Brianna Wu Battles More Than Video Game Villains

Girl power!

Key Takeaways

  • The women in the gaming industry are doing big things to make gaming inclusive for everyone.
  • Brianna Wu is best known for creating the Revolution 60 game and for speaking out against Gamergate.
  • Expect more games designed by Wu in the future.
Brianna Wu
Boston Globe / Getty Images

Men overwhelmingly dominate the gaming industry. According to a 2017 report by the International Game Developers Association, people who identified as women only made up about 21% of the gaming industry.

But women are increasingly leveling up in the industry. They are creating games featuring female-centric characters and advocating for more women’s voices in the bigger-named gaming institutions. 

One such woman is Brianna Wu, a dedicated gamer and advocate for women and politics. Being so sick of games tailored to men, she set out to create her own game, tailored to everyone. 

"It just made me so angry that women were the damsels in distress that never got to be the hero," Wu told Lifewire in a phone interview. 

Level One

While nowadays, Wu enjoys playing Cyberpunk, she said her first exposure to the gaming world was when her parents bought her a Nintendo system in 1985. 

"I was just gone after that," she said. "I went straight into Mario world." 

Eventually, she said she realized a trend with the games she was playing in portraying women as secondary characters or characters who needed to be saved. That led her to create her own gaming developing company, Giant Spacekat, in 2010. 

It just made me so angry that women were the damsels in distress that never got to be the hero.

The company, which she co-founded with Amanda Stenquist Warner, released Revolution 60 on iOS systems in 2014. The game has won multiple awards, including the 2014 iOS Action Game of the Year award from iMore, which called "the modeling...gorgeous, the animation delightful, the music engrossing, and the voice acting outstanding."

The single-player game centered around four women attempting to liberate a space station. Players had to make decisions throughout the game, and certain choices would lead to certain endings and consequences, letting players choose their own destinies.

Not only did Revolution 60 feature female protagonists developed by a team consisting of a majority of women, but it had a unique gaming design. 

"We had a design philosophy that you didn't need to know how to operate a controller to enjoy a story," she said. "We wanted to tell a story that literally anyone could pick up and enjoy, regardless of their experience." 

Level Two

But Wu said her biggest accomplishment isn’t Revolution 60; rather, it’s standing up to Gamergate. In 2014, an online harassment campaign spread across social media that targeted women in the gaming industry and opposed the increasing influence of feminism in video games and video game culture. Wu was one of those female targets, because she was outspoken about the male-dominated industry. 

During that time, she received death threats, harassing emails, and her home was vandalized, but she said she never backed down from speaking out. 

"It was a decision that caused me immense trauma, but I always knew that if I didn't speak out, that would be what I would regret," Wu said.

Aside from that struggle in her life, Wu said she is continually fighting for women in the gaming industry to succeed. And it’s not just her advocating for other women, either. 

Software Engineer and Democratic Candidate for Congress Brianna Wu speaks to attorney Carrie Goldberg onstage during the 2017 New Yorker TechFest
Brian Ach / Getty Images

"There’s a group of women over 40 that are industry veterans… You may not know their names, but they are ruthlessly elevating each other behind the scenes and giving other women opportunities," she said. "We can’t go through the front door, so we've been silently working to bring women in the back door." 

Level Three

As far as the gaming industry as it is today, Wu said it has an innovation problem due to who is in charge. 

"Women chip around the edges, but it's really hard for us to step up and be leaders [in the industry]," she said. "I think until that system changes, you're going to see a product that's really tailored for a very specific kind of player." 

She said she has become "bored" with gaming lately because of all the "first-person shooter games, kill everything in sight games, and sports games," but she said she’s not yet done developing games. 

"You have not seen the last of me on game design," Wu said. 

Wu’s legacy goes far beyond her passion for gaming and game design, and instead, lies in her relentlessness to fight for what she believes in. 

"At the end of my career, I hope people will look back on the things I’ve done and see me as someone who acted with integrity."

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