WOMEN AND VIDEOGAMES | Women developers and game designers

WOMEN AND VIDEOGAMES | Women developers and game designers

Girls like to play: a perspective on the history and present state of women in gaming

  • WOMEN AND VIDEOGAMES: Women developers and game designers. Girls like to play: a perspective on the history and present state of women in gaming

The presence of women in video game development has seen significant growth in recent years. In the 1990s, women were a rarity in development studios, but today they make up about 31% of the industry workforce (up from 22% a decade ago), according to the most recent report from the International Game Developers Association. This change has been fueled by an increased focus on inclusivity and educational programs aimed at encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Universities and colleges are implementing specific courses in game design, often with scholarships reserved for women, contributing to this shift.

Female pioneers of the video game industry

Numerous women have left an indelible imprint on the video game industry, each contributing in unique and significant ways to the evolution of the medium. Roberta Williams, co-founder of Sierra™, is one of the most influential figures in adventure games. In the early 1980s, Williams created “Mystery House,” one of the first graphical adventure games on a computer, which introduced graphics to a hitherto text-dominated genre. However, with “King’s Quest” (1984) she revolutionised the industry. This game set new standards for interactive storytelling and introduced game mechanics that have become fundamental to the genre.

Amy Hennig is another pioneer, known for her work on series such as “Legacy of Kain” and “Uncharted.” Hennig began her career as an artist and writer, but it was with “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune” (2007) that she solidified her reputation. The “Uncharted” series is acclaimed for its cinematic storytelling, complex characters and engaging game design. Her ability to interweave plot and gameplay inspired a new generation of developers to consider storytelling as a central element in game design.

Jade Raymond is another shining example of a woman who helped shape the video game industry. She began her career as a programmer but rose to fame as executive producer of the first “Assassin’s Creed” (2007) at Ubisoft. In 2021 she founded Haven Studios, which was acquired by Sony a year later.

Women have led significant innovations that have defined genres and set new standards of quality. Their work has had a lasting impact, paving the way for future generations of female developers and designers. Thanks to their contributions, the video game landscape has become richer, more diverse, and more innovative.

Gender Discrimination

Despite progress, women in the video game development industry still face numerous challenges. In 2014, IGDA’s annual report focused on discrimination in the video game industry. Through an open-ended question, respondents were asked to tell their stories of discrimination; most of the comments were about gender discrimination in various forms.

Some of these forms were very tangible, such as preferential treatment of men in hiring and promotions, insubordination of women by subordinate men, disrespect or disregard for opinions or suggestions, especially regarding the inclusion or representation of female characters in games, and an overwhelming preference for white males in management positions.

Many women complained of a “confraternity” or  “locker room”  kind of situation, which included inappropriate sexual or discriminatory jokes, belittling of the skills and expertise of female developers and players, comments about physical appearance (the most recorded reference being to their breasts), and explicit sexual harassment.

How to support women in video game development

To support women in game development, numerous initiatives have been created. Organisations such as Women in Games and Girls Make Games offer mentorship programs, workshops, and resources to help women enter and thrive in the industry. These programs not only provide practical support but also create a network of solidarity that can help female developers overcome professional challenges. In addition, events such as the Game Developers Conference have begun to include panels and lectures specifically on the role of women in the industry, providing a platform to discuss issues and possible solutions.

Video game recommendations from the CHRONES. team


A platformer co-created by game designer Maddy Thorson. In addition to offering challenging and well-crafted gameplay, Celeste tackles complex issues such as mental health, depression, and anxiety. The protagonist, Madeline, faces not only the physical challenges of the mountain she is climbing but also the internal ones represented by a dark alter ego. The introspective narrative is treated with sensitivity and depth, offering players an emotionally resonant and universal experience.

Gone Home

Written and directed by Steve Gaynor but produced by a diverse team including Karla Zimonja and Kate Craig, it explores themes of identity and sexuality profoundly and touchingly. Set in the 1990s, it follows the story of a young woman who returns home and discovers her family’s secrets, including her sister’s homosexual relationship. The game uses the mechanics of exploration to tell an intimate, feminist story, challenging the conventions of the medium and demonstrating the power of interactive storytelling and the power of a female character as lead.

Life is Strange

Developed by Dontnod Entertainment with significant contributions from female developers, it explores themes of personal growth, self-discovery, identity, acceptance and ‘friendship between women through moral choices in ways that resonate deeply with players. The protagonist is Max, a young woman with the power to manipulate time. The co-star is Chloe, a complex and rebellious young woman whose friendship with Max adds depth to the plot, exploring themes of loyalty, grief, and the search for personal identity to the exclusion of narrative twists and interactions related to male characters.

CHRONES. is a female-led start-up company specialising in Game Design that supports gender equality and strives for diverse and inclusive representation!

Image credits: Celeste cover art ©Maddy Makes Games

Carla Andolina

Carla Andolina CHRONES. COO About us
29 May 2024

From Lord of the Rings to Evangelion and Ace Attorney, she’s learned that the right team makes all the difference! Creating magical experiences and lasting networks is her mission: bringing together talents from unexpected fields to make 1+1 equal 3! From acting she moved to contemporary dance and social media management: there is no right way to say things, only the most useful! For more than 3 years she’s been SEPHIROT®’s trooper and now she organizes CHRONES.’s forefront expeditions! Allons-y!

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WOMEN AND VIDEOGAMES | Women developers and game designers

Girls like to play: a perspective on the history and present state of women in gaming

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CHRONES. SRL innovative start-up. Via Mons. Santeramo, 23, 76121 Barletta.aP.IVA/C.F. 08822590728 REA BA 652634. Share capital: € 10.000,00 | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy

CHRONES. SRL innovative start-up. Via Mons. Santeramo, 23, 76121 Barletta. P.IVA/C.F. 08822590728 REA BA 652634. Share capital: € 10.000,00 | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy