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The smell of corned beef and marijuana wafted down the manufacturing line. A woman in a muumuu had hired Shirley, 18 years old and fresh out of high school, on the spot after Shirley confirmed she could play the guitar. Shirley had grown up in poverty in Austin, Texas, and moved out to Silicon Valley when she heard through her cousin that a new company called Atari had lots of job openings.
White Cross was the street name for pure ephedrine. Really love your peaches, want to shake your tree. Later, they got married. Two years after she started, Shirley moved to the production office; after that, customer service. Bushnell himself had never been a controversial award recipient before, like in when he received the coveted BAFTA Fellowship award. Holding board meetings in hot tubsasking a secretary to get in with them. A NotNolan hashtag started up.
Women game deers asked GDC to reconsider giving the award to Bushnell in the wake of MeToo and a heightened awareness of sexism in the workplace. Bushnell declined to answer specific questions for our story, only offering a short ed statement. Every day was not a wet t-shirt contest. Today, stories of hot tub parties, of romantic gestures from a company founder and of lusted-after secretaries would inspire flooded HR inboxes.
Atari was the fastest-growing company in U. Atari pioneered arcade games, yes, but it also established the culture of American entrepreneurial tech and games. Its co-founder, an engineer named Nolan Bushnell, was barking at a carnival arcade before he stumbled upon Spacewar!
Bushnell wondered whether he could make it little and put a coin slot on it. Bushnell and engineer Ted Dabney developed hardware customized specifically for a new game they called Computer Spaceput it in a cabinet, and spun a company out of the idea.
Pong came along soon after, and Atari blossomed into a hundreds-strong operation. But until then, the parties were legendary. There was indeed an on-site hot tub. It was the dawn of modern startup culture, except for one thing: Atari employed women, and a lot of them. InCarol Kantor was a precocious marketer who, after a gig at Clorox, decided to apply to work at a crazy new company called Atari.
They never asked why. Would you play it again? Would you recommend it to friends? Soon, they learned the truth. I went for it. I got money. Chevalier told him she wanted to learn English. Bushnell invited her to work for him Sexy Bushnell women America. She found Atari to be quite different from the companies she was used to working with in France. Coming from clients where you were the assistant of the director because you could never get that position—they were very chauvinistic—I went from assistant to credit manager at Atari.
For the last 26 years, Chevalier has owned her own company, a warehouse for slot machines outside Las Vegas. In other divisions, predictably the more technical ones, women were more sparsely scattered. In these divisions, a few women have indicated that they suffered some inappropriate, gender-based behavior. I grew a thicker skin. Wanda Hill was an electrical-mechanical drafter who, with pencil and paper, sketched out patterns for printed circuit boards for games like Asteroidswhich would get handed off to the board manufacturers.
When Hill and her engineering kin were preparing Sexy Bushnell women move to the new mustard-yellow engineering building, her cubicle neighbor was tasked with drawing up plans for a volleyball court. Employees, many of whom were in their 20s, changed into short shorts and cropped tops to play.
In the books chronicling video game history, Atari is painted like something of a frat house, a post-Summer of Love den of pot and sex. Strung together, they conjure a vision of a Mad Men -esque work environment, riddled with toxic power dynamics between men and women. The truth, as it often is, is harder to nail down. Those who have written history books on Atari point out that many of the stories traded around Twitter in the wake of NotNolan were distorted. Yes, Atari walked a thin tightrope between sexy and sexist, depending on who you ask about it.
Workplace romances were extremely common at Atari, but no one Kotaku was able to reach described any coercive behavior from male employees. Several employees say that male colleagues, including Bushnell, asked them on dates to dinner, movies or concerts, and sometimes they said yes, and sometimes, no.
Sometimes, there was no song-and-dance of candlelit dinners. Shirley was once invited to a clothing-optional party, and declined.
I did the color schemes and everything for the whole building. According to Goldberg, who co-wrote the book Atari Inc. The rumor is that, in a few group scenes, some Atari employees participated. And yes, Atari was indeed home to a hot tub that, on alternating days, allowed in women or men, and on Friday, was co-ed.
The tub was partly deed, with an Atari logo embedded in the orange and blue tiles, by Atari employee Loni Reeder, who was the department coordinator for communications, security and facilities. No big deal. With all my heart, I believe he was joking.
It was never pressure. I went out with one of the directors for 10 years. We used to meet our boyfriends at work. Today, asking out female colleagues is controversial. Inviting female colleagues to no-clothes parties would almost certainly incite a firm letter to HR. The question of whether Atari was a sexist place to work is only answerable by the people who worked there, but the question of whether we should be celebrating the man who created this culture in is up for debate.
The games industry today has a clear problem hiring and retaining female game developers, with only 15 percent of game developers in identifying as women. Sexual harassment in the tech and games industry have pushed many, many women outaccording to anecdotes in books like Lean Out: The Struggle For Gender Equality in Tech and Start-up Culture. Today, when there is a quantifiable breakdown across gender lines in who holds power at tech companies, it can be uncomfortable and potentially risky for women in games to turn down romantic advances from men they work with.
Carly Kocurek is a professor at the Illinois institute of Technology who literally wrote the book on the early culture around coin-operated games: Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade. It could have happened anywhere, she thought, flipping through her notes, and to her, that was telling. Over the phone, Kocurek recalled a story about being a freshman at her college in Texas. Older students were passing down a long-held tradition of vulgar cheers to her class.
At first, she found it exciting, in the spirit of college. Then, suddenly, there was a movement pushing back against it. She thought the cheers were fun. Years later, when she heard the cheers again, something clicked. I get itshe thought. Gillian Smith, a professor of game de at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, had a viral NotNolan tweet that collected several of the aforementioned anecdotes about the company.
Within two years, Bushnell was out. Warner installed as president Ray Kassar, an executive from the textiles industry. With its bullish spirit wrestled to the ground, Atari got corporate.
As historian Martin Goldberg tells it, Kassar called a meeting early on to discuss a new business Atari would soon move into: personal computers. Could they de these things to be color-coordinated, he asked—you know, for women in the kitchen? How about adding in programs so women could file all their recipes? The vibes were harsh. Many started to leave for other tech companies, where their gender turned out to be more of an issue.
Kathleen Jardine began at Atari as a customer service clerk and left as a production planning supervisor in And 26 years after she first walked onto that Pong assembly line, Elaine Shirley took another job, one where her new boss often lost his temper and yelled. She tried to quit in her first meeting with him. About a quarter of Sexy Bushnell women women I interviewed said that they can claim MeToo, but that their time at Atari had nothing to do with it. Correction— a. We have changed the article to reflect this and regret the error.
The article has been corrected to reflect this. Cecilia, this is really great, this is actually amazing. You were channeling some real Joan Didion here, Cecilia, no kidding. You, Heather, Fahey, and the rest are real inspirations, real role models for the sorts of people that love video games enough to want to write about them.
No one else is covering this stuff, no one else takes games seriously enough to warrant an article this long, this detailed, this well drawn about a subject that I suspect very little people have ever thought about. Kotaku really should have a printed, published magazine because pieces like this belong there, on physical paper in all its glossy glory. The A. Illustration by Angelica Alzona.Sexy Bushnell women
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