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Rebecca Heineman

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Rebecca Ann Heineman
Heineman at the Game Developers Conference 2024
Born (1963-10-30) October 30, 1963 (age 60)
Other namesBurger
Occupation(s)Video game designer, programmer
EmployerOlde Sküül
Known forThe Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate, Dragon Wars
SpouseJennell Jaquays

Rebecca Ann Heineman is an American video game designer and programmer. Heineman was a founding member of video game companies Interplay Productions, Logicware, Contraband Entertainment, and Olde Sküül. She has been chief executive officer for Olde Sküül since 2013.

Early life[edit]

Rebecca Ann Heineman was born William Salvador Heineman[1] on October 30, 1963,[2][3] and raised in Whittier, California.[4] When she was young, she could not afford to purchase games for her Atari 2600, so she taught herself how to copy cartridges and built herself a sizable pirated video game collection. Eventually, she became discontented with just copying games and reverse-engineered the console's code to understand how the games were made.[5] In 1980, Heineman and a friend traveled to Los Angeles to compete in a regional branch of a national Space Invaders championship. Although she did not expect to fall under the top 100 contestants, she won the competition. Later that year, she also won the championship in New York. Heineman is hence considered to be the first national video game tournament champion.[5]


After she won the tournament, Heineman was offered a writing job for monthly magazine Electronic Games and a consultancy job for a book called How to Master Video Games. During this time, she mentioned to one magazine publisher that she had reverse-engineered Atari 2600 code, and the publisher arranged a meeting between Heineman and the owners of game publisher Avalon Hill. As she met with them, she was hired as a programmer instantaneously. Heineman, aged 16 at the time, moved across the U.S. for her new job, canceling her plans to acquire a high school diploma. At Avalon Hill, Heineman created a manual for the company's programming team, the studio's game engine, and the base code for several software projects, including her own first game, London Blitz, before leaving the company.[5]

Heineman returned to California to work for another developer, Boone Corporation. For Boone, she programmed the games Chuck Norris Superkicks and Robin Hood, acquiring knowledge of programming for Commodore 64, Apple II, VIC-20 and IBM PCs, of video game hardware, as well as video game design. Boone ceased operations in 1983, so Heineman got together with Brian Fargo, Jay Patel and Troy Worrell, and the four founded Interplay Productions (later known as Interplay Entertainment). Heineman acted as lead programmer for the company, working on Wasteland, The Bard's Tale, Out of This World, and the Mac OS and 3DO ports of Wolfenstein 3D.[5]

Heineman went on to design The Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate, Dragon Wars, Tass Times in Tonetown, Borrowed Time, Mindshadow and The Tracer Sanction, among others, for Interplay. As the company grew to more than 500 employees, Heineman, wishing to return to her small-team roots, left the company in 1995 and co-founded Logicware, where she acted as chief technology officer and lead programmer. Aside from original games, Heineman oversaw the company's porting activities, which included Out of This World, Shattered Steel, Jazz Jackrabbit 2 and a canceled Mac OS port of Half-Life.[5]

In 1999, Heineman founded Contraband Entertainment, operating as its chief executive officer. The company developed several original games alongside ports to various platforms for other developers. Projects led by Heineman include Myth III: The Wolf Age and Activision Anthology, and Mac OS ports for Aliens vs. Predator, Baldur's Gate II and Heroes of Might and Magic IV. During this time, she also provided consultancy work directly for other companies: She acted as "Senior Engineer III" for Electronic Arts, upgraded engine code for Barking Lizards Technologies and Ubisoft, optimized code for Sensory Sweep Studios, acted as senior software architect for Bloomberg L.P. and Amazon, provided training on Xbox 360 development for Microsoft's development studios, and worked on the kernel code for the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 4 at Sony. During her tenure at Amazon, Heineman was, in addition to her technological role, also the "Transgender Chair" of Amazon's LGBTQ+ group, known as Glamazon.[5]

Contraband was wound down in 2013, and Heineman founded a new company, Olde Sküül, together with Jennell Jaquays, Maurine Starkey, and Susan Manley. At Olde Sküül, Heineman acts as CEO.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Around 2003, Heineman was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and began transitioning to live as a woman.[1][6] She formally changed her given name to Rebecca Ann.[1][7] Since the transition, Heineman has been living as a lesbian.[1] She has five children and was married to Jennell Jaquays until the death of the latter.[1][8] Heineman resides in El Cerrito, California, where her company Olde Sküül is located.[5][9]

Board service[edit]

Heineman has been part of the advisory board of the Video Game History Museum since 2011, and was part of the board of directors of LGBTQ+ organization GLAAD.[5]


Heineman is recognized as the first national video game tournament champion for winning the 1980 National Space Invaders Championship.[5] Sailor Ranko, a Sailor Moon-based fanfiction comic by Heineman based on an earlier work written by Duncan Zillman, has won multiple awards. She also tried to qualify for the Fortnite World Cup.[10][5] In 2017, she became an inductee for the International Video Game Hall of Fame.[5]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Barton, Matt (December 27, 2010). "The Burger Speaks: An Interview With An Archmage, Page 1 of 7". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on February 4, 2019. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  2. ^ Heineman, Rebecca [@burgerbecky] (May 5, 2021). "57 here" (Tweet). Archived from the original on May 5, 2021. Retrieved March 24, 2024 – via Twitter.
  3. ^ Heineman, Rebecca [@burgerbecky] (October 29, 2023). "October 30th is my birthday" (Tweet). Archived from the original on March 24, 2024. Retrieved March 24, 2024 – via Twitter.
  4. ^ "Rebecca_Heineman". Olde Sküül. Archived from the original on February 3, 2021. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Marie, Meagan (December 4, 2018). Women in Gaming: 100 Professionals of Play. Dorling Kindersley. pp. 32–33. ISBN 9780241395066.
  6. ^ Heineman, Rebecca (March 29, 2005). "A new day in a new life". LiveJournal. Archived from the original on August 18, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  7. ^ Barton, Matt (February 22, 2008). Dungeons and Desktops: The History of Computer Role-Playing Games. CRC Press. p. 197. ISBN 9781439865248.
  8. ^ Ennis, Dawn (April 1, 2015). "This Year's Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Who's Who". Advocate. Archived from the original on November 16, 2018. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  9. ^ "This is Burger Becky?". Burger Becky. Archived from the original on February 16, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  10. ^ Rebecca, Heineman. "The people who bring you Sailor Ranko". Sailor Ranko. Archived from the original on November 21, 2020. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
  11. ^ a b Drury, Paul (May 2019). "In the chair with... Rebecca Heineman". Retro Gamer. No. 192. Future plc. p. 92.

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