How Brenda Romero Is Building a Legacy

Game developer to gaming company owner

Key Takeaways

  • The women in the gaming industry are doing big things to make gaming inclusive for everyone.
  • Brenda Romero is best known for her gaming company, Romero Games, and the creation of Empire of Sin. 
  • Romero is optimistic the gaming industry is becoming more inclusive to women.
 Game designer Brenda Brathwaite Romero speaks onstage at Jiro Dreams of Game Design during the 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival.
Sean Mathis / Getty Images

Women are increasingly leveling up the gaming industry—whether it’s advocating for more inclusion and diversity or developing games meant for all types of players. One such woman is Brenda Romero, who not only is a game developer, but also created her own gaming company, Romero Games, in 2015. 

Though Romero has won countless awards—like a BAFTA Special Award, the 2013 Women in Games Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 2017 Development Legend award—she said one of her biggest accomplishments has been creating her gaming company with husband John Romero. She believes it’s a long-lasting legacy she can leave behind. 

"It feels nice to try to create the type of environment that you wish you could always work in and to try to have that environment for people," Romero told Lifewire over the phone. "I enjoy making people feel valued." 

Level One

Since she was little, Romero has been creating games, collecting pieces and parts of board games that she bought at garage sales and repurposing them to make her own games.

Flash forward to 1981, and Romero was hired at video game developer and publisher Sir-Tech Software, first as a tester and later as a designer. Overall, Romero is credited with 49 game titles, including The Mechanic is the Message, Wizardry 8, Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes, and, more recently, Empire of Sin

"Diversity is very much at the forefront of people’s minds."

"I’m really proud of Empire of Sin and where it’s going," she said. "To create something where nothing existed like it before is a real challenge, but also a lot of fun." 

Released in December, Empire of Sin is an inventive role-playing, strategy game set in the 1920s in Chicago. She said she’s especially proud of it because it was created as a team at Romero Games. 

"Having a company that has lasted for five years where there’s a great group of people, and we all enjoy working together is something I’m incredibly proud of," Romero said.

Level Two 

While being a female in gaming hasn't stopped Romero from becoming successful in the industry, she said she’s had her fair share of struggles as a woman in tech. 

"I remember early on being told I didn’t make as much as so and so because so and so had a wife and family to support, and I thought, 'Well, that’s not fair,'" she said. 

She added that while she’s had a mostly positive experience in the industry, there are still moments when people assume she is arm candy for someone else, rather than a serious game developer. 

Portrait of Brenda and John Romero
Brenda Romero

Outside of the gaming industry, Romero is focused on bringing to light women’s accomplishments in the tech industry as a whole. 

"When I was working at a college, one of my colleagues said that women weren't interested in tech, and I thought that was absolutely ridiculous, so I went to prove him wrong," she said.

Romero said her passion lies in highlighting women in tech and helping people learn about women at the foundations of the industry. She said that pursuit serves a purpose much larger than herself. 

"There’s no game I’m going to make that’s going to be bigger than that," she said.

Level Three

For Romero, things are looking brighter than when she entered the industry decades ago. She said she wasn’t able to play as a female character in video games for the first six years of her career, since they simply didn't exist. Now, that’s not the case. 

"Now, when you're pitching a game to people, they are asking if the game is going to feature female characters," she said. "Diversity is very much at the forefront of people’s minds." 

"To create something where nothing existed like it before is a real challenge but also a lot of fun." 

She said there are more women in today's gaming industry than ever before, and feels like a significant change is taking place when it comes to gender equity. 

"When I look at new women coming into the industry and the fire that they have, that itself is really influential because if you're around somebody who is so fired up and excited about something, that’s contagious," she said. 

Romero has some sound advice for women looking to enter the field and make their own legacies. 

"One of the wonderful things about women in the game industry is we are really well-connected networks, so find those networks, jump in and join them," she said.

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