Women in Games: Inspire!

Thursday, November 15
at The Strong
6–9 p.m.
$15 per person

About the Program

Inspire, support, and celebrate women in video games during an evening featuring innovative leaders in the industry. Special guests include gaming pioneers Bonnie Ross, Dona Bailey, Brenda Laurel, Megan Gaiser, Amy Hennig, Susan Jaekel, Jen MacLean, Sheri Graner Ray, and Victoria Van Voorhis.

Executive director of the ESA Foundation, Anastasia Staten, will moderate an interactive panel discussion. The evening will also include a tour of the all-new Women in Games exhibit, a networking reception with light refreshments, and video game play.

About the Speakers

Dona Bailey

Dona Bailey is a pioneering game designer and the first female programmer on an Atari coin-op game. She first encountered the video game industry while working at General Motors in Santa Barbara, California, where she learned assembly language programming. She became intrigued with the iconic arcade game Space Invaders, and later discovered that developers at Atari were using the same 6502 Motorola processors to make games as she used in her displays at GM. Bailey joined Atari in 1980, and in 1981, she became the programmer on the four-person team that released the arcade hit Centipede. This bug-based shooter became immensely popular and gained one of the largest female player bases of the era. Following her work at Atari, Bailey designed arcade games at Sente Technologies and worked as a contractor on PC-based games for Activision until 1984, when she left the gaming industry.

Megan Gaiser

As Principal of Contagious Creativity, Gaiser serves as a senior creative leader, strategist, and director, where she guides technology, educational, and entertainment companies to create content that inspires human experience across films, books, games, and virtual/augmented reality. Gaiser was also the catalyst for the formation of the “Leadership for Diversity” initiative. At Her Interactive, Gaiser served as one of the first female CEOs in the gaming industry and gained a reputation for identifying and engaging unproven markets, and a commitment to the highest artistic and aesthetic qualities. Dubbed by the New York Times as “The UnBarbie” of computer games, Gaiser grew Her Interactive to $8.5 million in revenue, sold 9 million game units, and won 29 Parent’s Choice Gold Medal awards with the Nancy Drew game franchise. Awards highlights include “Game Industry’s 100 Most Influential Women” by Next Generation; “Top 10 Most Influential Women of the Decade” by Gaming Angels, and “2011 Indie Cade Trailblazer Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Amy Hennig

In a career spanning nearly 30 years—from the Atari 7800 to the PlayStation 4—Amy Hennig has worked as an artist, animator, game designer, and, most notably in the last two decades, as a writer and director. Most recently, Hennig worked as the creative director and lead writer on Visceral Games’ Star Wars title at Electronic Arts. This followed a decade at Naughty Dog as the creative director and writer of Sony Computer Entertainment’s acclaimed Uncharted game series. Prior to joining Naughty Dog, she served as the writer and director of the groundbreaking Soul Reaver/Legacy of Kain series over eight years at Crystal Dynamics. Hennig’s work on the Uncharted series has earned countless industry awards, including a BAFTA for Story and two consecutive WGA Videogame Writing Awards. In 2016, she was presented with the BAFTA Special Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the video game industry.

Susan Jaekel

For more than 40 years, Susan Jaekel has produced art. She began drawing at five years old, and pursued her passion to San Jose State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design with a concentration in illustration. From 1977 to 1980, Jaekel left her artistic
mark on the gaming industry by providing box cover art for Atari 2600 games, including Adventure, 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe, Brain Games, Circus, and Basic Math. Jaekel’s non-gaming career includes illustrating for national children’s textbook publishers such as Addison-Wesley, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, and Scott Foresman; Ravensburger’s puzzles and games; children’s trade books for Reader’s Digest Young Families; and sticker
designs for Hambly Studios. Her latest interests include fine art watercolor botanical paintings and animal portraits.

Brenda Laurel

Brenda Laurel began working with interactive media in 1976—in the computer game industry from Atari to Activision, and in research labs at Atari, Interval Research, and as a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Labs. At the Banff Centre, she co-designed and produced the groundbreaking virtual reality piece, Placeholder. She researched gender and technology at Interval and cofounded Purple Moon—interactive media for girls—in 1996. Laurel designed and chaired the Graduate Media Design Program at Art Center College of Design and the Graduate Design Program at California College of the Arts. She received the Trailblazer award from Indiecade in 2015 and the Nextant Prize from the Virtual World Society in 2017. Her books include The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design (1990), Utopian Entrepreneur (2001), and Computers as Theatre, Second Edition (2014). She currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Virtual World Society, IxDA, and the Communication Research Institute in Australia.

