Play Like a Girl: Influential Women in the Gaming Industry

Play Like a Girl: Influential Women in the Gaming Industry

There are many women in the industry that are overlooked because they are overshadowed by rampant sexism of female characters in video games or the men who take the majority of the glory. Most of the most influential women in the industry are beyond name recognition – and they shouldn’t be. Behind the scenes, there are a plethora of women who have accomplished a great deal which we are going to take time to appreciate and highlight four of these important women.

Carol Shaw

Carol Shaw with her original game, River Raid.

Not only does she have her fair share of experience in Atari, Activision, and computer science in general, Shaw is highly acclaimed as one of the first female game designers. Her portfolio begins in the late 1970s with 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, her own original game River Raid, and Happy Trails in 1984. She also was a major writer in the original manual for the Atari 800. An interview Shaw had with Benj Edwards revealed she was discriminated when first coming to Atari, saying the president thought her potential lied in “cosmetics color matching and interior decorating cartridges,” (Vintage Computing) and despite this, she stamped her name in video game history. She is said to be a pioneer, a person who came into gaming when the industry really needed a boost.

Dona Bailey

Dona Bailey with a classic Centipede machine.

We all know one of the first and most significant games of all time because of its implementation of AI, Centipede, but hardly anyone knows she was one-half of the duo (the other being Ed Logg) who created the game itself. Bailey was a programmer, primarily for Atari, working in the arcade, or coin-op, division; at the time, she was the only woman there. After working at General Motors for awhile, she recognized similar microprocessors were being used in the cars as arcade games – and that kickstarted her love for gaming. Her work on Centipede was driven not by order, but by choice; perusing through a medley of ideas in the Atari catalog for new games, she was struck with Centipede; she said, “Most of them were laser games. I wasn’t really interested in war, or lasering anything, or violence.”(Yahoo News). Unfortunately, it is said she received tons of condemnation for being a women in the industry, compelling her to leave Atari after two short years.

Kim Swift

Swift with her game she worked on with Airtight Studios, Quantum Conundrum.

It’s hard to think of Valve without thinking of Gabe Newell, the man behind it, but it’s not all him. Portal is quite a famous game, and we know it’s made by Valve, but it’s important to note not all games started with where it ended. Swift graduate from DigiPen Institute of Technology where she helped created the game Narbacular Drop, and when Valve discovered Swift’s contribution to the game, which involved portals to solve puzzles, Swift was immediately hired for her innovation to be a part of the creation of The Orange Box in 2007 and also a developer in the Left 4 Dead series. She now works at Airtight Games and has also been hired to work in Amazon Game Studios.

Corrinne Yu

Corrinne Yu announcing her moving to Naughty Dog Studios

It’s hard to think of the major game franchises like Halo, and Borderlands, which are more often than not guided toward a male audience, as a series with a female taking reigns with the programming behind the scenes. Yu is a game programmer, and her catalog is expansive: she’s responsible for the code base of Quake 2, she was the Director of Technology as Gearbox Software who created Borderlands, and even a Principal Engine Architect for Halo for 343 Industries after Bungie separated from Microsoft. Now she works at the critically acclaimed Naughty Dog where she works programming games for future PS4 projects.


Ultimately, there are more women in the industry than can be named and acknowledged properly. But though gaming is dominated by a man’s face, it cannot be ignored or overseen that women are just as influential, though they are not often given the attention they deserve.