this pointd, but… Yeah. It’s gonna it’s gonna take some time. I mean, it’s in the AAA space, the closest thing that we’ve had – I believe – to a game that tries to tackle diversity and discrimination? It’s probably Detroit: Become Human and it really wasn’t about race, so…
Frank Cifaldi 19:44
That’s what they say, anyway.
Elijah Lee 19:45
Yeah, so… Yeah. I mean, we… You know, I have my thoughts on that.
Frank Cifaldi 19:53
I’m very tempted to go down that road but I will not. So, It’s really her second game that seems like it caught your attention the most when you were kind of going through a career: Freedom. Can you can you can you tell us about that?
Elijah Lee 20:12
Well, Freedom was a game where it’s basically, you’re trying to lead a revolt against your slave masters, again taking place on Martinique. But the thing that I found fascinating, I read this when I was doing research, from someone who wrote it in The Obscuritory, that the game came out the same year Super Mario Bros. 2. Just like, so we have this game, like… The comparison and contrast of this game that is about slaves banding together to overthrow their master and then we have Super Mario Bros. 2 in the US, which is… Mario! Jumping around! And stuff like that…
Frank Cifaldi 20:52
It was an analogy for apartheid, Mario 2, right? I mean… [laughs]
Kelsey Lewin 20:52
Elijah Lee 21:00
So not to give Mario 2 or Doki Doki Panic any crap, it’s still a fun game and I love it. It’s just very interesting to kind of see where her head was at when she was making this game versus what everyone else-
Video Game History Foundation 21:17
Yeah, it’s like Phil [Salvador] says, it’s just comparing the two in the historical context of what we think about video game history. It’s just like, it’s kind of mind-blowing that these things exist at the same time.
Elijah Lee 21:30
Yeah, it is kind of, it’s kind of mind blowing, it’s kind of fun to think about. So I did play Freedom. Couldn’t get past, like, the last part? So I don’t know what happens. But I read about it a little bit. And the people who have played it recently also have struggled to get past the last part. They don’t know if it’s a bug or maybe it’s like a, you know, what’s going on there? But the game ends with you trying to reason with the master the plantation to set you free, which is just all types of like… just mind-boggling and just messes with your head right there. So yeah, Freedom I found to be just very, very interesting. It was her directorial debut. So when you’re playing a game, as someone directs, you really get to get a sense of the type of person that they are. And, you know, the idea and the concepts of leading revolt, starting this revolt against your slave masters, to end up reasoning with the plantation owner to set you free, I found to be really interesting. And I would just, I would really like to see what Muriel would be able to do today with today’s modern technology. I just think that would be really interesting.
Kelsey Lewin 23:05
You said she is working on a project right now. Right?
Elijah Lee 23:09
Yes, Remembrance. So there’s not too much, didn’t really say too much about the project at the time, because it’s still in early, early development. The website for it isn’t up yet. But yeah, she’s working on a new title. And she says that it’s drawing from a lot of her early work. So I’m really excited to check it out.
Kelsey Lewin 23:35
Frank Cifaldi 23:35
So what you were saying earlier about, you know, you’re not sure if it’s a bug or something at the end of the game. I mean, this is maybe slightly off topic, but one of the things that kind of terrifies me in the world of video game preservation is that a lot of these older floppy disk-based games, we’ve relied on the pirated copies to be our record of these games. And it just, it makes me fearful that it’s like, “Oh, my God, what if? What if they were so evil that they actually put like copy protection in at the game?” You know, where you wouldn’t know that the game was broken until you got to the end? Because you’re saying other people struggled with the same area and it’s happened before.
Kelsey Lewin 24:23
It’s not unheard of.
Elijah Lee 24:25
The whole video game preservation thing, it’s very scary. Because it’s not like… they weren’t really thinking when they were making these games of like, “Oh, 20, 30 years? 50 years from now, people are gonna want to preserve this and want to know about this and preserve this history.” They’re just like, “Let’s get this out and move on to the next project.”
Kelsey Lewin 24:48
Right, it’s just like film reels were thrown out after it’s done at the theater. There’s no reruns of a of a film back in the early days. It’s just, it gets shown in the theaters and then they toss the film reel.
Elijah Lee 25:01
Yes! And that’s heartbreaking. It’s really heartbreaking, to think that something like that could be lost to time. I find it heartbreaking. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to, like, I really dove into this and it became a bit of an obsession for me for so long.
Frank Cifaldi 25:19
So, after her first two games are exploring not just themes but historical issues revolving slavery in Martinique, she actually moves on to, I think it was maybe three titles in a row that are exploring eroticism, right?
Elijah Lee 25:42
Yes. So actually, Muriel, I didn’t mention it but she’s actually written a few erotic novels as well. So that, her erotic video games are very interesting, too, because I believe it’s Emmanuelle that discovers, goes over some quote-unquote “non-normative” eroticism, such as bondage and polyamory and stuff like that.
Frank Cifaldi 26:10
Wait, is that her book, Emmanuelle?
Elijah Lee 26:12
No, it’s just her video game. Emmanuelle was written by Emmanuelle Arsan, and then she turned the book and she adapted the book into a game.
