I. Love. Polygon. This piece takes you from the early history of video games through the economics and evolution of marketing to the present day, with stops along the way for Budweiser Tapper, the NES and SNES, and Sierra's Lori Cole. This is one of those great articles that pats you on the back for the things you already know and then connects the dots for some of the things you hadn't quite clicked together yet and then leaves you with a better understanding than you had before.
Fun story about an early Atari engineer, in part:
Carol Shaw was the first female developer Atari hired. She is best known for designing and programming River Raid for the Atari 2600 at Activision. She says never got the sense that the games she made were for one gender or another, and there was never a mandate from higher-ups to target a certain audience. When she interviewed for the job, she didn't believe she was at any disadvantage because she was a woman, nor did she feel that video games were the realm of men. She knew not many women held bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science and engineering, but she held both. She was qualified to do the job, and that was that. "We never really discussed who our target demographic was," she says. "We didn't discuss gender or age. We just did games we thought would be fun."
The only time Shaw remembers the subject of gendering games coming up was when, Ray Kassar, who would later become president and CEO of Atari, remarked, "Gee, now that Atari has a female game designer, she can do interior decorating and cosmetic color-matching games!" He laughed. Shaw rolled her eyes. When Kassar left the room, her fellow game developers turned to her: "Don't pay attention to him," they said. "Just do whatever you want."