Jamie Fenton

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Jamie Fenton

Jamie Fenton is a software engineer and one of the pioneers of game programming.

Fenton was born as Jay Fenton in 1964. He was drawn to computer technology while still in school. He started college in 1972 at the University of Wisconsin Madison in Milwaukee and took courses on programming. After college he worked at Dave Nutting Associates who had the patent on using microprocessor system with a video frame buffer to create game animation. Fenton initially worked on pinball machines but working on video games was his dream. He worked with Dave Nutting and built a prototype BlackJack game in cocktail table format. It included a payoff chute, which is probably the first computer-controlled card game gambling device and was used extensively in VideoPoker and BlackJack games in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

In the late 1970s and early 80s, Fenton programmed a number of arcade video games. It started in 1977 with Fenton leading a group that designed and implemented a ROM based operating system for the Bally Arcade Video Game system. Fenton is most well-known for programming the GORF coin operated video game in 1980, which was released in 1981 by Midway Mfg. GORF stood for ‘Galactic Orbital Robot Force’ and was the first game to show multiple scenes. The player controlled a spaceship that moved in four directions on screen. GORF consisted of five distinct ‘missions’ – Astro Battles, Laser Attack, Galaxians, Space Warp and Flag Ship - each with a different pattern of enemies. It also featured a speech chip that hurled insults at the player. In 1981, Fenton programmed the Robby Roto (The Adventures of Roby Roto) arcade game produced by Bally/Midway. However, it wasn’t so successful commercially and the rights reverted back to Fenton.

In 1985, Fenton formed a corporation called MarcoMind with Marc Canter and Mark Pierce. Fenton did most of the coding for their early products like Music Works and Video Works, which were the first programs in their categories to ship on the original Apple Macintosh. In 1989, Fenton left MacroMind to work with Alan Kay’s Vivarium Project and developed a number of prototype programming environments for children called Playground.

In the years since leaving Midway, Jay Fenton has identified as transgender and changed her name to Jamie Faye Fenton. The number of male-to-female transgender individuals in game design in the 1990s was in the double-digits. She continued working on game programming, working at VIPTone from 2001-2003, then at a startup company called Module Systems from 2004 to 2006. After that she developed a prototype hand-held game called The Camera Gun, which used cellular phones and hand-held gaming platforms. Since 2012, she has been working on the platform multimedia and performance teams of Amazon Lab 126 that designed and built the Amazon Kindle and Kindle Fire tablets.

Fenton lives in Sunnyvale, California and is active in the transgender community. She supports several San Fransisco Bay Area transgender organizations. She maintains a strong internet presence on the Transgender Forum writing articles, blogs and book reviews on transgender theory and sexuality.