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April 14, 2010


Sin Estelle

I don't have a problem with the idea that successful women within the games industry being brought to light. Quite the contrary in fact being both female and starting out in the industry myself.

I do however think a 50-50 split is simply a more statistically obvious way of being unfair. Fairness is noticing the accomplishments regardless of gender. Yes that means recognising women for their valuable contributions but also means that they're not commended ahead of men simply to even out ratio.

Any logical train of thought should lead you to realise that within an industry dominated by men, it's more likely that there will be more noteworthy accomplishments by men.

Until the gender-imbalance in the games industry levels itself out, it's unrealistic to expect panels and articles to have their focus equally split.


Nope, I don't agree. At all. But I'm happy to be the only one who thinks like this: I think a meritocracy will forever be skewed towards those who are given the best opportunities in life. Until those opportunities are equal, then the meritocratic results will remain unequal.

Change the opportunities, change the results, and by giving women more role models, encouragement, etc, the route to equality will be faster.

IMFHO, naturally ;-)

SJ Romm

I completely agree with you. We need to recognize these exceptional women in these roles and give them the credit they deserve. I would give my right arm to work in the gaming industry, but when I was in school, it just wasn't something that girls did. Thank you for highlighting some of these awesome women!

Betsy Abbott

Thank you.


@Sin Estelle: How do you think the games industry will "level itself out" if women don't get any recognition by panels and articles?

And OK, a constant 50-50 split male/female might feel artificial - but to not have A SINGLE ONE female on a list of 50? Considering the excellent examples of accomplished women that Alice lists here (and there are several more if you think about it).

You say you're just getting started in this industry, which really makes me all the more worried about your attitude. I wonder how long you will last, once you realise that you have to work so much harder than all the guys for someone to even notice you... let alone put you on a top 50 list.

(It was a top FIFTY list. It wasn't even 10 or 20, but 50, and they couldn't put a single female on there?!? It's infuriating.)


Yeah, this happens all the time. And when someone makes a counter-list with women, they're all white women. Try not to make the same mistake as the people you're criticizing.


I wouldn't want to start a list by saying "I'm going to name 25 men and 25 women." I would rather start it out by saying "I'm going to pick 50 people who I think are kick-ass, regardless of their sex, religion, ethnicity, etc."
It's a shame, however, that the compilers of the list couldn't even start out with the first thought.

But, I do have to say thank you for picking some pretty kick-ass women.

On the side: It annoys me that when people like to point out anything having to do with games and females, it ends up being a list of Barbie-ish games... Not to say I don't think those women deserve credit, but it's nice to have a list that reflects the fact that not all women are into frills, lace, and the color pink. :)


I agree with the spirit of this article. The games industry desperately needs more women. I propose a slogan for this movement:

Dames In Games!

Anyway, i do have to say though, Mirrors Edge and Heavenly sword had terrible writing. No personal disrespect to Ms. Pratchett, but those were not good games. Overlord was good though!


I agree the list is highly flawed if it doesn't include the likes of Ellen Beeman, Laura Fryer, Brenda Braithwaite, Jane McGonigal, Megan Gaiser, Jen McClean, Corinne Yu... and that's just off the top of my head* folks that top AT LEAST half that list in terms of influence, merit, etc.

*Alice, I'd add you too but you'd accuse me of sucking up ;-)

I don't know that I'd go as far as "two lists of 25". I worry that this does as much to propagate myths as help dispell them.

I do agree, however, that this list is pretty flawed and they should be called on it.


I'm not actually entirely sure why we reprinted this now - it's actually a Game Developer magazine list from the end of 2009, and I've already dealt with a subset of this controversy when it appeared in the magazine.

So, yep - deeply unintelligent of us to reprint it later if we weren't going to fully stand behind it.

Anyhow, since it's front and center now, I will simply note that we regret not having a woman on the list, since we were not making an intentional statement, one way or the other. The list was the people we felt were making a difference in the business, divided into those categories.

Also, I will point out - since it was asked before - that we've previously done entire feature-length articles and charts on women in the game biz:


We obviously work very closely with colleagues like Meggan, Leigh Alexander, and so on, and I don't think our world view is colored with any kind of prejudice.

[Gamasutra, Game Developer mag, GDC director.]


I will also point out that the list is specifically those with important accomplishments in the last year (at least to towards the end of 2009). So it's intended to be tied to people who debuted specific major things during 2009, rather than people who are ambiently important or awesome - and a number of the above folks are.


Not sure about that theory at all. You're blaming the list for an underlying problem with the industry.

Here's what they said:

And so, this is our list, compiled by the editors and our advisory board, of 50 important accomplishments of the last year (give or take) as filtered through the specific people attached to them, in the categories of art, design, programming, business, and evangelism.

Past year.

So, and please don't hate me for this:

Meggan Scavio - Runs GDC. Yes, absolutely deserves a place on the list.

Kim Swift - Portal was brilliant, what she and and the team she led achieved is an inspiration to everyone. But they did it three years ago.

Paulina Bozek - Singstar was for the Playstation, so well outside the year, secret things are secret.

Babsi Lippe & Claudia Kogler - Is Papermint important? I honestly don't know, I do know that to date nobody's cared enough to write them a wikipedia entry.

Rhianna Pratchett? Are you kidding me.

Look, the games industry should have more women in it. It should. Games companies should positively discriminate until that list starts to even out a bit.

But until that happens, please let's not criticise people for not claiming that the writing in Mirror's Edge was good. Nobody thinks story was that game's strong point.

I'm not saying there shouldn't be women on that list. If I was chosing I'd want Christine Love on there, for writing a little free game in her spare time that moved me more than any of the AAA titles this year.

I'm just saying let's not put anyone on there for the sake of it. Women aren't inherently any less good at any aspect of game design, so let's not put them on their own ghetto half of the list and say "didn't she do well, for a woman".

Sin Estelle

@Cookie I don't see where I said that women shouldn't get recognition. Obviously it's atrocious that no women are on the list when there are some notable women around who deserve the credit.

