While writing “5 Female Game Developers We’re Thankful For,” I came across an interesting realization. The first draft of my article was filled with awesome women, but they were mostly white women. While I intended my list to be encouraging, having a piece filled with only one race could actually be discouraging to the women of color who hope to get into the gaming field, so I revised the article to deliberately add women of color. But I found that it wasn’t easy to find articles about minority women game developers.
I want women and girls of all ethnicities and backgrounds to see themselves in gaming. I want them to know that there are other women like them already here, and making some awesome and compelling games.
Since I couldn’t find the list I was looking for, I decided to create it. Profiled below are women of different ethnic and racial backgrounds who all have (at least) one thing in common: they make games. (And this is just the first list–because I had so many women to include, I’ll be bringing you a second list soon!)
I asked each of the women to share a bit about their journey and accomplishments in game development. The gaming industry currently has a reputation about the treatment of women developers. In fact, some of the women I met online refused to be interviewed, citing personal pain tied to gaming or the fear of being attacked or harassed. Others have spoken more eloquently on the topic of healing the toxicity towards women in gaming, but I wanted this article to focus on the positive, and to be inspiring and welcoming.
If you want to make games, let nothing stop you, and don’t listen to the foolishness that we are “invading a male space.” Women developers have been here the entire time. And we will continue to be here.
By far, the most amazing part of researching and writing this article was getting to know these developers. I encourage you to reach out and follow these women on their socials, and to follow and buy their work.
Position: Community Manager at IndieCade, Executive Committee Member at Global Game Jam, Founder / Writer at GameDev Latinos, and hobbyist game developer.
Games: Beggar Blocks, Call Me Cami, Half the Sky Movement: The Game, Embryonic, & more.
On getting her start in game development:
“I’ve been a gamer my whole life but I never realized game development was a career option until I was 19.
A friend invited me to check out a game development course they were taking at our college. I was amazed to see students like me working on their own games! Since I had a background in graphic design, I started helping some of the students make art for their games while I taught myself game development with Flash & HTML5.
In doing so, I discovered what a fulfilling and challenging career game development could be. I ended up running our college’s game development club for two years and graduating with a bachelor’s in Interactive Media–a wonderful start to my career in gamedev!”
On career highlights:
“Supporting the local game development association in my native Puerto Rico has been my favorite career highlight so far. I got to make games with amazing people from my community, help promote locally made games, organize developer events, and even start the first Global Game Jam on the island. I’ve since moved to the States but I still do what I can to help fellow developers from the homeland.”
Check out: @avashly
Rochelle “Gaming Pixie” B.
Position: Game Developer
Games: What’s in a Name?, Eden, She Who fights Monsters, Raziel.
“Everyone has to start somewhere, and I started with Twine. Basically, I just wanted to tell a story and a simple means of making it interactive appealed to me. From there, I got a taste for creating more complex games, but I never would’ve tried game development if it weren’t for Twine.”
“Anything that left a strong emotional impression through its story and/or atmosphere. Stuff that makes me say ‘I want that feeling in my games’ and tends to mess with my head. The surreal coolness of Killer7 worked a little of itself into the visuals of my current project, Raziel. Yume Nikki had a direct influence on the horror aspects of She Who Fights Monsters. (Heck, I want to start on a Yume Nikki fangame next.) Games like the Splatterhouse series make me want to create something insanely, unapologetically gory, which I’m pretty sure I will in the future. And the psychological depth and eerie imagery of of Silent Hill 2 gives me something to aspire to when I try my hand at a straight up horror game.”
On pushing herself:
“The thought of making games first occurred to me in 2009 when I started learning how to code. I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember, so it seemed like a great way to kill two birds with one stone: push my programming skills to the next level, and find another creative outlet.
This goal was sidetracked by a tumultuous ‘career’ in web development where I began questioning whether the switch from professional writing to coding was the right decision. After a year of unemployment, I figured I had nothing to lose, so I took the plunge in January 2015.”
Check out: @ciara3D
Position: Game writer and Co-Owner of the Super Duper Game Company.
Games: Black Ice
On falling in love with gaming:
“I fell in love with games when I was really small. My brother and I would always play games together, or he’d play and I’d sit on the bed and watch and help with puzzles. Video games always meant spending time with him or with friends, and I loved that.”