Frank Cifaldi 26:22
Elijah Lee 26:23
Yeah. But yeah, so it deals with like, you know, there’s some bit of polyamory and, like, bondage in there and just really goes to show how progressive and forward thinking she was that that’s in the game.
Frank Cifaldi 26:40
I’m just like, I mean… You’re talking about the themes of these, you know, commercial video games. Maybe we don’t call it AAA necessarily, but these were like commercial games in stores that you bought, right? And the idea of going to the store and buying a video game that’s not only exploring these, quote-unquote “taboo” areas of eroticism, but also based on a novel! That’s, that just… I can’t imagine going to Best Buy right now, and buying an Xbox game based on any novel, let alone in erotic one.
Kelsey Lewin 27:21
Well, I think that goes back to, you know, what we were saying about how, when we don’t consider and we fail to consider these other countries involved in video game history, it’s like we’re missing a huge slice of the picture. Obviously, we would have never had just on store shelves games like these in the US, but in France, obviously, that was OK.
Elijah Lee 27:43
Yeah, I mean, you know, France tends to not be so prudish about those types of things. But yeah, that’s why in my little micro-documentary, I made a point of saying that, you know, “Japan and America… but in France, they were also doing their thing as well!” Which people always think that video games are American and Japanese and there’s nothing going on in other places.
Kelsey Lewin 28:12
And I thought it was so interesting that, you know, when you were telling Muriel that her name doesn’t pop up when you search for her in English, she’s like, “Oh, I pop up just fine if you just search me in French!” Like, she’s known in France. People know about this and it took until 2020 for the rest of the world to see her.
Elijah Lee 28:30
So the thing about that is, too, so… I researched it and we went through it. So if you Google “first black female video game designer” and “France,” Muriel does pop up. But that’s kind of, like, the Google algorithm? It’s pretty much ignoring the “black” part of your of your query, because she is the first French woman to design a video game. So that’s why she’s popping up there. So it’s kind of like when I Googled “first black female game designer” and Carol Shaw popped up, like, Google’s just ignoring the “black” part and just putting, you know, “the first” in there.
Kelsey Lewin 29:10
What the hell, Google?
Elijah Lee 29:13
Google, it’s doing… It’s, it’s doing its best…
Frank Cifaldi 29:18
They’re an ad company, what do you expect?
Elijah Lee 29:20
Frank Cifaldi 29:21
They’re not an information company anymore. I’m still upset about the loss of Google Books and Google Newspapers so I will talk trash about Google all day.
Elijah Lee 29:33
I mean, I don’t want to get sidetracked but yeah, the loss of any sort of information is bad. I’ve just always been very pro-“all information should be free” so people can educate themselves, so they don’t… yeah.
Frank Cifaldi 29:51
indeed. So let’s see. We were talking about Emmanuelle. Is there anything noteworthy about… She made two after that, I think – what do my notes say – Geisha and Fascination?
Elijah Lee 30:02
Yes. So Geisha’s a really interesting story. Mad scientists kidnapping your girlfriend, taking her away to Japan and trying to turn her into a robotic geisha, that was very interesting. Didn’t really get a chance to play that one because I just for the life of me couldn’t get it to work at all. But yeah, the concept of that was just very interesting and it was weird. And I mean that in the best possible way I can because I love weird! That weird aesthetic, I think, is fun. And Fascination: she wanted to create a female protagonist that her intelligence was as much of an asset as her ability to seduce and her sexuality, which I thought was really cool. Like, she wanted to put emphasis on both things on her sexuality, but also her intelligence, which again, is something that we still struggle with today. Whereas you have a character, they either have to be really, really smart, and devoid of any sort of sexuality, they are not sexual whatsoever, or they’re, like, hyper-sexualized so that becomes their identity. A lot of developers still have found that balance. I even did a video on that called “Female gamers are horny too” where a lot of developers – male-lead developers – answer to feminism is to completely remove all sexual content. Because apparently women aren’t sexual creatures? So because that’s how feminism works, I guess? I don’t… But yeah.
Frank Cifaldi 31:58
That’s what feminism is, right? It’s the elimination of sexuality… [laughs]
Elijah Lee 32:02
Yes, feminists do not like sex. And yeah, so it’s ridiculous. But that’s what I really liked about fascination. It’s this idea that, this is a woman, and, oh! She’s human! So she can like sex while also being smart.
Frank Cifaldi 32:20
So I have to admit that I kind of lose the trail for her career after this, because while she’s involved in a lot of the Coktel Visions titles after this, they don’t seem to be as personal anymore. And I don’t know if that’s just, you know, the studio growing or…
Elijah Lee 32:40
I can’t think of the company, but after after Fascination, I believe they were bought.
Frank Cifaldi 32:47
By Sierra, yeah.
Elijah Lee 32:50
By Sierra games, and I think it kind of, you know… We’re talking about a time where video games in the early days were very underground, in a way, but then as they became more popular and bought by these bigger companies, they became corporate. So I don’t – this is just kind of speculation – I don’t think she really was given as much freedom as she was before. So that they were mostly focusing on like educational games, like, you had like Gobliiins and stuff like that.
