the Video Game History Foundation eventually found the developer of Wabbit, which would be the first console game to feature a playable human girl lead.
In 2021, Polygon published an article about research by the Video Game History Foundation of the developer of Wabbit in collaboration with Kevin Bunch, a video game historian who maintains the Atari Archivesand A critical hitIt’s Kate Willaert. However, all they had about the developer at the time was that she was a Vietnamese woman named “Ban Tran”, which turned out to be a fairly common name in Texas, where she developed Wabbit and another unique game. As Bunch said when speaking to Polygon, shortly after working on these projects, Tran became “kind of a ghost,” which makes her especially hard to track down.
Turns out they were one letter away and his real name was Van. Van Mai (as she now goes by a married name) was found when a Discord member of the search effort decided to scour bankruptcy records at the National Archives of Texas. Since most of her colleagues at Apollo, where she directed Wabbit, had to deposit royalty checks following the bankruptcy and closure of the studio, it was assumed that recordings of her could be found there, and they were okay. Following Mai’s discovery, the Video Game History Foundation was able to catch up with her and talk about his time in the video game industry.
Mai immigrated to America near the end of the Vietnam War and settled in Dallas, where she later earned her GED and programming certification and helped program learning computers for the Dallas Independent School District. When her job there was cut, she applied and started working at Apollo, where she eventually developed and published Wabbit. Wabbit featured Billie Sue, who would be the first human girl protagonist in console video games, chasing rabbits trying to eat carrots from her farm.
Mai wouldn’t end up making too many games, working on an unreleased home conversion of the Solar Fox arcade game at another studio after Apollo went bankrupt. After leaving that studio, she moved to California to get a degree in computer science and eventually found work at a telecommunications company. Mai currently works in banking, but admitted to the Video Game History Foundation that she has occasionally thought about returning to development.
GameSpot may earn a commission on retail offers.