In the last decade, the topic of gender equality has become a major talking point. But in the world of gaming, the conversation has been slow on the uptake. Even now, women who work in the gaming industry often go unrecognized. They are still somewhat overshadowed by their male counterparts, despite the fact that the global ratio of male to female gamers is roughly one to one.
Forbes released some eye-opening statistics on the current state of gaming. Asia accounts for 48% of the global gaming revenue. Of this impressive statistic, 40-45% of gamers are women. Furthermore, as of 2020, 46% of individuals working in the professional gaming industry are women.
The hope that’s inspired by the fact that almost half of the industry is female is quickly undermined when you learn executive positions remain predominantly male—84% to be exact. A staggering (but not surprising) 45% of women working in the gaming industry believed their gender was a hindrance to their professional advancement.
Regardless of these statistics, the world is changing. There’s now no shortage to the number of inspiring female game designers and developers paving the way for women in the gaming world. We’ve compiled a list of the first few that come to mind. It’s safe to say that without these women, the gaming industry just wouldn’t be the same.
This American-born video game developer is amongst the most influential women in gaming today. After studying journalism and art at the University of Washington, Wolfkill got involved in multimedia and then art for Microsoft’s video games.
It was Wolfkill’s destiny to be a racer. Both of her parents were competitive racers, and she was a competent driver on the tracks at the tender age of 13. She speaks fondly of her parents’ unconditional love and support that was never laced with gendered prejudices or expectations. From a young age, she was inspired to be ambitious and unapologetic in her pursuit of success and fulfillment.
When working at Microsoft, she got involved in Project Gotham Racing and Midtown Madness. She took it upon herself to race cars rigged with microphones to collect authentic audio recordings for these games. She carried on to head up Halo’s cross-media entertainment division, and the franchise has since sold 77 million copies. In 2013, Forbes awarded her the honor of being one of the 10 Most Powerful Women in Gaming.
Being the very first recipient of the Microsoft Women in Gaming Awards in 2009, Siobhan Reddy is a heavyweight in the gaming industry. She was born in South Africa but grew up in Australia, where she developed a keen interest in music and film. Her peers speak with admiration of her never-ending creative inspiration and passion. At the age of 18, she moved to the UK to work at Perfect Entertainment. In 2013, BBC announced that she was chosen as one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK. That same year, Qantas named her their Australian Woman of the Year.
She’s been applauded for being a trailblazer in this male-dominated sphere. Reddy is the boss, brains, and brilliance behind Media Molecule. This computer developing company is well known for the multi-award winning release, Little Big Planet.
Any enthusiastic gamer will have played, or at least heard of, the game Portal. Kim Swift, a world-renowned video game designer, led the team of designers and developers that created this iconic game. Fortune selected her as one of their 30 Under 30 significant figures in the gaming world. Her innovative enthusiasm was captured in a 2012 interview with Wired in which she expressed that, in her opinion, video games are “a socially acceptable way for adults to imagine”.
Since its inception, Portal has worked its way into a new category of prestige. The popular game is one of the 14 games that have secured a permanent spot in the Museum of Modern Art. Besides Portal, Swift received congratulations for her work for Left 4 Dead and Half-Life 2: Episode 2. In 2020, Swift had the honor of hosting the Game Developers Choice Awards.
Amy Hennig is a name that will forever echo in the gaming hall of fame. She is best known for her work on the Legacy of Kain games and the Uncharted series where she functioned as both a video game writer and director. Her first design was for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System for a game called Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City. She maintains the belief that the creative direction of a game is more valuable than the game’s graphics.
Edge magazine confidently deemed her to be one of the most influential people in the gaming industry. In 2019, Hennig achieved what every professional game developer or designer dreams of the Games Developers Choice Awards’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
This Canadian video game creator is most famous for her contributions to the WatchDog and Assassin’s Creed franchises. After completing her degree in computer science at McGill University, she worked at Sony as a developer. She came to develop a passion for electronic arts and moved on to work as a producer on The Sims Online.
Her genius was recognized with the Vanguard Award, which praised “her trailblazing endeavors across her 20-year career”. Raymond’s career peaked and continued to peak in 2019 when she became the vice president of Google, after which she left to create Haven Entertainment Studios—an independent development team that was announced on the 16th of March 2021.
An inspiration to many modern-day female gamers, Carol Shaw was one of the first women to break the glass ceiling of the male-dominated gaming world in the late 1900s. Shaw was born in 1955 and grew up to be one of the first ever women in the game design and development industry. She is best known for her creation of Activision’s Atari 2600 vertically scrolling shooter River Raid.
She initially worked for Atari as a Microprocessor Software Engineer. A tie-in for a Ralph Lauren cologne; Polo, was her first project. She left Atari for Activision in 1980 and retired from the gaming industry four years later.
Next time you play any of your favorite games, give a bit of thought to who developed them. You may find out that one of the women who make up the 46% working in the gaming industry was behind it.