REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 24, 2000 -- When Isabella Carniato told her college classmates and professors she was going to work for Microsoft's SideWinder gaming device group, they were shocked. After all, Carniato, a senior at the time at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, was studying architecture and political science. And, of course, she's a woman. How did she win entry into the traditionally male-dominated world of computer games? And why would she want to?
Isabella Carniato - the originator of Game Voice
Carniato, 28, and her husband, Paul Newson, were sitting around the kitchen table at the home of their friends Rod and Joanne Toll. The four were playing poker, but the main topic of conversation wasn't cards -- or the raging heat from the new fireplace. It was how both men and occasional teammate Carniato had gotten trounced the night before playing "capture the flag" in the online game Quake II.
Carniato and Newson were playing from their apartment. Toll was playing from his home across town. Since they were using their single phone lines to connect to the game, they couldn't call one another to strategize. They had the option of typing messages. But they needed their hands to type game commands and to manipulate their computer mice to keep their characters alive in the fast-paced game.
During the poker game, someone -- no one remembers whom -- asked the questions that would change their lives: "Wouldn't it be cool if we could have talked to each other during the game? Is there a way to talk while you are playing?"
At the time, the answers were "Yes" and "No." Yes, it would be cool but, no, it wasn't possible to talk and play over a single phone line. Devices available to talk over the phone line used too much of the line to also run the game.
After spending many nights dreaming up ambitious but impractical scenarios for computer games, they realized this was a problem that needed solving."