Seeing as it’s the international Ada Lovelace day today I’d like to take a minute to celebrate one of my heroines, a person who is largely unknown to the public but can be said to have something of a cult status within the world of video games.
Danielle Bunten Berry was one of the great innovators of multiplayer gaming and transformed the gaming space with the funky M.U.L.E. from 1983. In the game, four colonists struggle for a new planet’s resources using customisable cyborg mules. But the game is not about a violent struggle, it is about business, and just as in ordinary business you can either compete or co-operate. The game was one of the early titles published by Electronic Arts, a newly founded company dedicated to treating their developer talent as artists and stars, and Danielle certainly was one.
However, Danielle Bunten Berry wasn’t officially a heroine until 1992. He was a hero. Daniel was a male to female transsexual, and in 1992 performed a sex change to finally be the gender she wanted to be. She later regretted the decision, quoting lost relationships, a disconnection from her old life and a lack of understanding from the people around her.
In 1998 Danielle was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Computer Game Developers Association. Two months later, she died from cancer, never finishing the Internet version she was working on of her 1983 hit M.U.L.E.
Even with her success and career in the relatively open-minded business of game development, Danielle struggled, just like many people living outside of the norm still do. Once, that norm was just being male, and for a big part it still is. For me, recognising heroines and heroes that bring something good to the world while daring to show who they are is a big step in overcoming prejudices. That is why I want to celebrate Danielle Bunten Berry.