Sydney Adams is a Senior Game Designer and an advocate for social justice within the game industry. Her mission to support underserved and underrepresented communities has led her to create notable works such as Secret Lair: Black is Magic, a Magic the Gathering product celebrating Black history and identity. Black is Magic became the highest grossing product of its kind, raising almost a million dollars for the organization Black Girls Code. While working at Wizards of the Coast, Sydney also designed for Dungeons & Dragons, adapting wheel-chair accessible map designs for D&D’s Strixhaven: School of Mages and contributing adventure and monster designs most recently to the newly released Starter Set. From her work as an employee resource group leader, championing the careers, wellbeing, and solidarity of women within her former company, to her current position at Take Two-Interactive, Sydney continues to insist upon a world that not only welcomes those like her, but gives them the opportunities and tools to succeed.
Rebecca (Becky) Heineman is a computer programmer, game designer, writer, engineer, and more. Her involvement in the video game industry began as she achieved the title of National Space Invaders Champion in 1980. Becky began her career at 16, and would help found Interplay Productions and Logicware Inc. She founded Contraband Entertainment in 1999 and in 2013 co-founded Olde Sküül of which she is CEO. She has also worked for companies such as Electronic Arts, Boone Corporation, Barking Lizards Technologies, Sensory Sweep Studios, Microsoft’s Xbox division, and Sony Computer Entertainment’s Research and Development division.
With a long resume, some of Becky’s credits include The Bard’s Tale III: The Thief of Fate, Dragon Wars, Tass Times in ToneTown, Borrowed Time, Mindshadow, The Tracer Sanction, Out of This World, DOOM, Wolfenstein 3D, and a multitude of Macintosh and Apple IIGS conversions.
Jennifer (Jenn) Hinton has worked at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) since 2000, serving in a variety of roles in both Student and Academic Affairs. In 2007, Jenn became the first academic advisor in the newly created game design and development program at RIT and is a founding member of RIT’s Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction & Creativity (MAGIC) and MAGIC Spell Studios—now Chief of Staff and Director of Games Industry Relations.
Jenn is RIT’s primary representative to the industry as well as a partner to state and local economic development organizations focused on games. She leads MAGIC’s signature initiatives, including the Digital Game Hub, the MAGIC Maker program, RIT’s Community Incubator, as well as MAGIC-commissioned design, research, and media projects. A career highlight for Jenn was being a member of the team that published Hack, Slash & Backstab on Xbox in 2016. Jenn is deeply committed to and passionate about helping her students land their first professional role in the games industry and is a long-time partner in The Strong’s Women in Games initiative.
Jenn earned her BA in History and Education from St. John Fisher College in Rochester and her MA in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania; in 2017 she was recognized by her program as the recipient of their Distinguished Alumni Award.
Beth Llewelyn enjoys an extensive career providing PR counsel to companies and brands across video games, entertainment, and technology. As a global communications and PR expert, Beth leads corporate strategy and media relations at Zebra Partners, an award-winning integrated PR and marketing firm she co-founded nearly 15 years ago. Prior to Zebra, Beth spent 12 years at Nintendo of America overseeing 500+ major product launches—from Pokémon to the Wii—and earning awards such as PR Week “Consumer Launch of the Year” for Wii launch (2006-2007) and Brandweek and AdAge “Marketer of the Year” (2007).
Beth got her start at Golin and other PR firms in LA and Wahigton DC, working in the entertain-ment and non-profit sectors. A graduate of Duke University, she is based in Connecticut, where she still loves to play Tetris and tries to beat her kids in FIFA and Mario Kart.
Shannon Loftis is a game developer, industry leader, mentor, and coach. She recently retired after nearly 30 years at Microsoft, primarily making games, building teams, and launching platforms. Most recently Shannon was studio head for World’s Edge, Microsoft’s studio focused on all things Age of Empires. Shannon studied computer science and mathematics at Duke University, joining Microsoft in 1993, quickly migrating to the Entertainment Product Unit. Her earliest work focused on online card-playing games, utilizing the emerging potential of the internet and social game design. Shannon has been responsible for multiplayer games across all of Microsoft’s gaming platforms (console, PC, and HoloLens), including the Madness, Fable, and Viva Pinata series, Project Gotham Racing, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, and others. In total, Shannon has contributed to more than 50 games. She has created and led many global teams, in games publishing, interactive television, and internal game development studios (most notably Good Science, responsible for greenlighting and shipping the Kinect with full-motion games and core in 2010). Prior to World’s Edge, Shannon built and ran the Microsoft Studios 1st Party Global Publishing team focused on such AAA franchises as Crackdown, State of Decay, and the Microsoft Casual Suite. In her free time, Shannon enjoys playing video games, running, and traveling with her husband and two sons.
Jenny Xu is a long-distance runner, artist, programmer, gamer, farmer, Forbes 30 Under 30: Games recipient, and CEO of Talofa Games.
Jenny started making games and running at age 12, and in her 12 years in the gaming industry, she’s shipped 10 titles on the mobile app stores with more than 9.2 million downloads. She was the grand prize winner of the Niantic Beyond Reality Contest in 2019, right after she graduated from MIT studying Computer Science.
Jenny founded and was the lead game developer (and the only developer) at JCSoft Inc., an independent game company making experimental horror-comedy mobile games. While at JCSoft, Jenny worked with Niantic to create new augmented reality and location-based experiences on their platform. Jenny later co-founded the gaming studio Talofa Games where she is CEO. She’s also previously worked at Google, N3TWORK, and EA.
Lauren Synger has directed and/or voiced many acclaimed and award-winning audio projects. In addition to serving as Voice Director for Meatly’s/Joey Drew Studio’s Bendy and the Dark Revival, Lauren also voices the characters of Alice Angel and Allison. She recently voiced Sarah, and was Creative Consultant, Voice Director, and Casting Director for Toniko Pantoja’s animated short, Dusk’s Flight. She voiced multiple characters in Killer Klowns from Outer Space: The Game and is the promotional and festival voice for Elektrum Festival by Intents Festival and WISH Outdoor. She is the voice of Genlock’s Yaz in Hi-Rez Studios/Evil Mojo’s Paladins, Siren Song Cliodhna in Smite by Hi-Rez Studios, the female PC Aerev in Spellforce 3 by THQ Nordic/Grimlore Games, and a multitude of characters in Cryptic/Perfectworld’s Star Trek Online, Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter, S2 Games’ Heroes of Newerth, and more. In 2022, Lauren released the original song “Come What May” as her character Allison in Bendy and the Dark Revival. She also released the original song “Lonely Angel/ I’ll Be Your Angel” as her character Alice Angel in Bendy and the Ink Machine in 2018. She has lent her creativity and talents to projects such as Heroes of Newerth by S2 Games/Frostburn Studios and the award-winning Skyrim conversion Enderal. Lauren continues to develop original music, which will be available publicly and for licensing in movies, TV, and video game soundtracks.