Meet the Five Girlfriends of Game Development

In March, we had International Women’s Day and to celebrate, the ladies at GAMINGbible put our pretty little heads together to compile a list of our ten favorite video game goddesses. While all of these players are struggling when it comes to gameplay, they just aren’t real. That’s what got me thinking, ‘why are we celebrating these pixels and polygons and not the amazing real-life women who paved the way for games like these to exist in the first place?’ So here is my list of real gaming goddesses that are a big part of why our hobby is so awesome.

Mari Shimazaki

Soul Caliber, Okami, and Bayonetta 2 concept art / Credit Mari Shimazaki

As a country that popularized cosplay, it’s no surprise that Japan has some of the most talented character designers of all time. Yet whenever I think of a name among all these great talents, my mind always wanders to Mari Shimazaki. Perhaps best known for designing the Bicon Bayonetta game, Shimazaki is an industry veteran. Our talented artist has more credits to her name than Super Smash Bros Ultimate has fighters.

Her incredible art and designs have brought so many games to life that it’s hard to imagine what they would look like without her. What is Okami, if not its amazing characters and art style? Would people like it as much SoulCalibur or tekken if the costumes and characters weren’t so memorable? Shimazaki’s costumes are so beautifully detailed and exude such a powerful feminine energy that they set the stage for a unique character design. She took the sexualization of women in games and turned it on its head, giving sexy women their own powerful empowerment.

Amy Hennig

Kain's Legacy / Uncharted / Jak & Daxter / Credit: Crystal Dynamics / Naughty Dog
Kain’s Legacy / Uncharted / Jak & Daxter / Credit: Crystal Dynamics / Naughty Dog

Often known as the mother of Nathan Drake from Uncharted, it’s hard to imagine the landscape of gaming without the work of Amy Hennig. Starting out as an artist and animator for early console games on the Atari and NES, Hennig made a big impact on the industry when she transitioned into design and production. Working on the Legacy Of Kain series, Hennig took over several aspects of the project, from production to writing, starting with SoulReaver.

His legacy has only grown over the years. Contributing to Jak And Daxter for Naughty Dog, she soon began working as creative director for Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. This included leading 150 developers to create what is still considered one of the greatest game franchises of all time. Hennig is still in the business and writing for the next Square Enix title, Speak as well as working on a new Star Wars game with its own Skydance New Media division.. She is truly a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to game design and a master of everyone.

Roberta Williams

King's Quest / Phantasmagoria / Half-Life / Credit: Sierra / Valve
King’s Quest / Phantasmagoria / Half-Life / Credit: Sierra / Valve

If Hennig is the mother of the amorphous 3D action-adventure genre, then Roberta Williams is the queen of point-and-click. Launching Sierra On-Line with her husband Ken in the early 1980s, the couple went on to create some of the oldest and most renowned adventure games. From the King’s Quest series to FMV horror PhantasmagoriaWilliams was an early pioneer in game design, art, writing, and marketing.

Not only did Williams develop her own games and create new artistic techniques such as coloring and dithering, but she helped shape many great games through her company’s publishing efforts. Never heard of it Frog ? Perhaps half-life tickles your play itch? Or maybe you are more interested Crash Team Racing or the latest Spyro games? Whatever series you love, chances are Sierra helped make it a reality. Our daughter does not stop there. If you love any of the game’s hundreds of wonderful female protagonists, you have Ms. Williams to thank for pushing back against the mainstream voice that games featuring women wouldn’t sell as well. What girl !

Keiko Erikawa

Angelica / Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time / La Corda d'Oro Credit: Koei
Angelica / Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time / La Corda d’Oro Credit: Koei

It might not be an instantly recognizable name, but Keiko Erikawa has created so much in the gaming industry that it’s a name you need to remember. One of the founders of one of Japan’s Big Five game companies Koei, she not only invented love games as a genre, but was one of the driving forces in encouraging women to develop games. .

She hired and retrained women from other industries and encouraged them to join her all-female development team, Ruby Team. It was the first-ever development team to hire exclusively women, and its success showed the girls that gaming was, and is, a worthwhile industry for them to enter. The Ruby team aimed to create games by women for women, and under Erikawa’s influence, gaming shifted towards women as a valuable market to create for.

Jennifer Hale

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart / Mass Effect / Metroid Prime / Credit: Insomniac Games / Bioware / Retro Studios
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart / Mass Effect / Metroid Prime / Credit: Insomniac Games / Bioware / Retro Studios

We’ve covered female artists, designers, writers and directors, but Jennifer Hale breathes life into the game in a way that men couldn’t – through acting. Hale is known as one of the games industry’s most prolific actors, having voiced characters in Mass Effect, Bioshock, and Metal Gear Solid. If you’ve played a AAA game in the past decade, chances are you’ve experienced at least one of Hale’s performances.

Not only is she one of the greatest goddesses in gaming, but she has also given voice to many characters who might share that title. She voiced one of the original female protagonists, Samus Aran, in arguably the best Metroid trilogy, Metroid Prime. She played Female Shep in the Mass Effect trilogy, and she continues to this day – voicing one of the coolest new female roles in gaming, Rivet, in the latest Ratchet & Clank game, Rift apart.

These five women represent just a glimpse of all the women in the industry who have made games so great over the years. So the next time you think about how women have changed the landscape of gaming, don’t think Lara Croft, think Erikawa, Hennig, or Hale.