The top 3/4 listed in this blog I think are certainly worthy of being added to the list. However the others mentioned I don't think have had greater contributions/achievements than others on the list as it stands.

@Alice I know these things don't balance out easily, and possibly not at all, but trying to force it to even out also won't work.

@Etho I also agree with you about that, and I loved Overlord, but the writing for that isn't that noteworthy either.

Emphasising women for their achievements when they're not quite at the same level could end up being a step backwards. It will end up being seen as 'Aww... they tried and did okay so we'll give them credit anyway...'. (Yes I realise I'm putting it in a very harsh and patronising manner, but that's how any sexists reading posts like this will think).

I do highly agree that features like these are atrocious and they should be checked to make sure they're not ignoring women when posting things like this.

But if we're going to gain places in posts such as these, then it must be through creation of things amazing enough that they can't be ignored. I for one think there are plenty of women capable of rising against this challenge to force their way into recognition; do you not?


Gender inclusion is all well and good, if the title of the article is "25 men and 25 women of note in the gaming industry."

But if the title is "50 most important people in gaming" then I'm sorry, but it's going to be a male dominated list.

Any views to the contrary are the equivalent of the stereotypical girl gamer saying "LOOK AT ME I'M A GRRL PLAYING GAMES TEE HEE AREN'T I AWESOME?"

Highlighting women simply for working in the gaming industry may be laudable, but it is not the topic of the list at hand!


I agree with the other commentators that a 50/50 split in an industry that is far from that ratio is artificial.

How about this: In an industry that does suffer from a gender imbalance and wants to promote equality, instead of creating just one top 50 list that's deliberately split down the middle, how about SEPARATE top 50 or 25 lists, one each for men and women?

That way, if you want to include someone for their sex, at least everyone on the same list is being judged by the same standards. No one can feel that they were left out or brought in for the wrong reasons.

Sin Estelle

@Simon I don't feel having a seperate article for women is quite the same as including them in one that should be for both genders. If anything, that's further emphasising the difference.

@Phil I think you've said all that I wanted to say a lot better than I was managing to, as well as adding in the dates which I had managed to entirely overlook.


@Sin Estelle: Yes, but the point here is that we want to point out that women aren't the same -- that they don't get the opportunities -- yet they are the same because we want them on one list with men. So which is it?

If you create a list that has an artificial balance of the sexes, does that not also emphasize the difference?

I think two separate lists is the fairest way to represent accomplishments based on a standard of sex, until the industry is judged to be genuinely equal.


Oh, and I will say, I'm not opposed to a world where there's a "both sexes (where warranted)" top 50 list as well as lists segregated by gender. I think that's the most balanced approach.

Also, another thing to keep in mind: Practically a tradition with "top anything" lists is that everyone will always feel there's an omission. Maybe some of these women were left off because of biases related to their sex, or maybe because it was because of the writer's other, non-sexist biases -- e.g. their knowledge just isn't complete, blah blah. It's good method to consider all possible causes.

This is not to say that there isn't *definitely* a gender problem in the gaming industry. But it's just one more factor to keep in mind.


Having a list of 25 and 25 "to make things fair" is somewhat of an insult to women rather than a complement. It makes the statement that those women are not being judged solely by their merits, but that they are getting recognized first for their gender, then their accomplishments.

Fact of the matter is that there are a LOT less women in the gaming industry than men. Is that due to sexism? I'm sure it plays a part. But I also went through a Computer Science program that was probably 85-90% male. If there is a serious lack of females in colleges in CS there is going to be a serious lack of females in IT industry (Gaming included).

One could say to fix that we need more female role models, which I agree with. But artificially setting quotas is not a good way to do that.

Sin Estelle

@Gloria Don't get the opportunities? I haven't come across anything suggesting that.

I'm on a Computer Games Programming course, a great one in fact. At the beginning of the course there were 2 women of 75 people on the course. That's because there weren't many women interested rather than them not wanting females on the course.

I've also been rather successful in getting a placement, in fact, I've had several amazing options I had to choose between. More so than anyone else on my course as well.

Representing accomplishments based on a standard of sex? And you're suggesting this with the aim of reducing sexism..? I think I'm missing something here...


@Simon: Your point is taken, but while not necessarily colored with prejudice, I think Alice's point was that your list WAS colored with a bias - unintentional as it may be.

e.g. Did Megan Gaiser's company shipping FOUR Nancy Drew titles (fairly consistent good sellers on PC) have more or less impact that some of the indies you have listed. Depends how you define impact I guess.

@Phil: The 'in the past year' requirement was soft for the list itself, so it's fair game to step outside it (e.g. the art team on Team Fortress 2 were on the list and that was released WITH Portal, which you cite as being out of window for the list)


@Sin Estelle: I didn't say it myself. I was pointing to what *Alice* said in her comment. I said so.

"Representing accomplishments based on a standard of sex? And you're suggesting this with the aim of reducing sexism..? I think I'm missing something here..."

The point is that putting women on a list with men BECAUSE of their sex -- which might unfairly omit men with equal or better accomplishments -- has the same principle of omitting them because of it.

If you put women on their own list and men on THEIR own, you're at least acknowledging that everyone on each respective list is put there for exactly the same standards.

The only problem with this approach is if anyone sees one list as being the "real" list or some crap like that.

I'm not saying this is the best way to approach this list. I personally think the best approach is just to get a better team of writers with a more expansive knowledge of the industry, possibly with more women if that's the problem (and who's to say that hypothetical team wouldn't come up with an identical list?), and write the same list of top 50 people.

But Alice was talking about an approach to represent more women in an industry that inherently now has LESS. This is impossible considering the raw numbers (unless the existing number of women in the gaminig industry just tend to occupy more important positions or accomplish more important things).


@Sin Estelle: I apologize, because I didn't indicate the "opportunities" idea came from Alice in my original comment. I misremembered because I had said it but edited it out.

