5 Kick-Ass Women in the Game Industry

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by WesleyG

Lets start this list with one of the most well known female voices in indie gaming today, Zoe Quinn.

She's the creator of Depression Quest and a frequent participant of game jams. She's also well-known for being the constant target of harassment that ranges from misspelled attacks to in-depth conspiracy theories. In an industry that would rather cover up and ignore, her willingness to share that harassment in an effort to shed light on the underbelly of the gaming community has made her a respected figure for equality in gaming.

Personally, I'd recommend everyone go play Depression Quest, which is free to play on her website. It wasn't an easy game for me as it brought up memories and feelings from my own struggles with depression back in high school and college.

She's currently working on It's Not Okay, Cupid, a game based on the dating site OK Cupid, and is the narrative designer on Framed.

Robin Hunicke studied "dynamic difficulty adjustment in games" as a graduate student at Northwestern University. During her studies she worked on a mod for Half-Life that adjusted the game's difficulty based on the player's performance before Left 4 Dead's AI Director became a thing.

After a conversation with Will Wright at a conference, she decided to make the jump into the game industry, designing expansion packs for The Sims and becoming the lead designer on MySims. She's best known for her work with thatgamecompany as the Executive Producer for Journey. She's currently the co-founder and CEO of Funomena working on a mostly-unannounced commercial game.

What drives her is her desire to create games that elicit feelings from the player. She recently spoke at Humlab in Sweden about a concept she calls "Feeling-First Games." The short version of it tasks independent developers with building games centered around the desired emotional outcome of the game instead of building games around which mechanics you want to use (is it a shooter, a racing game, etc). A basic synopsis doesn't do the presentation justice, so I highly recommend watching it for yourself.

Kim Swift got her start in games at the Digipen Institute of Technology where she helped code a puzzle game called Narbacular Drop. Kim and her team exhibited the game at a Digipen career fair, where Valve developer Robin Walker invited her and her team to do a presentation of the game for Valve. The team accepted and after their presentation Gabe Newell gave the entire team a job offer to build a new game just like Narbacular Drop.

Kim Swift would become the lead designer on that new game which the world would come to know as Portal. Kim would continue to work on other Valve games such as Left for Dead 1 & 2 before leaving the company in November of 2009 to join Airtight Games.

She created games such as Quantum Conundrum and the Ouya exclusive Soul Fjord before being hired by Amazon last month to help bolster Amazon's new video game development studio. According to Kim's very own LinkedIn page, she's currently "working on secret things for a secret amount of time that no one can know about. Shhhhh."

At the age of 12 years old, Corrinne Yu took advantage of the Apple II donated to her junior high school and began programming games. She's credited as an elite programmer on the classic King's Quest series on the Apple II, as well as creating the game engines that would power such games as Borderlands, Halo 4, Quake 2, and others.

Outside of the game industry, she's also programmed for NASA in a key role on America’s Space Shuttle Program at Rockwell International California, making her one of the only people to program both real and virtual spaceships. She's currently working at Naughty Dog, coding animation and graphics for PS4 titles including a remastered edition of The Last of Us.

Amy Hennig got her Bachelor's degree in English literature from Cal University with her eyes set on the film industry, until she took at job as an artist for Atari. While working on the game Electrocop, she decided that games are "a more interesting and pioneering medium than film" and dropped out of film school to begin her gaming career.

She became the lead designer on Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City before she made a name for herself at Crystal Dynamics as the writer, producer, and director of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. She's best known for her work at Naughty Dog on the Uncharted franchise as game director of the original as well as head writer on Among Thieves and Drake's Deception (the last two earned her the Writer's Guild Award for Video Game Writing in 2010 and 2012).

After being reportedly "forced out" of Naughty Dog back in March, she's now working at Visceral Games as the creative director of a currently unknown Star Wars project. If Uncharted 4 takes a dip in quality while a Star Wars game suddenly becomes the new benchmark in storytelling in video games, you'll know why.

Who are some of your favorite women in the game industry? Leave a comment and let us know who deserves to be recognized.

Published May. 4th 2014

Columnist

I'm a freelance contributor that adores the art and culture of gaming. I'm an indie game enthusiast who loves supporting a game with a small budget and new ideas. I also love pro wrestling, tabletop RPGs, and Cadbury Creme Eggs.

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