On her proudest moment:
“As a game dev, my proudest moment has to be founding a company with my husband. Never in a million years did I think I would be running a company. The first big project I tackled was working with Razer to bring Chroma support to our game. I worked so hard, building those business relationships and working with people to make that happen. I’m an ex-high school teacher with a BA in English, and here I am, doing really cool business stuff. It felt incredible.”
Position: Technology Guru and Master Inventor, holding twenty issued patents in the U.S. and China. Volunteers as a technology workshop instructor for several organizations, including Black Girls Code, TechGirlz, Hi-Tech Teens and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s ASCEND SMART Camp
Game: Diva Chix
On creating games:
“I’ve always loved playing games but it never really crossed my mind that I could actually create my own games. In fact, I never considered technology as a career path at all. I enrolled in college very unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. My father insisted that I take at least one computer class because he knew it was an emerging space. I took a computer programming course my freshman year and absolutely fell in love. I found that the very things I loved about playing games also existing in creating programs, such as strategic thinking, solving puzzles and a sense of accomplishment.”
Check out: @mydivachix, and Diva Chix, an online fashion game where teenage girls and women learn to excel in technological areas as well as learn other key life lessons such as running a business and working as a team.
On discovering game development:
“I decided to study game dev when I was 26. Before then, I was in pre-law studying psychology. In a debate class, our instructor said that the secret to success is to ‘Do what you do, and do it well’. It was a bit of a profound statement for me, since it never occurred to me before that point that I could pursue a living doing something I loved, versus doing something that would be ‘acceptable’.”
On finding her voice:
“I’m finally making my game, Blood Quantum. It’s a game I’ve been trying to find the courage and voice to make for a while. I’m proud that I’m making it all and that it’s happening. It’s a pretty personal subject matter for me, and I had to trudge through quite a bit of shame and identity searching to get here.“
Check out: @Nay_HO
Evie Powell, Ph.D
Position: Creative Director / CEO of Verge of Brilliance LLC
Games: 80’s Mania Wrestling (available now on iOS and Android), Escape From ClownTown (coming soon on iOS and Android) and Remain Silent (formerly known as CopQuest).
“Remain Silent (formerly known as CopQuest) is something I’m really proud of. It’s a game from the heart about police brutality in America. It started out as a game jam, a way to relieve the frustration of hearing yet another story of someone gunned down unnecessarily. It sounds weird, but it’s what I do. Some people take to Twitter, some people make short games where you are a rookie cop who is learning how to be a cop in today’s America.
I really think that over time it has increasingly become a game for positive change. It’s sparked lots of conversation from both sides of the argument, and really tries to dig deep on what needs to change in order for America to be a safer place to live for everyone. It’s also a project that I feel has caused me to grow as a person.”
“Society will tell you that there are some conversations that you shouldn’t have in polite company, and it’s really a challenge to continue pressing the issue when there are so many that aren’t ready to have the conversation about things like racial profiling, militarization of police officers, and lack of accountability.
People complain that the game is unfair. I can’t disagree… Maybe we should focus on ‘changing the game’.”
Position: Steam Hardware team at Valve, focusing on the Steam Link and Steam Controller
Games: Halo 3, Lost Odyssey, Lips, Age of Empires Online, Gears of War Judgment, Peggle 2, Wayward (unreleased)
“Games have always been a part of my life, so I’ve been in love with them forever. My mom raised me with video games and even ran her own MUD (multi-user dungeon) when I was a kid.
Halo 2 was the game that changed my life. It was a game about community, teamwork, competition, and relationships. Xbox Live allowed Bungie to create an incredible experience for people like me who needed an escape from real life.”
“I’m most proud of the time I spent on Peggle 2. It was the first time I was in a leadership role on a project and also the first time I felt like I had a huge impact on a game. There were many challenges, hard days, and long nights. I was both a leader and a manager for the first time and I was forced to take responsibility and make difficult decisions, all while keeping the team motivated and productive. People don’t often realize that just because a game is considered small, doesn’t mean it is easy to create. I am proud that I was part of a team that shipped a great product despite the many challenges we faced along the way.”
For additional WOC devs, see 7 More Women of Color Game Developers You Should Know