Anyway, if you read the second comment down, which is by Alice, she says that the reason she thinks judging industry people purely by merit is unfair if not everyone -- i.e. women -- gets the same opportunities to build that merit.

Sin Estelle

@Cookie I don't see why you think I won't last simply because I don't want to gain extra recognition for the sole reason taht I am female.

I do work incredibly hard, and it's paying off by landing me a placement at an amazing company that I greatly admire.

However, you're right about me not being likely at earning a place on the top 50 list. But if I do one day do something amazing that does earn me a spot there, I want to be certain that it's 100% earned and not simply in response to a need for a gender-balance in the list.

@Gloria I'm still not sold on the idea of seperate lists.

"I'm not saying this is the best way to approach this list. I personally think the best approach is just to get a better team of writers with a more expansive knowledge of the industry, possibly with more women if that's the problem (and who's to say that hypothetical team wouldn't come up with an identical list?), and write the same list of top 50 people. "

That however is what I would like to happen. If writers care enough to be fair and look into things properly it would be ideal.


@Sin Estelle: Yes, I'm not either.

But if a way is needed to to highlight proportionately MORE women in the gaming industry than *exist*, I think separate lists is the only solution that's fair to women and men. Separate lists also don't necessarily preclude women being on another list that includes men.

I also included the idea of a separate list for men as well specifically to minimize sexism. Basically, IF we're going to highlight women for their sex, then we should do the same for men as well.

As I've said, the biggest problem with separate lists is if one is perceived to be more "accurate" or "real" than the other (like how NBA is "real" basketball compared to WNBA, etc.). But that's a problem with readers.


Kim: Didn't notice TF2 being on the list. It's possible that the artists on a three year old game made the list because of Valve's now legendary continued support of TF2, which means we continue to see major updates to this day.

If that's not the reason then yes, missing off the Lead on one of the most inspirational, important and fun games ever made is damned near criminal.


Meh, male or female, you should only be recongised if what you have done is noteworthy enough. Lets face it, there are more males than there are females in the industry. Is it the our fault that it tends to be a higher number of males compared to females? Not at all, after all, it's an individual's choice to work in the industry, regardless of gender.

I don't see, therefore, how their can be a sexual rift based on gender, if it happens to be that a lot of the bigger companies and the big names we see are male because of this reason. Surely it just means that the claimed "minority" just aren't making their voice heard enough. I read all the major gaming websites for news, surely they should be made more aware of their feats?

Although, if it were me, I'd rather be remembered for doing something note-worthy in the industry, rather than "that woman who did something in the games industry". Get my drift?

Account Deleted

I agree with Alice's suggestion on how to approach it. 50/50. Reduce cultural barriers discouraging the lack of women in games and other tech fields. It is a cultural issue. And a 50/50 split is just as "artificial" a composition as a list filled with all men. The difference is that creating a list with 25 women and 25 men can have cultural benefits and impact, whereas a same-sex list has no benefit except to highlight just how entrenched the cultural and institutional sexism of the industry is.

BTW, Simon, saying that you have women on Gamasutra staff doesn't mean anything. Women are just as entrenched in sexist culture as men are, and often participate in sexim to fit it, because they're unaware, to maintain power and authority, etc. So I don't think it is helpful or productive to list all the women who happen to work at Gamasutra. The top 50 list was published without any women on it, and by calling out the fact that you have women on staff, you're calling attention to the fact that those women either have no power to influence the composition of this list, or they're just as unaware of sexism in the industry as whoever came up with the list.


As a woman, I find the idea of being judged separately offensive. I wouldn't want to be considered good for a woman. I want to be considered good. Period. Creating separate lists just creates the impression that women need to be treated differently because we can't compete with the boys.

I don't care if there are 25 women in the list or none at all, so long as every person is judged on standard criteria. And there's the rub: in a list like this there are no criteria. That said - not one woman in a group of 50? Sounds fishy to me. Sure the industry may be dominated by men, but it isn't exclusive either. I would say a more realistic target would be to aim for a proportion of females in the list roughly equal to the proportion of women in the industry in 'leadership' roles. Don't know where one would find the numbers though.

As for the arguments related to the quantity of female students in gaming-related educational programmes: Please keep in mind that the considerations for a female student in a male dominated environment is different from that of male students. When considering it as a career she also considers the fact that she will likely be 'the odd man out' in all her working environments, that she will encounter sexism and 'glass ceiling' effects more often than more balanced industries. Gaming is a tougher career for women than men precisely because of this imbalance. So don't always put it down to lack of interest: there may be interest, but the climate is driving away potential talent.


"If it were up to me, in creating any list, I would take a number - say 50, and a field - say games, and then pick out the top 25 men and the top 25 women, highlighting whatever it is they're doing. Because that's called fairness."

Wrong. That's called a false dichotomy - you DO realize that there exists shades of gray, even in the category of gender? The LGBT community would shit fucking bricks if they read your suggestion.

It's also called a quota. Should we also provide equal spots in your list for people of different races? Religions? Ages? (Ageism is a real problem! I'm OUTRAGED that none of the people on this list are over 60!).

Of course we shouldn't. This is, as you pointed out, a rough meritocracy. While I'm all for supporting women in the realms of engineering that may eventually lead to game development, proposing that we mandate artificial equalization on the basis of gender is hugely insensitive. At the very BEST you're treating a symptom of a deeper cause that manifests itself in ALL scientific and engineering disciplines.

This blog post is ludicrous...

Sin Estelle

@Chereen First two paragraphs, I agree mostly, but feel that trying to aim for a specific number (though significantly better if proportioned correctly) could end up too forced.

The final paragraph I see your points as well. A hugely male dominated environment can be incredibly daunting to many females as it's an area where they'll feel quite pressured a lot of the time. Speaking solely from people I know (before the course as that obviously would obscure things), I knew significantly more guys interesting in Computer Science and Games than I did females, and this is despite the fact that I had many more female friends.

I think there is a seriously difference in the numbers interested, but that you are correct in suggesting that some of those who would be consider it would be driven away by the climate.

