Add a Comment to this Note (list members only)
Dead medium: Computer Game Designer Dies Young, But Outlives Own Games
From: (Stefan Jones)

Obituary by Greg Costikyan
Dani Bunten Berry memorial website

Dan Bunten / Danielle Bunten Berry

(((Stefan Jones remarks: One of the things that primed me to become a delver in Dead Media studies was Bruce Sterling's description, in his speech to the Computer Game Developer's Conference, of the fate of his Atari 800. I owned (own) of of those machines, and spent many hundreds of hours playing games on it before consigning it to a box in the corner of the basement. Although many of its games were far more entertaining than those available for my PC, the trouble of getting it going and loading software from decrepit disk drives took its toll.

(((I just learned that one of the maestros of the Atari platform, Dani Bunten, recently passed away. Bunten's masterpieces, "M.U.L.E." and "Seven Cities of Gold," were utterly at home on the Atari platform. Ports to other platforms were of limited success; indeed, it can be argued that "M.U.L.E." is best played not just on any Atari machine, but one a particular *model,* the Atari 800. It was this particular computer, and no other, that had the extra joystick ports that allowed four players to participate.)))

On her web page, Bunten expresses regrets on the fate of M.U.L.E:

"My only disappointment with the game is that it only exists on long defunct hardware and it looks awful (since those machines only offered 48K of memory and I used it mostly for program rather than graphics). I almost got a Sega Genesis version through EA in '93, but at the Alpha phase they insisted on adding guns and bombs (or something similar) to 'bring it up to date.' I was unable to comply."

From Greg Costikyan's obituary:

"Dani Bunten Berry was a giant.

"I don't mean that she stood six-foot-two, although she did. I mean that she was one of the great artists of our age, one of the creators of the form that will dominate the 21st century, as film has dominated the 20th and the novel the 19th: the art of game design.

"I mean that she displayed a complete mastery of her craft, always pushing the edges of the possible, always producing highly polished work of gem-like consistency and internal integrity."


"This year, at the Computer Game Developer's Conference, she was awarded the CGDA Lifetime Achievement Award. These things, alas, tend to be awarded to the dying. But certainly no one in the field deserved it more."

Dani Bunten Berry's design credits (mostly designed as "Dan Bunten," before her sex change):

WHEELER DEALER, Speakeasy Software, 1978




M.U.L.E., Electronic Arts, 1983

SEVEN CITIES OF GOLD, Electronic Arts, 1984

HEART OF AFRICA, Electronic Arts, 1985

ROBOT RASCALS, Electronic Arts, 1986

MODEM WARS, Electronic Arts, 1988

COMMAND HQ, Microprose, 1990

GLOBAL CONQUEST, Microprose, 1992

(((bruces remarks: Dan Bunten was a guru of his/her field when occupying either gender. Among her numerous aphorisms, this one seems particularly prescient and memorable: "No one on their deathbed ever says 'I wish I'd spent more time alone with my computer.'")))

Stefan Jones (