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8 Women in Games Industry You Should Know

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Though game development has long been (and still is) perceived as male-dominated, women in games industry have been at its creative heart for decades, driving innovation and enriching the gaming world with their contributions. This International Women’s Day we spotlight eight pioneering women who’ve played crucial roles in shaping the industry. From the earliest developers to today’s influential leaders, their stories illuminate the vital role women have played—and continue to play—in shaping our sector.

1. Mabel Addis, First Video Game Writer

Mabel Addis (1912 – 2004), an educator and writer, holds the title of being the first video game writer in history. Yes, not “the first woman video game writer”, but a very first video game writer whatsoever! She masterminded IBM’s Sumerian Game, a narrative game that tasked players with managing resources to ensure the prosperity of the ancient city-state. Designed with elementary students in mind, it emerged as the pioneering edutainment game, blending learning with play.

Mabel Addis, First Video Game Writer

Addis’s groundbreaking work was celebrated when she was posthumously honored with the Pioneer Award at the Game Developers Conference 2023.

2. Carol Shaw, First Woman Video Game Developer

From a young age, Carol Shaw was fascinated by math and science. At the age of 23, after completing her studies, Shaw joined Atari in 1978, marking the beginning of her journey as one of the first female game designers in history. Her colleagues soon recognized her as the team’s top programmer. Shaw’s first published game was “3-D Tic-Tac-Toe” for the Atari 2600.

Carol Shaw, First Video Game Developer

Later, at Activision, she continued to break ground as the first female designer there, creating “River Raid.” This game not only brought her widespread acclaim but also enabled Shaw to retire early at 35, providing her with the opportunity to dedicate time to volunteer work and personal pursuits. In recognition of her contributions to the industry, Carol Shaw received the Industry Icon Award at The Game Awards in 2017.

3. Rieko Kodama, “First Lady of RPGs”

Rieko Kodama served at Japanese Sega from 1984 until her untimely death in 2022, at just 59 years old. Initially joining Sega with interests in advertising and graphic design, Kodama discovered her passion within the game development department. She began her career as a character designer, quickly taking on diverse roles. Kodama later advanced to a producer role, continuing to leave her mark on the industry.

Rieko Kodama, Sega's First Lady of RPGs

Celebrated as one of the first female video game artists by The Next Level and dubbed the “First Lady of RPGs” by Nintendo Power, Kodama’s legacy in gaming remains influential and inspiring. During her early years at Sega, employees were required to use pseudonyms in game credits, so whenever you come across Sega’s “Phoenix Rie”, that’s Rieko Kodama herself.

4. Joyce Weisbecker, First Indie Games Developer

Joyce Weisbecker is the first contractor to create a commercial video game, positioning herself as potentially the first indie developer—a title that places her work in parallel with fellow women in games industry pioneers like Carol Shaw.

Joyce Weisbecker, First Indie Games Developer

Growing up with a father who was a passionate hobbyist, she was exposed early to a world of logic games, stage illusions, and electronic inventions. These childhood experiences, along with frequent visits to RCA where her father worked, nurtured her innate curiosity and understanding of technology. Joyce’s early immersion in this creative and technical environment laid the groundwork for her groundbreaking contributions to video game development.

5. Muriel Tramis, First Black Woman Video Game Designer

Muriel Tramis, celebrated as the first Black woman video game designer, made her mark in the industry with culturally rich and innovative titles starting in the late 1980s. A native of Martinique, she infused her games with her Caribbean heritage, notably in titles like “Méwilo,” which explores the history of slavery in the Caribbean. She has also been outspoken about the underrepresentation and lack of respect for women in gaming, highlighting the shortage of female employees.

Muriel Tramis, First Black Woman Video Game Designer

Recognized for her contributions, Tramis was honored with the Legion of Honour ( the highest order of merit available to civilians and military personnel in France) in 2018, cementing her legacy as a pathbreaker in the gaming world.

6. Brenda Laurel, Pioneer in VR Development

Brenda Laurel’s extensive career, starting in 1976, has positioned her as a trailblazer in the integration of narrative and interactivity, with a particular emphasis on user-centered design in virtual environments. A staunch advocate for gender inclusivity in technology and gaming, Laurel’s efforts culminated in the founding of Purple Moon in 1996. This innovative software company focused on developing video games tailored for girls aged 8 to 14, emphasizing storytelling, exploration, and problem-solving to engage a demographic traditionally neglected by the gaming industry.

Brenda Laurel, Pioneer in VR Development and Advocate of Inclusiveness in Games Industry

Brenda Laurel has significantly influenced the landscape of interactive media, advocating for a more inclusive and user-focused approach to game design and development.

7. Sheri Graner Ray, Pioneer of Inclusiveness in Games

Sheri Graner Ray is a leading figure in advocating for inclusivity within the gaming industry. Since beginning her journey in game design in 1989, Sheri has been not only creating games, but also driving change and fostering diversity. Her book, “Gender Inclusive Game Design-Expanding the Market“, was recognized for its impact by being nominated for Game Developer’s Book of the Year in 1996. Further solidifying her commitment to promoting gender diversity in gaming, in 2000, Sheri co-founded Women in Games International (WIGI), where she dedicated six years as its Executive Director.

Sheri Graner Ray, Pioneer of Inclusiveness in Games

Beyond her professional achievements, Sheri’s love for pets resonates with us strongly, and we couldn’t be happier than to see her promoting ethical dogs breeding!

8. Roberta Williams, Graphic Adventure Games Pioneer

Last but not least, Roberta Williams, co-founder of Sierra Entertainment, is hailed as a pioneering force in the adventure gaming genre. Her creation of the iconic “King’s Quest” series in the 1980s revolutionized the way stories are told in video games, blending complex narratives with interactive gameplay. Williams’ approach to game design introduced graphic adventure games to a wider audience, establishing new standards for the industry.

Roberta Williams, Graphic Adventure Games Pioneer

Her contributions have not only shaped the evolution of adventure games but have also inspired countless developers to explore the possibilities of narrative-driven gaming.

To All Women in Games Industry – We Salute You!

These 8 women in games industry have not only navigated but have transformed a landscape often resistant to change, proving that creativity and innovation know no gender. As a women-led games industry recruitment agency, we look forward to the evolution of gamedev with hope. Let’s continue to champion and support the invaluable contributions of women, ensuring our voices and visions are integral to the games of tomorrow!