This Dona Bailey Interview On Atari’s ‘Centipede’ Is Everything

“I guess I was a pioneer.”

Lisette Voytko
Oct 19, 2017 · 2 min read

I’m absolutely in love with this Dona Bailey interview, released this week by VICE’s Motherboard:

Bailey is the mastermind who created “Centipede”, Atari’s second-most successful arcade game, and its first to be designed by a woman.

Bailey was turned onto video games after a friend took her to play “Space Invaders” at a local arcade. She didn’t understand how to play, initially, but she recognized that the game’s design was reminiscent of the display she used at GM when working on the Cadillac.

In that instant, Bailey was hooked–and set on working for Atari.

“I knew that I was one of maybe a handful of women in America who had had assembly language experience, at all, and I felt like that made me one of the most qualified women in America to be hired by Atari to try to make a game,” explains Bailey. “I guess I was a pioneer.”

She was hired by Atari, shown to her cubicle, and told to make a game. The idea she went with?

“A multi-segmented insect crawls onto the screen and is shot by the player. It didn’t seem bad to shoot a bug, so that was the one I picked,” said Bailey.

The resulting game, “Centipede”, became a blockbuster hit for Atari, and was one of the first coin-ops to have a significantly large female player base. With the magic of the Internet, you can play on your computer or mobile device here:

Bailey cites that today, women make up 10% of the workforce in the video games industry, and is not a large scale of growth over the past 30 years.

“I hate that women have fight against something instead of being able to just do their work,” Bailey said.

Yeah. Me too.


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Lisette Voytko

Written by

Journalist. Words for Village Voice, Thrillist, Brokelyn, Playbuzz, xoJane, Femsplain, and Task & Purpose. lisette.voytko@gmail.com

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