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



After a year-long search, historians have tracked down and interviewed Van Mai, the woman who programmed Wabbit for Atari 2600, notable for being the first console game with a playable female character you could actually call a ‘character.’

The history of playable women in video games is surprisingly complicated, and the subject of an ongoing investigation series from historian and YouTuber “Critical Kate” Willært. In short, the first playable female character was in an arcade game called Score, which had a gender switch on the front of the cabinet. The earliest games with dedicated female protagonists were bits of erotica 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 really counts as a playable woman is a debatable matter.

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