Van Tran's Story - The Woman Who Made the First Video Game with a Female Protagonist

Van Tran's Story - The Woman Who Made the First Video Game with a Female Protagonist ...

There are currently a number of video games with fantastic female protagonists, from newer titles like Horizon: Forbidden West, to more long-standing franchises, like Tomb Raider. These are, however, far from the oldest female-led games. Apollo, the company that has been declared as the first video game to have a named, playable female protagonist.

Wabbit is an important component of video game history in itself. It is not only celebrated today for its female protagonist, but it also garnered some interest then for its excellent graphics. That said, Wabbit has an underlying narrative that is even more intriguing.

The Search for Ban Tran

People searched for Wabbit''s elusive designer, Ban Tran, before she disappeared from the video game scene without a clue. Consequently, video game historians and enthusiasts got to work.

Kevin Bunch of the Atari Archive and Kate Willaert of a Critical Hit had their attention cut out for them in 2019. Bunch received dozens of letters in 2019, all addressed to the same name. Meanwhile, Willaert reached out to former Apollo colleagues, as well as the subsequently formed MicroGraphic Image. Unfortunately, the "Ban Tran" they were looking for never responded.

In 2021, Willaert detailed the duos findings on Twitter, exploding into their communities in an attempt to learn more. Eventually, the Video Game History Foundation invested in helping. A Discord channel was opened for discovering Ban Tran, requesting that their community be involved in the search.

A breakthrough came to an end. Apollo Ban Trans, a former company and the publisher of Wabbit, had filed for bankruptcy in 1982, likely due in part to the video game crash of 1983. As such, the group found Ban Tran in the old bankruptcy records. Here, they identified two other former employees, including a Van Tran, the woman they were looking for. With this information, the group was finally able to contact Van Tran, who had since married and now coined the name Van Mai.

Showcasing Wabbit and Its Creator

Bunch, Willaert, and the Video Game History Foundation have both released a video, as well as a video showing Mai. She had moved to the United States as a refugee during the Vietnam War. She then ventured into computer programming and eventually applied for a position in the gaming company Games by Apollo Inc.

Dan Oliver, a former Apollo developer, said in an old forum post that Mai was not the type of person he would anticipate to attend Apollo not a nerd in terms of skill. In the end, Oliver said, the Atari VCS became much more powerful and much more powerful. Despite the fact that Night Trap became a popular horror game from the 1990s, Oliver revealed.

Mai''s fears began to worsen, and she got the job. Later, she raised the possibility of developing a Atari game for her children, which would later be Wabbit. It was a powerful game, especially due to its rich features and appearance, despite the limitations of consoles at the time.

Mai started working on another Apollo game shortly after her bankruptcy. However, she was hired to create an Atari 5200 port for Solar Fox, a video company that was previously closed. She then transferred to a computer science degree. Although she currently does not work in the video game industry, she always strives to be a game developer.

Women in Gaming

In the past, the video gaming industry was most commonly viewed as a space for males, sowohl in terms of its providers as well as consumers. Van Mais''s contribution to video gaming history has shown that this is not at all the case. Mai was a female game designer who wanted to develop a video game for young girls. However, there is also evidence in video gaming history, which makes it all more important to write about them today.

The fact that video games are made solely by and for men is detrimental to the gaming industry as a whole. It prohibits women from entering the gaming industry while also assisting in generating stereotypes about females. Moreover, uncovering video game history and the women who contributed to it is an excellent way to dismiss such unfounded notions. It also empowers females in the gaming arena, demonstrating them that they do belong in the field.

Although the gaming scene is still primarily dominated by males, it made leaps and bounds towards becoming more inclusive of women. More women are collaborating in the industry, and, as stated earlier, more games feature female protagonists, a feat no doubt pioneered by Van Mai and Wabbit. However, there is still a long way to go before the video game industry is truly inclusive of women. However, this is certainly a start.