Mycroft W

So, instead of setting the quotas of the final list, start by coming up with lists of the top 35 men, top 35 women, top 35 non-white (American/European), top 35 from Asia, maybe a couple of others. Don't cheat - work hard at filling all the lists, and for those you can easily fill, be critical about ranking the ins/outs (can you imagine how rough it would be to be the 66th-ranked NCAA basketball team in the judges' eyes? That kind of critical).

FROM THOSE LISTS, on merit, build the top 50 people. After you do that, if, after putting in the time to work through any biases/blindness you may have, you still believe that the merits of the 36th-38th man (the ones you had to fight over with your conscience against the ones you eventually ranked 32nd to 35th) outweigh the merits of all but 12 of the women you've listed, then fine. It's your call. But it will be a better list, not because it's all men, but because the people you would not have thought of if you hadn't done the preliminary work DESERVE TO BE ON THE LIST.

But as Alice said, if I am asked to come up with names in a field, the ones I know/interact with/like are going to come up first. And they'll likely be, by and large, a lot like me. If I don't go to the trouble of explicitly breaking my blinkers, then looking with wide eyes on what I then see, it's going to *be* biased.


While these women may or may not have deserved to supersede people who got spots on the list, splitting the list 50/50 between men and women is hardly a "fair" way to make up that list.

The list is supposed to highlight the most important and influential people in gaming today. It should be based on merit, not gender.

Sin Estelle

@Mycroft W Now that may be a nice way to do it, but only if the individual lists aren't published as well. It would force the writer to research all possibilities a lot more and then they can easily compare the merits of each.

It would help to minimise the bias that, as you say, is fairly normal without explicit effort to reduce it.


Nothing can really be done to get women into the industry. Offering "incentives" and more opportunities throws fairness out the window. Besides what is the reason the industry needs more women? Has some crisis happened? Some would argue having more women would lead to new ideas that apparently only women will be able to come up with but then again perhaps I should be hired because I'm left handed, meaning I may be more creative. My point being everyone has the potential to bring something "new" to the table, gender should be disregarded.


I put forth a challenge.

Someone type up a list of the top 10 most influential/successful/important men and then the top 10 most influential/successful/important women in the gaming industry between 09/10 and compare the lists.

I'm sure you'll find it at least twice as hard to complete the female list. That's simply because it's a *fact* that there's so few women in the gaming industry compared to men.

Issuing a list split 50/50 for the sake of it is insulting to both parties as it's basically saying "We'll bump these 25 incredibly talented males to put you girls in here just to satisfy the female demographic, even though some of these women's produced content is of a much lower level than the majority of these bumped males".

Now I'm not saying that all of those 25 women they put in the list will be unworthy of their places, I'm sure many of them would be more than worthy, however there would a large percentage of women in that list that are less influential/successful/important etc than the males that would be bumped. That's just a fact due to male/female ratio in the gaming industry.

Granted, that list of 50 *should* have contained some females as some of the best content lately has come from the minds of the female of the species. To not include anyone is just insane. And as above they appear to have even agreed and apologised for this. However, I'm just saying that forcing half a list to be female isn't going to work as the ratio of male/females in the gaming industry isn't AT a 50/50 ratio yet. Trying to force it is just.. illogical.


@RSmith I don't think it's about 'getting women into the industry' but rather, removing barriers like sexism, bias etc. so that women who do choose to enter the industry can feel that they are being treated equally. Media accolades such as these can have a real impact on a person's career. If a bias exists ( unintentional as it may be ) it is only fair to point it out so that future women won't be so readily overlooked.

I am sure that as the male dominated professions start to be more even handed, you will see a natural balancing as perceptions of gender roles at a basic level begin to change.


(Note: My comment eventually gets around to linking my "50 Game Industry Women To Know" list that I originally published as a response to the total absence of women in Nov. 09's "The Game Industry 50").

All the most pressing issues pertaining to GDM's list have already been intelligently addressed here, so I just want to insert a note about the kinds of things we can do to constructively help move our industry closer to the balanced gender representation we all one day hope to see.

When I first saw the printed version of "The Game Developer 50," my reaction was to be simultaneously dumbfounded and outraged. As others have said already, I don't think many of us expect a 50/50 split when the list is positioned around accomplishments of the past year. But ZERO women?! Really?! Again, this sentiment has already been expressed, so moving on to what I did about it...

This February I put together a list of "50 Game Industry Women To Know" and posted it as a blog on fragdolls.com where I could be sure that even if it wasn't recognized by other game industry pros, at least several thousand female gamers would see it and have a new list of female game industry role models to admire.

This list was the best official reaction I could think of because it directly contributed to the overall movement towards increased awareness about women as crucial game makers and players. Overall, the best thing we can do to combat these exceedingly male-dominated representations of our increasingly diverse field is to provide our own representations of that diversity. The female game dev/player communities have done a lot of great stuff to this end already, we just need to keep at it.

Sin Estelle

@Rhoulette I haven't gone through that list in great detail, just skimmed, but there are some interesting ones there I'll definitely be reading up on (when I'm not quite so tired)! A lot of the women who have been mentioned in this article I'm unaware of and feel that I don't know of enough noteworthy women within the industry at the moment.

Several of them would most certainly have deserved to be placed within the feature by Gamasutra that this blog post is based on.


I would agree that not having a single women in the list seems like a heinous oversight but a 50/50 split just isn't a reflection of reality. I've worked as a developer for nearly two decades. Just three years ago I was at a large office of slightly more than two hundred. In all of development, QA and product management we had three women. Not because we didn't want to hire them. To the contrary, we were given orders to give any female candidates preference during the hiring process in an attempt to balance the office out. It was just that the overwhelming number of candidates were male. Given a ratio like that it's statistically feasible that the top 50 could all be men without there being any gender shenanigans.

Top x lists are ridiculous anyway as the comparison is highly subjective. But what's next? Are you going to raise the same complaint when a list of the Top 50 greatest hockey players is compiled and turns out to be all male?