Jen MacLean

As the Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association and the IGDA Foundation, Jen MacLean works to build a more inclusive game development community and support game developers around the world in achieving sustainable, fulfilling careers. From the start of her career as a playtester at Microprose Software, through senior roles at America Online, Comcast, 38 Studios, and StoryArc Media, MacLean has managed game development, strategy, marketing, business development and partnerships across multiple gaming platforms. She was named one of the “Game Industry’s 100 Most Influential Women” by Next Generation, one of the “Top 20 Women in Games” by Gamasutra, and is a frequently requested speaker at interactive entertainment industry events.

Sheri Graner Ray

Sheri Graner Ray has been a game designer, producer, and writer since 1989. She began her career at Origin Systems/Electronic Arts, where she wrote and designed games in the iconic Ultima franchise. At Her Interactive, she served as creative director and director of product development on early games marketed toward girls, such as McKenzie & Co. and the Nancy Drew series. At Sony Online Entertainment, she led a design team focused on the Star War Galaxies license. In 2014, she founded Zombie Cat Studios, an independent consulting firm specializing in game design and development. Ray is one of the game industry’s leading experts on gender and computer games, and she published the book Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market in 2003. In 2005, she received the IGDA’s Game Developer’s Choice award for her work in gender and games. She also cofounded both Women in Games International and the Women in Game Development SIG of the IGDA.

Bonnie Ross

Bonnie Ross brings more than 20 years of experience to the gaming industry. As corporate vice president at Microsoft and head of 343 Industries, she is responsible for defining the vision and leading the Halo franchise, which includes games, novels, and a live-action television series. In 2007, she founded 343 Industries, an entertainment studio committed to fostering the growth and expansion of the Halo franchise, as well as driving innovation across Microsoft platforms. Ross is also deeply involved in promoting efforts to drive diversity across the games industry and generating interest among women and children in the pursuit of STEM careers. Her commitment to building diverse stories and characters has helped 343 Industries create immersive, blockbuster sci-fi entertainment experiences within the Halo universe. Halo has created a legion of fans with over $5.6 billion in worldwide sales to date that has transcended video games and grown into a global phenomenon.

Anastasia Staten

Anastasia Staten is a communications, marketing, and non-profit specialist. She serves as the executive director of the Entertainment Software Association Foundation, where she leads the philanthropic efforts of the video game industry. With the goal of serving the community and positively impacting the lives of young gamers and game professionals, Staten cultivates partnerships, leads fundraisers, oversees grant and scholarship programs, and organizes charitable events. Staten brings more than 15 years of experience in the non-profit realm to the ESA, having previously worked at the American Humane Association and the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Victoria Van Voorhis

Victoria Van Voorhis is an education and technology veteran of more than 16 years. In 2006, she became the founder and CEO of Second Avenue Software, Inc., an award-winning educational game studio that produces educational games and interactives. The studio partnered with RIT and The Strong this year to provide the level of polish and professional code required to make “The Original Mobile Games” app for several commercial platforms. Prior to founding Second Avenue, Van Voorhis taught at the middle school, high school, and college levels. She served as the principal investigator for multiple Department of Education and National Science Foundation grants and is an active reviewer for National Science Foundation SBIR grants. As an ed-tech leader, Van Voorhis is an author and sought-after speaker. Van Voorhis currently serves on the Boards of the Rochester Museum and Science Center, Vertus Charter High School, and the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation.

Ticket Information

Tickets are required and may be purchased online or by calling Guest Information Services at 585-263-2700. Guests must present tickets at the museum admissions desk the day of the event. Tickets are required for all guests. Admission is limited to 250 guests. Tickets are non-refundable.

About The Strong

The Strong is the only collections-based museum in the world devoted solely to the history and exploration of play. It is home to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the National Toy Hall of Fame, the World Video Game Hall of Fame, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, the Woodbury School, and the American Journal of Play and houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play. 

Make a room reservation online at the discounted rate of $89. Guests may also call to reserve rooms 585-546-6400.

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