In the fall of 1980, the remote, rural Gold Rush town of Oakhurst, California, became home to Sierra On-Line, a computer game manufacturer that emerged as one of the most successful and iconic game companies of the 1980s and 1990s. Forty years later, Sierra On-Line is long gone from Oakhurst, but its operational and labor infrastructure remain strangely present—a civic palimpsest composed of repurposed buildings, regional archives, local memorials, and the fraying memories of its citizens. This article explores the undocumented dimensions of the computer game industry's supply chain during the final decades of the twentieth century, focusing on the emotional labor and maintenance work involved in sales, customer service, and technical support. Unfolding in three scenes—each pinned to a financial crash, each oriented to the experience of a different female employee—the article traces the material and affective networks that made gaming possible and computers thinkable as machines of everyday life in the late twentieth-century United States.
The Uncredited: Work, Women, and the Making of the U.S. Computer Game Industry
Laine Nooney is a computer and video game historian and an assistant professor of media and information industries in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. Her research has been published in The Atlantic, Game Studies, American Journal of Play, and Digital Creativity. She is a founding editor of ROMchip: A Journal of Game Histories and organizes the leading annual conference for historians of computing as part of her work with the Special Interest Group for Computing, Information, and Society (SIGCIS).
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Laine Nooney; The Uncredited: Work, Women, and the Making of the U.S. Computer Game Industry. Feminist Media Histories 1 January 2020; 6 (1): 119–146. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2020.6.1.119
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