Jane McG made TED this year, btw. Along with a handful - just a handful - of other game devs...


Before working in the game industry, I had some notion of how sexist it was, but I didn't realize the extent of it until I was in it. Yes, women make up a small fraction of the industry, but their accomplishments are further unacknowledged. The old boys' network (or rather, the "not-so-old boys' network" to be more accurate, this being the game industry) determines who gets into the industry and how their achievements are treated.

Companies I've worked for have had plenty of women working there - but very few were actually making games. Sure they were gamers who *wanted* to be in development, but job placement in the industry is very much about connections, so they ended up doing web/marketing/office work, hoping vainly to "break in" to development. Those women who actually were in development were constantly undermined, marginalized and otherwise not treated equally to their male counterparts. In addition, the many women now finally breaking down walls to enter the industry tend to be more junior, and therefore less likely to be the ones spinning the narrative about what's going on in the development process.

What's odd about the industry is how credit is given to people for projects; it often has very little to do with who actually did what. In any creative, group endeavor the demarkation of roles is blurry; in the game industry though, it's sometimes almost completely random. I know certain well-known (male) industry figures who are erroneously given credit for the design of multiple successful projects, even though they weren't even doing development work on those games; they're now leads, without ever having done a single day's work as designers. Credit is largely assigned by word of mouth (i.e. the old boys' network). Often, perhaps usually, whoever has buddied up with (the mostly male) games journalists working for magazines or is otherwise a visible face is assumed by the public to be "behind" particular games. The industry, wanting some "stars," tends to fabricate them out of whoever looks the part. It works the other way, too. I know of an expensive, failed MMO, where I was told it was "well known" (by those outside the project) that the cause of the collapse was "a female engineer." Those who worked on the game told me another story: the (male) engineering managers who made disastrous decisions on the technical direction were fully responsible, but they decided she made a better scapegoat.

All of which is to say: I don't really trust these lists to begin with, regardless of who is on them. You're not only dealing with the usual biases and blind-spots of the writers who compile the list, but more importantly, the biases and prejudices of all the people in the industry who determined not only what accomplishments would be recognized but also who would be lauded for them.

Jen MacLean

Having been in the industry for almost 20 years, I generally have a
pretty thick skin about this sort of thing, but not recognizing a
single woman smacks of deliberate and malicious sexism. By any
measure, women have had notable success and impact in 2009.

How about Amy Hennig, the Creative Director for Uncharted 2? The game
only won more AIAS awards (voted on by the industry, incidentally)
than any other this year.

Or how about Meggan Scavio, who in her first year running GDC pulled
off a fantastic event with huge attendance, new summits, and rave
reviews. I daresay the more than 10,000 GDC attendees would agree
Meggan made an impact this year.

Jade Raymond, who runs the studio that shipped one of the biggest
selling and budgeted games of the year?

Cursory research-cursory knowledge!-demonstrates that by any measure
women made a huge impact in 2009. To not include a single one can't be
interpreted as anything but deliberate gender bias. The only thing
that angers me more than such obvious discrimination is playing into
Gama's lame strategy by calling more attention to it.

Shame on you, Gamasutra.

Bryan C.

Unbelievable... although I guess not in some ways. Unfortunately the bar for women to get recognized is stupid high as not only do they have to have done something monumental, but they also have to be photogenic it seems.

Worse is when a woman does get recognition by the gaming press, they often are instantly discounted as a sex object or worse, have their gender used as a source of attack (eg, Jade Raymond) to marginalize them.

mystified C.

First, the bar for *anyone* to get recognized is stupid high. This is a highly competitive industry filled with smart, talented, ambitious and self-motivated people.

Second, to conclude that Gamasutra's intentions were obviously to discriminate sexes just because they did not pick any women is unquestionably neurotic.

Third, consider the fact that nobody is discussing or arguing about the validity of contributions that the gamasutra 50 have brought to the industry. Contributions don't have a gender. Instead, it's "why didn't you pick this or that woman."

I think it's an insult to women everywhere to insist that a woman should be picked for a list that was assembled solely based on the weight of ideas.

Some of you characterize entering the industry as being especially hard for women. However, guys get discredited, churned up and spit out of this industry just as readily as anyone else, and for reasons that range from totally fair to totally unfair. You have to be incredibly tenacious to sustain a career in this business. That goes for men and women.

Some people take personal responsibility for what happens to them in their lives. Others seek ways to complain about it.

I wish there were more women in this business too, but the answer is not to give extra preference to women "just because".

Do something positive yourself to show young women that game development is a valid path instead of waiting or complaining to or prodding others to do it for you.

Unfortunately, most of them are well-socialized against technical endeavors before they even are ten years old, but that's another discussion entirely.


@Jen: I know I called him out on it too, but I don't think Simon (& co) were *deliberately malicious* in putting the list together. I think they just had a certain kind of perspective. The list is heavily weighted toward indie devs, artists, etc. With a pinch of the distortion that comes from looking at GDC's past and future, etc.

I think it was just poorly thought out, and gender was one vector along which this was the case.

Poorly put together, yes. But I know Simon and can't believe he sat down to put pen to paper with the intent of slighting the fairer sex.


Don't have time to read through 40+ comments, but a 50-50 split between genders is not by any means the "fairness" being spoken of. Yeah, recognition would help get more women into the industry, but what you're talking about is unfairly padding one side in order to accomplish a goal.

You've mixed up two ideals: fairness and raising support. In one, there can be no bias; in the other, bias is a necessity.

David Bastien

@Bryan: They're marginalized based on gender because their gender is what's used to promote them. Jade was pushed as being a game designer when really she was a producer. Same thing with Kim Swift. Suddenly she "designed Portal" when she did no such thing. Taking credit away from the person who did design it and giving it to her because she's a woman doesn't really advance the cause of women in games. It just makes it hard for people to take the women doing real work seriously.

Nobody should be defending game companies that push women as having done work they didn't do just because they're women. It's demeaning to them and it's demeaning to the people who consume the product to make us look like we'll pay attention to anything if it has a woman nearby.


