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After three divorces and several years considering his gender, Dan Bunten opted to have sex-reassignment surgery in 1992, a choice that seems to have put game development on the back burner during the final years of her life while she adjusted to a new existence as a woman. A planned sequel to "M.U.L.E.," called "Son of M.U.L.E." fell through (over, Bunten said in an online game design memoir, EA's insistence that the game include shooting and bombs), and Ozark Softscape and EA parted ways. A plan to transfer the original "M.U.L.E." to the Sega Genesis console was scuttled, and Ozark Softscape closed soon after. Bunten worked for a year at Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's think tank, Interval Research, before beginning to develop games for online publisher MPath. Mpath would publish Bunten's final game, "Warsport" in 1997. "I'm a little more than three years into my new life role as Ms. Danielle Berry," she told James Hague for "The Halcyon Days," "and her career looks to be somewhat different from old Mr. Dan Bunten's. For one thing, I'm not as good a programmer as he was. I'm also not willing to sit for hours in front of a computer to make something that other people can use to socialize. I tend to need to socialize far more often than he did."
Emily Sneddon met Dani Bunten Berry after the gender-reassignment surgery, and they soon became fast friends. Sneddon recalls Dani Bunten as very intelligent, very lively, well read, and constantly working on several projects related to games.
Sneddon said that several times while she was at Bunten's home, the phone would ring, and it would be an admirer of one of the Ozark Softscape titles who had somehow tracked down Dani's number. Dani, Sneddon said, never failed to have a friendly chat with those who called. "They were basically fans, calling her, saying 'We've been playing your old version of 'M.U.L.E.' These were people who'd kept their old machines so they could still play her games," Sneddon said. "She was always very gracious."
Dani Bunten was diagnosed with lung cancer around the time "Warsport" was published, likely due to years of heavy smoking. On Jan. 3, 1998, two months after being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Computer Game Developers Association, largely estranged from her family over the decision to go through with gender-reassignment surgery, Dani Bunten died in a Little Rock hospice. Former EA producer Susan Lee-Merrow read a eulogy at Dani's funeral, and said she was shocked by how many of those in attendance knew almost nothing at all about Dani's life as a pioneering game designer. Dani Bunten's obituary in the next day's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was small, less than half a column, with no photo.
The public has spoken. Get over it!
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