Roberta Williams

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Roberta Williams
Born (1953-02-16) February 16, 1953 (age 65)
Occupation Video game designer, writer
Known for King's Quest
Spouse(s) Ken Williams

Roberta Williams (born February 16, 1953) is an American video game designer, writer and a co-founder of Sierra On-Line (later known as Sierra Entertainment), who developed her first game while living in Simi Valley, California. She is most famous for her pioneering work in the field of graphic adventure games with titles such as Mystery House, the King's Quest series, and Phantasmagoria. She is married to Ken Williams and retired from her career in 1999. Roberta Williams is one of the most influential PC game designers of the eighties and nineties,[1] and has been credited with creating the graphic adventure genre.[2]


In the 1980s and 1990s, Roberta and her husband, Ken Williams, were leading figures in the development of graphical adventure games.[3] In 1980, they founded the company On-Line Systems, which later became Sierra On-Line.[3] The first Williams' title was Mystery House (1980), the first graphical adventure game.[4][5] The second title, Wizard and the Princess (1980), added color graphics.[6] But the first serious success was the King's Quest series, which featured a "large expansive world" that could be explored by players.[3] After that, Roberta Williams designed such titles as Mixed-Up Mother Goose (1987), The Colonel's Bequest (1989), and Phantasmagoria (1995), which was the first in her career to be developed in the full-motion video technology.[4] Phantasmagoria featured extreme violence and rape scenes. The game has received mixed reviews.[7] Though Sierra was sold in 1996, Williams' production credits date to 1999, when she retired from Sierra On-Line.[8] Roberta posed for the cover of the game Softporn Adventure by Chuck Benton, published by On-line Systems.[8] She also posed much later with her children as Mother Goose for the cover photograph of Mixed-Up Mother Goose. The end sequence of Leisure Suit Larry 3 features her as an in-game character.[9]

Ars Technica stated that Roberta Williams was "one of the more iconic figures in adventure gaming".[8] GameSpot named her as the number ten in their list of "the most influential people in computer gaming of all time" for "pushing the envelope of graphic adventures" and being "especially proactive in creating games from a woman's point of view, and titles that appealed to the mainstream market, all the while integrating the latest technologies in graphics and sound wherever possible."[10] In 1997, Computer Gaming World ranked her as number 10 on the list of the most influential people of all time in computer gaming for adventure game design.[11] In 2009, IGN placed the Williams at 23rd position on the list of top game creators of all time, expressing hope that "maybe one day, we'll see the Williams again as well."[3]

Since her retirement in 1999, she has stayed away from the public eye and rarely gives interviews to talk about her past with Sierra On-Line. However, in a 2006 interview, she admitted that her favorite game she created was Phantasmagoria and not King's Quest: "If I could only pick one game, I would pick Phantasmagoria, as I enjoyed working on it immensely and it was so very challenging (and I love to be challenged!). However, in my heart, I will always love the King's Quest series and, especially, King's Quest I, since it was the game that really 'made' Sierra On-Line."[2] In a 1999 interview, Williams stated that her games were targeted toward a more affluent and educated audience than later games: "Back when I got started, which sounds like ancient history, back then the demographics of people who were into computer games, was totally different, in my opinion, than they are today. Back then, computers were more expensive, which made them more exclusive to people who were maybe at a certain income level, or education level. So the people that played computer games 15 years ago were that type of person. They probably didn't watch television as much, and the instant gratification era hadn't quite grown the way it has lately. I think in the last 5 or 6 years, the demographics have really changed, now this is my opinion, because computers are less expensive so more people can afford them. More "average" people now feel they should own one."[12]

In a 2006 interview, Williams said that designing computer games was in the past for her then and that she intended to write a historical novel.[2] However, in 2011, the video game website Gamezebo reported that Roberta Williams was working on a social network game Odd Manor.[13]

Personal life

Roberta and Ken married on November 4, 1972 when she was 19, and Ken just turned 18.[14] They have two children, D.J. (born 1973) and Chris (born 1979). The Williams family has homes in Seattle, France and Mexico.[15]



  1. "Computer Gaming World – Hall of Fame". Computer Gaming World. Retrieved July 6, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Jong, Philip (July 16, 2006). "Roberta Williams Interview". Adventure Classic Gaming. Retrieved July 14, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Ken Williams & Roberta Williams". IGN. News Corporation. Retrieved 2012-02-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Roberta Williams". Allgame. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2012-02-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Mystery House and Sierra On-Line". The Dot Eaters. Retrieved 2012-02-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Moss, Richard (January 26, 2011). "A truly graphic adventure: the 25-year rise and fall of a beloved genre". Ars Technica. Condé Nast Publications. Retrieved 2012-02-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Roberta Williams' Phantasmagoria". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2012-02-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Kuchera, Ben (July 18, 2006). "Roberta Williams: After King's Quest, where did she go?". Ars Technica. Condé Nast Publications. Retrieved 2012-02-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. House, Michael L. "Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals". Allgame. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2012-02-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. GamesSpot at the Wayback Machine (archived May 17, 2005)
  11. CGW 159: The Most Influential People in Computer Gaming
  12. "Roberta Williams Interview". Gamer's Depot. 1999. Archived from the original on November 27, 1999. Retrieved 2007. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  13. Webster, Andrew (August 14, 2011). "Legendary King's Quest designer Roberta Williams working on Facebook's Odd Manor". Gamezebo. Retrieved 2012-02-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Williams, Ken. "Ken Williams". Sierra Gamers. Retrieved 2012-02-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Sierra gamers, Sierragamers.
  16. Legendary King's Quest designer Roberta Williams working on Facebook's Odd Manor

External links