Boss Lady

Powerful women making waves in the digital games industry biz


Contrary to what teenage boys and misinformed people might think video games were never an exclusive boys club. In fact, women have not only played but built alongside men the foundations of the games industry biz we see nowadays. Out of the 3.26 billion gamers, roughly 41% are female gamers, and those numbers have been steady since 2006, becoming nearly a 50-50 split in 2014. What is more interesting is that women not only play roughly the same amount of videogame per week as men – 5.8 hours a week versus 6.8 – but they outplay men in sessions between 10-15 hours, by 2.03% and by 4.2% on sessions over 15 hours.

 Those numbers might come as a surprise, especially because the insanely sexist, toxic, and harassing culture that has been cultivated and perpetuated inside games is such a hostile environment for women that silence became a better option for many of them. You don’t have to go too far to understand why they keep such a low profile, just ask any girlfriend, spouse, or acquaintance about their online experience and it quickly becomes easy to understand how terrifying their reality is. This piece is by no means a take on gaming culture, but an awareness piece about the silent, unsung heroes that helped build the industry.

From the beginning in the games industry biz

Women’s contributions to video games have been constant pretty much from the beginning of gaming itself. The first game is believed to have been created in 1958, and six-year later in 1964, Mabel Addis became the first female video game designer, and ever since women have contributed to the back end of games, by designing, creating, writing, and fundamentally building some of the most famous games franchises in recent memory.

For example, following Mabel’s footsteps we have Jade Raymond, who not only helped create Assassin’s Creed, and Watch Dogs, but also built Ubisoft Toronto, EA Motive Studios. Through her astounding career, she made the board of directors of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Science, headed Google Stadia, and started her own studio Haven Entertainment Studios, which is now working with Sony Entertainment to create a new IP.

There are countless other examples of contributions such as Christina Phazero Curlee, who is a published author on level designs, and developer at Insomniac Games. Jeniffer Hale, the voice actress who holds the Guinness World Record for most prolific videogame voice actor, working on titles like Metal Gear Solid, Mass Effect, Baldur’s Gate, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and many more. As a writer, it is impossible not to mention that one of the gamings most impressive journeys was Tina Amini who’s hard work left a huge impression on Kotaku, Complex, and Mashable before becoming editor-in-chief for one of gaming’s most famous outlets IGN.

Examples like that aren’t few and far apart, it takes little research to conclude that their women are responsible for a huge part of the industry we see. Their contributions can be felt in the back-end, research, acting, and articulation aspect of the community, but it encompasses so much more.

Breaking Ground

In 1980, Rebecca Heineman was someone extremely passionate about video games, specifically the Atari 2600, who couldn’t afford her own games. During her youth she learned how to copy cartridges, reverse-engineered consoles to understand how games were made, and became the first official National Video Game Champion. Eventually, Rebecca would become an author, programmer, and owner of her own studio. One of the world’s biggest games League of Legends would name their first transexual-only championship after her.

There is no reason to imagine that competitive gaming or gaming for a living wasn’t an option for women. Players like Se-Yeon ‘Geguri’ Kim, was so precise at Overwatch that she actually had to prove that she didn’t use aim assist, at the time multiple players stated they’d quit if she wasn’t cheating, eventually her prowess was confirmed and various players left the game altogether. Her talent and success began breaking barriers as she became the first girl to be signed in Overwatch League, Overwatch Apex, and nominated for Time’s “Next Generation Leader”, and “Fighting Gender Bias in Gaming”.

Again, stories like that aren’t uncommon, stories of players like Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, who was Starcraft II world champion, and holds a top ten position on rankings aren’t uncommon. Li “Liooon” Xiaomeng, was a World Champion for Hearthstone, Katherine “Mystik” Gunn is regarded as one of the best Halo: Reach, and Dead or Alive players of all time, Rumay “Wafu” Hang, played at a professional level on multiple games like League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Teamfight Tactics, all of them are living proof that those barriers are coming down, and women were always a fierce competition.

Business As Usual

The Academy Interactive of Arts & Science Hall of Fame is one of the most prestigious titles one can hold in the gaming industry. Recipients usually have vast connections and contributions towards the industry, they have to have made revolutionary and innovative achievements to be considered for the award. Danielle Bunten Berry is a recipient of the award, having programmed arguably one of the first influential multiplayer games of all time M.U.L.E in 1983, and championed her own company Ozark Software, her body of work would ensure that she would also receive a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from Computer Game Developer Association.

The two last inductees of the prestigious awards were women with impressive feats inside the industry, Bonnie Ross, and Connie Booth. The former was awarded the title of “Top 10 Powerful Women in Video Games”, after a long career working as Xbox Game Studios’ Vice-President, and head of 343 Industries. She was responsible for planning, strategizing, executing, and championing Microsoft’s biggest franchise: Halo. While the latter, also has a prominent leading position in the industry as Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Vice-President of product development, her contributions span over 25 years and gave players classic titles such as Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet & Clank, The Last of Us, Uncharted, Marvel’s Spider-Man and many others.

 These women are at the top of the industry command chain, and other stories such as Lucy Bradshaw’s who was the general manager, and Vice-President of Maxis Studios – The Sims, Spore, Sim City – are common. Kim Swift, Kate Gorman, Kim Phan, Laila Shabir, Keisha Howard, Megan Fox, and other innumerable women are taking charge and pioneering the gaming industry, their contributions are palpable, and more recognition is due.

Always Here

From development to gaming, all the way to running the games industry biz, this article wanted to shine some light that the contributions made by women towards the industry aren’t new, or few in the industry. Video games, in general, are fortunate to have such colossal contributions, and hopefully, this was enough to showcase that some of your favorite titles, companies, and franchises are a product of the hard work of men and women.

It is clear that they were always here, and they’ll always be, more than ever we have to praise louder their achievements and contributions. And, since they are not going – and shouldn’t – go anywhere it is quintessential that we value their contributions, and create a more welcoming culture. Finally, the behavior of gamers, inside games need to change imagine if toxicity, sexism, and hostility discourage the next Bonnie Ross, Connie Booth, Mabel Addis, Jade Raymond, or any of the other brilliant humans cited here, maybe you won’t have your next favorite game.

Women in the gaming industry like Ellen Beeman, Tracy Fullerton and Yoko Kano, are just a few of the creative and hardworking people who authored, developed and programmed some of the most popular arcade, online and desktop video games.

Sexism is reportedly widespread in the games industry biz, but these women leaders are persistent and continue to thrive by unselfishly sharing their creative talents, and are always open to share knowledge and everything you need to know about gaming.

Other industries where machismo is broadly scorned is the IT and Software. So when speaking of IT and Software products and services, what easily comes into our minds are pictures of geeky men who drool over their computers. But hey, count the women who make the highest pay in the biggest tech companies worldwide: Marissa Mayer  of Yahoo ($27.4M), Ginni Rometty of IBM ($32.3M), Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard ($32.9M) and Safra Catz of Oracle ($41M).

These women stand out in the technology field not just because they started the company with huge amounts of capital or used superior STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) educational backgrounds to run their companies. Their sage decision making and how they leverage all business aspects from tools to human resources, are what makes them immensely valuable not just in their games industry biz turf but to the whole technology world as well.


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