It’s sad to say but there is still a strong prejudice when it comes to women involved in the video game world. Females that game deal with a certain level of sexism and doubt about their abilities and passions. Women who want to report on games struggle to get taken seriously and not as glorified “booth babes”. Sadly the number of women making games for some of the major game companies is depressingly small.
All is not lost though, as women are breaking into the world everyday. It’s worth noting that the following women helped to create the games that you love and play.
Amy Hennig started working for the Nintendo Entertainment System, later moving on to Crystal Dynamics. While at Crystal Dynamics her main work was focused on the Legacy of Kain series. After that, she went to Naughty Dog were she worked on the Jak and Daxter series. Currently, Amy is the head writer and creative director for the Uncharted series. It is worth noting that Amy Hennig emphasizes the importance of a good script for the games that she works on. The rich and complex story telling in the Uncharted series is largely credited to her influence and her writing.
Carol Shaw is often considered the first female video game designer. She started working for Atari in the days of the 2600. Later, Carol ended up at Activision where she was a programmer for River Raid. When talking about important women in video games, Carol stands out because she was really working on video games from the ground up. She was there challenging the prejudice of women within the video games industry when it was first starting to be built.
In her earlier career Siobhan Reddy was producer for Criterion Games. While there she worked on famous titles such as Burnout 3 and Burnout 4. She left to become the co-founder and Studio Director of Media Molecule. As many people know, Media Molecule has created the Little Big Planet series and is working on the upcoming Tearaway. Siobhan Reddy and her team are known for emphasizing creative gameplay with their games.
Dona started with Atari’s coin-operated division in 1980. At that time she was the only woman working in that division. She was one of two people that created the arcade version of Centipede. As with Carol Shaw, the importance of having a woman working for these companies when they were laying their ground work cannot be overstated.
Jane McGonigal designs what are referred to as alternate reality games. Her goal is for her games to challenge players to face real-world problems via video games. She has used her games to tackle a wide range of issues and encourages people to go out in the real world and try to get involved with and find solutions to these problems. Her most famous game is Superbetter which helps gamers deal with things such as depression and traumatic brain injuries. As far as creating innovative games goes, Jane is really a stand out in the industry.
Brenda Brathwaite was developer and publisher at Sir-Tech Software. While there she was a Lead-Designer for the Wizardry series and worked on Jagged Alliance and Realms of Arkania. At Cyberlore Studios Brenda worked on Playboy: The Mansion video game. As she worked on that game, she used that experience and research to write her book, Sex in Video Games. She later co-founded Loot Drops, a social games-based company. She is also a strong supporter of women being more involved in the development of video games andb is outspoken about the need to hire more women to create games.
Long ago, Kim Swift worked on the game Narbacular Drop. You may or may not know that title, but it was the game that a group of college students worked on and then presented to Valve, who then used that game as the frame work for Portal. Kim was the leader for the Portal team as well as a level designer for the title. She then continued to work for Valve and was involved in Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. She left Valve for Airtight Games where she worked on Quantum Conundrum.
Roberta Williams was the co-founder of Sierra On-Line. While there she worked on Mystery House, the King’s Quest series, and Phantasmagoria. These were groundbreaking games for the graphic adventure genre. Not only was she a major pioneer for graphic adventure games but PC gaming as a whole. Roberta was very important and essential not only to these games but to the success of Sierra On-Line in general. It’s thanks to Sierra On-Line and Roberta that PC gaming was able to become key in the video game world.
In her early career, Corrinne Yu was a programmer for King’s Quest. She also worked on the code base for Quake 2 and all of the games built on that same engine. Later she became Director of Technology for Gearbox Software. She currently works for 343 Industries, which is famous for working on the Halo franchise. For Halo 4 she programmed the lighting and facial animation.
It’s thanks to these and many more amazing women that gamers have been enjoying a wide range of great games. They have been there since the beginning, guiding the industry in creating some of the best games out there.
Other areas women are making an impact worth keeping an eye out for
It’s also worth noting that women are shaping the industry without actually working for major studios or even developing games. While they effect the video game industry in totally different ways, it’s still a unique and important part is how the video game industry is shaped and how games are developed.
Morgan Webb, Alanah Pearce, Danielle Mackey, and women reporting on games: There is a large world of video game websites and shows. Morgan Webb is famous for her work with Tech TV (later G4). Alanah Pearce reports for a number of gaming sites including Xbox Australia . Danielle is known for the online handle TradeChat and hosts a WoW weekly recap. In the world of blogs, sites, vlogs, and TV shows, there are tons of women out there that are reporting on games and are worth watching.
Felicia Day, voice actress and video game enthusiast: She became famous for her role on The Guild, which was a show that followed a guild obsessed with their game. Felicia Day has been a voice actress in games including Fallout: New Vegas. She is also a gaming enthusiast and promoter of the gaming world. She is not the only one though, women are helping to lend their amazing voices to the wonderful female characters in games.
Tami Baribeau, Studio Director for Playforge: The wonderful thing about indie games taking off is that so many more women are able to break into the industry. Watch out for more women like Tami working for small studios that are going to make their move into the world of video game development.
And of course all of the women out there playing, making, writing for/about, and promoting games and females involved in the industry. We are out there and doing amazing things!