10 Female Programmers who Revolutionized Video Games

From role-playing games to independent titles, these 10 women have written, developed, consulted and designed some of the industry’s biggest games.

The gaming industry has a reputation for being male-dominated, but female programmers have made significant contributions, often without any of the credit. Here are 10 women every gaming fanatic should know.

1. Robin Hunicke

Robin Hunicke is known for her work on the MySims game, a version of The Sims released for the Wii in 2007. She is a professor of game design at UC Santa Cruz and the co-founder of Funomena. Hunicke is recognized in the industry for her support of independent game development, experimentation in game design, research in dynamic difficulty adjustment and advocacy of women within the games industry.


2. Carol Shaw

In 1978, Carol Shaw created a 3D version of the classic game that everyone played on paper during study hall: Tic-Tac-Toe. As one of the first female computer game designers, Shaw is regarded as a visionary, and she’s also known for designing games like Video Checkers and River Raid.


3. Kim Swift

Kim Swift designed the original Portal game in 2007, long before most players knew about games that require them to open portals and teleport from one place to another. Swift has always been a programmer — in 2005 she designed a game called Narbacular Drop. It was game that caught the attention of Valve, creators of Half Life, who then hired Swift to work on the first Portal game. Swift was featured by Fortune as one of “30 Under 30” influential figures in the video game industry.


4. Jane Jensen

Gray Matter, a game known for game pushing the limits of psychological suspense, was designed by female programmer Jane Jensen. Before she brought magic to the world of computer gaming, however, Jensen began her career as a writer for Sierra On-Line and later found herself designing King’s Quest VI alongside Roberta Williams. In 1993, Jensen designed Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers.


5. Amy Hennig

When the PS3 was first released, players got chills looking at the mind-blowing graphics of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Amy Hennig was one of the lead designers on the team that developed Uncharted. Hennig’s experience goes all the way back to the Atari 7800 where she designed her first game, Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City. Next, she worked on the Legacy of Kain series and Jak 3. It was her involvement in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, however, that earned her a place in every gamer’s heart — and a spot on this list.


6. Dona Bailey

Of course, women were also involved in creating the ancestors of the modern computer game — coin-operated Atari arcade games. Previous generations of gamers would queue up to play Centipede, which was designed by Dona Bailey in 1980. Bailey taught in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing of Arkansas University, and she has inspired many popular games on the market today.


7. Christy Marx

Christy Marx is a writer in every sense of the word: She’s written books, screenplays, television scripts, graphic novels and computer games. A creative mind known in many circles, Marx first started working with Sierra On-Line in 1989 on Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail, and in 1991, she wrote, designed and directed Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood. More recently, she’s worked as a creative consultant on games like URU: Ages Beyond Myst and The Matrix Online.


8. Brenda Romero

With a name like Playboy: The Mansion, gamers likely think there are dozens of men responsible for creating the game. Wrong! Brenda Romero (formerly Brathwaite) was the lead designer. Romero developed the Wizardry RPG game series in the 1980s, and in 2005, she took on the task of creating the aforementioned Playboy: The Mansion, a simulation game similar to the Sims. She later became a head game designer.


9. Sheri Graner Ray

Sheri Graner Ray was one of the creators behind the Ultima series, a phenomenon of its time, and she played a particularly pivotal role in the development of Ultima VII. She later began working at Her Interactive, a game developer that specifically aims its products at young girls. Ray also worked on Star Wars Galaxies, and now she’s Studio Design Director at Schell Games.


10. Roberta Williams

Roberta Williams is the founder of one of the best-known names in the world of computer games: Sierra On-Line. She and her husband Ken founded the company in 1979, and in 1980, they released their first game, Mystery House. Williams is known for creating the King’s Quest series, one of the first adventure games, as well as Mixed-Up Mother Goose.


Women have contributed much more to technology than just games. To read about other women who pioneered in the worlds of technology and science, check out the Mothers of Invention collection. The original version of this post appeared here.

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