I don't think making a "mandatory quota" for including women anywhere is a good idea. Just like it's not a good idea for any other group of people who at some point in time have felt, feels or will feel discriminated against. I don't believe in "positive discrimination". To get on a list or get hired for a job or whatever it may be, should always be based on your personal accomplishments and talents. To put women on a list just because they're women is just as wrong as keeping them -off- the list for that reason.

Nevertheless, I think it's an unfortunate pattern that when white males make lists, or recruit, or invite to conferences or whatever, they tend to pick other white males. It's not their "fault", since it's usually not a conscious choice. But that is sort of the problem. We discriminate against others unconsciously. No matter how good our intentions or how open our minds are.

And it's definitely not a question of just male vs. female.

Rhianna Pratchett

@Alice - Thank you so much for the props.

Lists by their nature are always going to be subjective and Gamasutra is particularly fond of them. In the past I’ve certainly taken them (gently) to task for being extremely US-centric (with a smattering from the East.) I agree with the various comment posters that if women are included on lists it should be for their work and nothing else. Even then you’ll get the inevitable dissection of whether X deserves to be there or is taking credit for Y, or they only really did this and not that. But then again, males would get exactly the same kind of treatment. If women aren’t standing out enough to immediately jump to the minds of the list compilers, then that’s a very different problem.

However, I will always be grateful to Gamasutra for giving me the space to talk about my work in more detail. If you're interested it's here: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/4104/vital_game_narrative_a_.php

To me, that’s the important thing, not lists or whether someone highlights the fact that I happen to be lacking a Y chromosome.

Game narrative is a real battle-ground at the moment, often incredibly brutal and with a lot of misconceptions about the power writers have and what goes on behind the scenes. Game writers face some very tough challenges. Etho and Phil have criticised me directly for Mirror’s Edge, so let me address that. As I spoke about in the Gamasutra interview, I was brought on very late to the project (after all the levels had been designed) not to mention the fact that a great deal of the script was cut out right at the end of the project, without my involvement. So whilst I’ll hold my hands up and agree that it wasn’t my best work, it wasn’t exactly a fair representation of my work, either.

In fact, it’s incredibly hard for any game to be a fair representation of the writer’s work, unless the writer also happens to be higher up in the food chain, as well – Ken Levine or Tim Schafer, for example. For me, the Overlord series was closer to the mark, mainly because it was a smaller team, I was involved a lot more and it had different working practises. You win some, you lose some.

Amy Hennig is fantastic and not only a great example of what women in the industry can achieve, but also what creative people in the industry can achieve. In my opinion, the fact that we all *know* how great she is counts for a lot more than any list.



I'm a designer in the games industry, and I'm a woman - and do you have any idea how utterly furious I would be if I were put on a list of important people purely because I was female? That would be so belittling, so insulting that I'd be beside myself with fury and despair. If I ever get on a list, I want it to be purely on the basis of the quality of my work - not because I'm a girl, not because I look good in photos (I'm also super wary of being photo-friendly) but because I've done work that is some of the best in the industry.


I came over here expecting to leave a comment saying that "Okay, but when women start doing awesome stuff in gaming they'll get on the list."

Your examples shut me right the hell up.

Regardless of gender, not having the writer of Portal or the woman that runs GDC on that list is mind-boggling.

Objectively, I wouldn't say the writer of Heavenly Sword or Mirror's Edge (man or woman) would deserve to be on that list because those games had mediocre writing. Mirror's Edge is amazing because of the visuals, and Heavenly Sword just isn't amazing period. Likewise, Singstar was released about six months after Karaoke Revolution, so she "invented" a concept that was not original to the industry.

Those gripes aside, it's fantastic to see more light shed on what women are doing in gaming. In fact, I would LOVE to see your list of the top 50 most important women in gaming. As long as you don't include the Frag Dolls.


Thanks Winter. Amanda: this is the problem, right here. Women *are doing staggering work*: Amy H as everyone has agreed, designer of the year! And not included. Are there similar in Japan? Korea? UK? France? Canada? Germany? Sweden? All of these countries produce AAA hit games.

My flung-out thought about half and half would really help (IMHO) with visibility: with visibility comes role models, and role models are often hand-in-hand with ambition.
With visibility, women will get the credit they deserve for the work they produce.

Someone brought up race, and this is also VERY worth reading on race and the games industry:


...where visibility, role models in the industry, and thoughtful character portrayal are also key points in the games industry reaching beyond its natural homophily.


Re Kim's point: I also know Simon, and he's wonderful. And inclusive. And clever, and entirely unmalicious. Like i said, I adore the Gamas.

I think this was a mistake: but a mistake that needs attention and discussion brought to it.

Mycroft W

Sin Estelle: Sorry, I thought that was too obvious to need mentioning. As soon as you mentioned it, of course, I realized how wrong that thought was. All the work I suggested doing, including and especially the work that doesn't see print, is required to create a safer, less biased top 50 list (and I strongly believe, a better one). The un"used" research might be of use later - say when it's time to interview an "up-and-comer" who maybe nobody else thinks of interviewing (because they still have the blinkers on), but it's not "wasted" now, just because it doesn't see print.

Jen MacLean: I agree with others who disagree with you on the term "deliberate gender bias". I know, from experience (embarrassing and otherwise), that it is possible to be biased (gender-, ethnic-, whatever-; even club membership-) without there being any deliberation whatever. In fact, the suggestion I made on how to create a "top 50" list above is a deliberate intent to counter the unconscious biases that we all have (and I probably missed a few - I realize from the later comments that I *did* miss Europeans (and Africans, but I don't think there's a big gaming industry there yet. But you know, that's just unconscious bias - I don't actually *know*)). From the excluded side it looks deliberate; it sometimes, but nowhere near always, is - but recognizing one's own biases *is* deliberate, and without deliberate action those biases will *not* be overcome. Which is, of course, why it frequently isn't done, and things like this happen.