Frank Cifaldi 33:24
Yeah. Which I mean, like I said, that’s the one I had played, so they at least had some more global influence, I guess, Coktel Vision after the acquisition, but yeah. I mean, I’m looking through the games, it’s like… You know, not that any of them look bad, necessarily, but they don’t grasp me immediately the way that her earlier ones do. And it’s kind of a shame.
Elijah Lee 33:51
Yeah. Yeah it is, but the good thing about that is in 2003, she did leave and she started, focusing on 3d and VR technology, and now she’s making another company where she’s going to start producing games. So we should be getting that more Muriel Travis game that we that she did in the early days, which I’m really happy for.
Frank Cifaldi 34:18
So let’s talk about her activism. This is something that was really striking in her video, just how much she’s out there, just speaking and being a presence representing underrepresented voices.
Elijah Lee 34:37
Yeah. So, she’s always said that women are pushed into quote- unquote “feminine” job roles and stuff like that. And she wants more women to be interested in the hard sciences. And it speaks to diversity just as a whole, because black people and women, a lot of the times, they’re kind of discouraged from entering the technological landscape, because they just don’t feel like it’s for them, because they’re not supposed to do that. Because if you’re a woman, you’re supposed to be doing this, this and that, if you’re black, you’re supposed to be this doing this, this and that. So she goes to different schools to talk to people to encourage them to let them know that, “Hey, this is something that you’re able to do.” Which I think is pretty amazing.
Kelsey Lewin 35:38
And I think it’s especially interesting that, you know, she mentioned that the company she worked for, for Coktel Vision, was actually pretty inclusive and she never felt like she had some of the issues that a lot of women and black women face in this industry. And so to be like, “Well, maybe I didn’t see some of that stuff but I know it’s out there and to go out and start trying to make a difference.” And that I think is especially interesting.
Elijah Lee 36:08
Yeah, I mean, yeah, empathy. That’s crazy, right?
Kelsey Lewin 36:10
Elijah Lee 36:12
It’s like even though she didn’t experience it in her and in her career, she still knows that it’s out there and wants to make a difference, which is one of the reasons why I just find her to be completely amazing.
Kelsey Lewin 36:26
And as an American, again, that just kind of fascinates me that she really doesn’t feel like she had experienced a lot of sexism or racism or anything in her company. I mean, that’s… if you ask any women, or any woman of color, especially in the in the United States, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s like, “Yeah, no, everything’s been fine! Whole time, it’s been great!”
Elijah Lee 36:54
Yeah, it’s very interesting. But yeah, it’s like I say, it’s one of the reasons why I love her because she didn’t go through those things. She caught lightning in a bottle and found a company that was very open, very inclusive, very diverse. But she still saw that, “Hey, this is still a problem for other people, even if it wasn’t a problem for me.” So she goes to different schools to talk to people. And, you know, I really do think she’s the inspiration not just for black people or women, I think she’s a real inspiration for everyone, because there’s a lot you can learn from her.
Frank Cifaldi 37:30
Yeah, and actually that kind of ties into what I was about to ask, I mean, you worked for months on this article. This is obviously a really big passion project for you getting this out. I mean, you spun this out of a piece of content you were doing and then it sort of evolves on its own into a bigger thing. What is getting this story out mean for you personally?
Elijah Lee 37:56
Well, it’s 2020. You know, there’s a lot of stuff happening this year. So, you know, there’s a sense of helplessness that you feel going on. Like, the incident with George Floyd happened while I was in the middle of doing this research, and I just remember, like, feeling hopeless, and just like, “ugh..” But I kind of realize that this is why it’s important because I want to make a positive contribution for the black community. I want to help get her story out there, a story that by all rights should have been out a long time ago. And I want to help inspire other people of color and just really try to do everything that I can. Because… I just remembered, you know, I’ve done with a few protests – Black Lives Matter protests – this year. And I just felt like, “I want to do more.” And this was my way of doing more using my skill set that I have.
Frank Cifaldi 39:06
Well, it was wonderful work.
Elijah Lee 39:07
Frank Cifaldi 39:08
Elijah. Is there anything you’d like to plug while you’re here, your social media presence, anything like that?
Elijah Lee 39:13
I can, you can find me on email@example.com/theiconstream. The Icon social media is @theiconstream on Twitter. And if you want to follow me, it’s @Elijahsbrain. And of course, there’s the website, www. theicon.com.
Frank Cifaldi 39:32
Awesome. Elijah, thank you so much for joining us on the Video Game History Hour.
Elijah Lee 39:37
Yeah, I love it. Thank you for inviting me!
Thanks for listening to the Video Game History Hour brought to you by the Video Game History Foundation. If you have questions or comments for the show, you can find us on Twitter @gamehistoryhour or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Did you know that Video Game History Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit and that all of your contributions are tax deductible? You can support this podcast and all of our other work on Patreon or at gamehistory.org/donate. This episode of the Video Game History Hour was produced by Robin Kunimune and edited by Michael Carrell. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.