The world of gaming—whether in-person or digital—is quickly growing. Whether you attribute it to the advancing technologies to connect gamers to each other, or the increased variety of games, the sport and hobby is here to stay.
Of interest, the population of female influencers, executives, players and innovators is helping revolutionize the industry and open doors for other young, diverse gamers to get in on the action. Here are ten of the top women breaking records and barriers to learn from:
1. The Designer: Kim Swift
“Games can be art, and they can be significant and all the glorified things that we want them to be. But if you ask a kid if their toys are important, they’ll say yes, and please don’t take them away.” (Kim Swift)
Popular for her work as the primary designer behind Portal, Swift carved a path for college graduates to transfer their technological skills to the gaming industry by working her way to a creative director position at Airtight Games.
2. The Pioneer: Carol Shaw
“I was hired to be a game designer…In those days, one person would do the entire game: the design, the programming, the graphics and sound. Then you’d get feedback from the other designers, but basically one person did the whole thing.” (Carol Shaw)
Regarded as one of the gaming industry’s first female designers, Shaw was an integral player in bringing consumers the classic Atari games many have come to love.
3. The OG: J.J. Liu
“I had time on my hands so I started playing lowball, and eventually limit hold’em. It was probably $2/4 limit hold’em, you know—the lowest stakes possible. But I worked my way up to the bigger games; I ended up playing the $100/200 limit hold’em.” (J. J. Liu)
With early beginnings as a soccer referee, Liu found her success in patience at the poker tables, quickly becoming successful and ranking 7th in all-time winnings for female players.
4. The Professor: Robin Hunicke
“I’ve always been designing for these experiences with an eye toward the future, when we need the skills that we’re building now to develop for a really broad audience. Right now is the time to learn on the platforms. Not as many people are looking. It’s a good time to make experiments and try things and see what works.” (Robin Hunicke)
A professor of game design at UC Santa Cruz and co-founder of Funomena, Hunicke has leveraged her position and expertise to bring up, educate and position the next generation of game designers and technologists.
5. The Executive: Nicole Opas
“I’ve learned throughout my personal and professional life to not only recognize when opportunities are in front of me, but to have the confidence to take risks in order to pursue them. Now as a leader myself, I’ve come to realize that there were great people creating many of those opportunities for me, so I try to emulate that leadership model for our team.” (Nicole Opas)
Opas, Vice President at Zynga, climbed the corporate game ladder through fearlessness and skill. As a self-proclaimed, “producer of fun,” her role focuses on creating a wide variety of games that span across console, mobile device and PC.
6. The Visionary: Lisa Mae Brunson
“I just followed my intuition and created solutions and did a lot of what I call “Fearless Asking.” It was while scouting for speakers and interviewing amazing changemakers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) industries that I discovered a platform like Wonder Women Tech MUST exist in the world. I listen to story after story of women who felt marginalized, discriminated against, shut out, underpaid, underfunded, underrepresented, and simply not provided the same access and opportunity as their male counterparts.” (Lisa Mae Brunson)
Brunson’s organization, Wonder Women Tech, holds true to a mission of inclusivity, diversity and social innovation through its commitment to organizing conferences, programs, workshops and initiatives that support a broad—and often underserved—gaming audience.
7. The Streamer: Imane Anys
“I also believe that a critical aspect of maintaining relevance in this industry is my willingness to try new things, especially new games or trends that pop up. Being an online content creator is a lot like having your own company. Therefore being able to adapt and evolve is an integral part of keeping your business running.” (Imane Anys)
Known by her Twitch name “Pokimane,” Anys is a pioneer of the online streaming industry with an average of 15,767 viewers watching each time she hops online.
8. The Pro-Athlete: Se-yeon ‘Geguri’ Kim
“Being the icon or being looked up to because I’m female — I’m grateful…but that’s not how I want to be known.” (Se-yeon Kim)
Kim gained attention as she became one of the first professional Overwatch players on the international stage. Her visibility and position is an inspiration to young gamers around the globe, showing that everyone belongs in the winner’s circle.
9. The Programmer: Jade Raymond
“There isn’t that niche type of gamer. All kids play games. They’re all on their tablet or their PC or whatever. Because all kids, whether they’re boys or girls, are playing games, a more diverse group of people are thinking they want to get into games. With the graduates that we’re hiring out of school, it’s a much better ratio.” (Jade Raymond)
Raymond, a Canadian video game producer, is currently working as a producer and executive of Stadia Games and Entertainment, but previously made her mark as the founder of Ubisoft Toronto and Motive Studios.
10. The Strategist: Ashlee Cramb
“The thing I love so much about modern board games is that there is literally a game out there for everyone. If someone says to me that they don’t like board gaming, then my response is usually that they just haven’t found the right game for them yet. I think there are so many awesome games out there for people to play, that the idea of a traditional gamer is no longer the status quo.” (Ashlee Cramb)
Cramb, or better-known as @boardgamergirl, has become one of the key women playing in the board game sector of the industry. Her talent makes her an instant celebrity at conferences, as young women look up to her to bring them to the table.