Game Developer EIC Brandon Sheffield did respond to a GamePro editorial on the subject (scroll down):


David Bastien

@Winter: Kim Swift is not the "writer of Portal" nor is she the "designer of Portal".

David Kircher was the designer, and Eric Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek were the writers.



Thanks for the correction! I was just going by what Alice posted. I'm curious as to where she got her information. Alice, care to comment?

I notice that none of those guys are on the list, either. Mind-boggling.


Gama headline, one of many (Google kim swift portal designer):


"Portal Designer Kim Swift Leaves Valve For Dark Void Dev"
by Chris Remo.


"Portal lead Kim Swift" etc...


Just got this in my inbox:

"You go off on a rant about how it's unfair that women aren't recognized in the gaming industry. You cite the Game Developer 50 as your reference. You make an issue of the lack of women in there, yet you just blatantly contradict yourself by calling for a 25 women, 25 men set up. No how is this fair and balanced at all? You want people recognized based on talent and not race, sex, religion, or any other matter, yet call for things to be divided by sex."

I thought I was quite clear that my setup wouldn't be a meritocracy just based on "who's best" at what, but a look at 25 men and 25 women doing wonderful things. That would be a *different* way, to me, of looking at achievements.

Alternatively, stick to "who's best of the best", and include the women who are winning Game of the Year awards, and women running the industry's most important conference, for starters.

They're both ways of looking at interesting work. They're both, IMHO, better than the list Gama produced.

/over and out.


I really don't see a need to split it in half and put half in one bucket and half in another. That's just not reasonable. Because if you do that, then you're going to have to split some more for blacks vs. whites, then christian vs. atheist, then republican vs. democrat...etc. That's just messy. Why not just have a huge list where everyone is equal? That's what they have now. So what none of them are women...maybe it wasn't a very woman friendly year for developing games. Most of the people you mentioned above didn't do whatever they were notorious for this year. You mentioned it yourself that it was for the previous year, yet Portal was released years ago, Mirror's Edge, Overlord, and Heavenly Sword just as long, and Singstar has been on the market forever. So, unless you find a legit reason for a woman being left off the list, there really isn't any ground to stand on with this. I understand it's disheartening that no women are put on this list, but just think about the people who actually did accomplish something this year that would be pushed off the list just to fit some women for "fairness." That doesn't sound very fair in the end, now does it?

Mister Manners

Am I to understand that women should be getting recognition not based on the merits of their achievements, but by their gender first and their work second? Isn't that more than a little demeaning to women who DO work hard and EARN their right for recognition? In fact, it would be these very lists that would continue to perpetuate the myth that Kim Swift was the designer of Portal, when in fact she was little more than a pretty mouth piece used for promotional purposes.

And what of the genuinely great achievements of the other people who would get bumped off your list in favor of women? Should they go unrecognized because, by the nature of your egalitarian viewpoint, they have the misfortune of being a man? That's more interesting to you? HAWHAWHAW!

How about a top 50 game developer list featuring a person of every gender, transgender, ethnicity, age group, and tax bracket? Maybe even *shudder*, bald people!

This nonsense is certainly not why I've been reading this blog for years now. Despite the fact that it's garnered you plenty of attention via comments, please don't make it a new trend.


Dear Alice,

n: ttlly gr wth y, nd ths thr ppl r prcks.

Tw: hv hd th grt dsplsr f hvng mt Brndn Shffld (n f th tw mn wh wrt th rtcl n qustn) nd cn tll y tht h s n ENRMS wmn-htng prck. wld nt s ths rtcl s rprsnttn f Gmstr, s m vry gd frnds wth thr cntrbtrs, bt mrly s gd ndctn f n mn bng ttl dch.

Thr: rd yr blg rglly. :) Kp t p.


Wonderful how this thread has descended from sexist entitlement to unsubstantiated slander.


The comments have certainly devolved in an unfortunate manner, so hopefully I can help to refocus things.

I don't think most of the people here criticizing the GDM/Gamasutra Game Industry 50 list are expecting or asking for anyone to be put on the list because they are a woman, or just to have a woman on the list. We happen to concretely know some women who deserve to be on the list and are sadly absent for reasons we can't quite figure out.

For example (one already brought up several times): you'd think the Creative Director responsible for Uncharted 2 (far and away the most critically acclaimed game of 2009) would warrant placement on the list. That would be Amy Hennig, but she wasn't included.

Furthermore, the lack of even ONE female developer is especially sad when you see that someone like Steve Jobs is taking up a spot. What did he specifically do for the game industry in 2009? Steve Jobs has done some amazing things in his career, but does he seriously deserve to be on Game Developer Magazine's Top 50 list when the Creative Director of the industry's Game of the Year was excluded?

Those claiming that we want women game developers to be recognized because they're women clearly aren't paying attention. We want the women who deserve recognition to be recognized equally, rather than being lazily overlooked.

Bryan Gyg Jebavy

As to the idea of meritocracy being without flaws, things like Amy Henning's absence from the Top 50 list alone should be enough to make that notion reconsidered. These things all interact in a variety of nuanced ways that don't add up to absolute factual perfection. Being offended at the absence of even a single female dev on this list is extremely valid. As is the point that there will always be underrepresented people on it. I don't think for a second that there aren't huge pools of amazingly talented people doing fantastic work inclusive of any demographic you'd choose to categorize a person in. That said, when industry figures show involvement at 92/8 m/f for the most recent survey it is indicative of systemic problems which are not solved in simple manners (More through research and compiled lists from edited research, though that is a wonderful idea for setting up list and I would even like to see the top 35 whatever-designers listed too.) The idea of a list that would be 25/25 split showcasing female achievement in an industry that it could be argued is openly hostile to female developers is a piece in a larger strategy. Raising visibility for marginalized groups and showcasing role models helps break down preconceived notions of what game developers have to be. If I belonged to a group less represented within games than ye olde white male, and had never seen or heard of any developer I identified in some cultural or even largely superficial manner when I was a kid, the odds of me deciding to pursue an education towards that job would drop. When the education system training up for that job reinforces gendered breakdowns and doesn't do the work to study how to serve and educate students with different learning models or backgrounds it does further disservice and leads members of underrepresented groups to have to stop again and ask if they really belong in their dream role. Highlighting the difficulties for male devs isn't bringing new arguments to the front of the issue, no one participating in an informed discussion on the video game industry would suggest that it's easy to get into or stay working in. But that is the baseline of unfortunate circumstances for everyone involved in the industry, it's important to realize that the issues being raised on top of that are only compounding that base arduous scenario. Making a "balanced" list across gender lines or racial lines or lgbt lines or any other distinguishing feature chosen is not necessarily about just a look who's famous and awesome and can be a conscious activist effort to shape the industry and future industry members into something more egalitarian and worthy of the pure meritocratic ideals that are much harder if not impossible to achieve in such an unbalanced system. Further comments to the regard of "Well if you don't like it, why aren't you doing more about it." are discounting this very post bringing visibility to the issue and the work that many of the people in the comments specifically are doing to directly address the issue.

And for some input of my own, I'm an art student in a program studying to work in video games at one of the top art schools for producing visual development and concept artists for all branches of the entertainment industry at a global level. My program is very evenly split with gender and racial lines, with some outlying disparities that can be accounted for by talent splits in individuals and population percentages and the like. In my specific program, I see amazing work coming from people of every background, incredible drive, and highly talented and intelligent artists who are passionate about games. Yet the most recent salary survey indicates a huge disparity for artists in percentages and one of the largest pay gaps for any role breakdown. I'm not trying to say that that is an instantly addressable thing, or that the only issue that accounts for that disparity is gender because there is more too it than something even as complex as gender. But it's a topic that is worth seriously addressing from a critical perspective. There is a ton of research done outside of the game industry that is applicable and theories and criticism at a extremely high level that are increasingly taking place and will help the industry as a whole to continue making progress and improve going forward. There seems to have been a recurring nervousness of this list in particularly but tit could likely be applied to the industry as a whole that the inclusion and focus on women would water things down, but there are so many absurdly talented women available and that could be available with more supportive foundation that groups like the Women in Games IGDA SIG are working towards that I don't think that should be a concern. When it comes down to it job wise, those of us advocating for greater presence for women and other underrepresented groups are only trying to bulldoze the obstacles that are in addition to the baseline difficulties of the industry. The end goal is for everyone to be able to get to the table with as little bias as possible so that the only thing having to speak for them is merit, but until biases are redressed and overcome those judgements will always be tainted.


Sorry Emily - those folks are right, we can't be having slander on here (tempting though it may be), even if you were very complimentary of this blog, and thanks for that :)

Bryan - thank you VERY much for articulating the entire argument so, so well.

Rhou - I KNOW. Steve Jobs? I tell you what he's done for developers: screwed 'em. No cross-compiler with Android? Nice. Very nice way to play.

Mike Gauthier

98% of the soldiers dying in Iraq are male. That's unfair to women. They should have an equal opportunity to die for their country. Oh, you mean they get to choose to stay out of combat if they want? Well, that's ok, then...I guess.

My point is that we only look at discrimination when it's harmful to women. We don't care if it's harmful to men. So, more and more I don't give a damn about sexism towards women. At the same time, I want the women close to me to have equal opportunities. But, shouldn't they have equal responsibility, too?

Yes, volunteer army. Well, volunteer computer science classes, too. It may be harder to be 1 out of 50 students, but the fact is, more men take jobs they like less, just for the money - because women select men for money far more than vice versa. Women can do the same thing, and make as much money - or more, as studies show with female engineering graduates. Or, they can select some guy who does a job he doesn't much like for the money, and then complain about the wage bias.

We have been looking at one side of this issue for a long time, and there is NO groundswell to look at men's lives. The less we do that, the less we find, and the less we think there's any reason to look at men's lives. Meanwhile, the media tells about *every* disadvantage that women face. So much for equality.


Don't feed the trolls, people... don't feed the trolls...

David Bastien

@Alice: Team lead means producer not designer. On top of that at Valve you're allowed to make up your own title.

Look at the website for Narbacular Drop. Read interviews with her where she herself says the idea was Dave Kircher's. Look at the writing credits on Portal and the interviews about its development.

The gamasutra article says "a designer of", which I suppose is technically correct since she contributed a few levels. You say "the designer" which means that she either created the concept or was lead designer. Both of which are incorrect.

You've basically decided to rebrand her as a lead designer instead of a producer just because she's a woman.

Isn't it funny how little attention Dave Kircher gets for coming up with the idea?

Google "Jade Raymond" and "Game Designer" and you'll get hits too. That doesn't magically make her a designer and not a producer as well.

David Bastien

As far as I can tell Alice, so far you have two proposals to fix the game industry and all other industries:

1) Attribute all credit for a product to whatever woman was closest to it.

2) Create a separate "women's division" in every profession when ranking talent.

It's completely incomprehensible to me that you would think this would help in any way shape or form encourage women.

If I was a woman I'd find this kind of thinking devastating because what you're really saying is that they can't compete and shouldn't be expected to. And no need to compete anyway! We'll just give you whatever credit the men earn!


David, "as far as you can tell" seems to mean something you've made up in your head. Your comments have no concurrence with what I've said, and you've gone off down your own path in your own reality there. An odd route, and yours to keep.



For those worried about KS's credit, Gamespot lists her as Lead Developer.

Moby Games says Team Lead.

Joystiq says Portal Lead.

Someone with the Orange Box in their hand can read out what the booklet says by all means - and post with a trackback - but me, I'm at the beach, as I'm still on holiday here. My copy is at home.

So I'm closing comments now, because I'm pretty sure everything that can be said, has been said (and this blog is a personal one, and not run for profit and pageviews).

Agreements are in place, disagreements too, and some quite fabulous (-ly stupid) examples of trolling, to boot.

All in all, that probably wraps it up.

Thanks for joining in!


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