Updated Mon, Jul 22, 2013 by Dalmarus
Welcome to the fifth episode in our "Where Are They Now?" series! Being a gamer since the days of Pong, I thought it was long past the time when someone should take a look at famous game developers from days gone by and find out how (and whether) they're still involved in making the games we love to play. All of the developers highlighted in this series so far have been men, but it’s time to shift gears and look at one of the women who helped shaped the industry in ways you can’t even guess.
Claim to Fame
This week’s highlighted game developer is Sara Jensen Schubert. Before we really get started, let me just say Sara is the reason I desperately want to create a T-Shirt with a front that says, “Females don’t play video games…” and a back that says, “Of course not. They just design the most hardcore open PvP games known to man.” Before I ramble too much about that though, let me shove some basic information into your noggin.
It’s seriously a crime to me that more people outside of the industry do not know who Sara is and what she’s done for our industry. Not only was she the Lead Designer of Shadowbane, the original “ZOMFG THIS IS PVP” MMORPG, she did it at a time when women developers were scarcer than a duckbilled platypus in Alaska. And I’m not saying she was “just a designer”… she LED Shadowbane’s development team from 2004 to 2006! I hate to put in all these exclamation points, but it’s important to understand that this was a different time in the industry and a woman in such a role was (stupidly, I may add) virtually unheard of. Sara rose from the ranks of a data entry specialist in 2003 to leading a team less than two years later creating content for the PvP game that started it all.
Sure, Ultima Online may have had open PvP nearly everywhere, but it wasn’t the driving focus of the game by any stretch of the imagination. Shadowbane brought the concept of open PvP as a genuine game-driving mechanic to the masses and (in my opinion) to this day a more hardcore game has not been created. Not only was it insanely brutal, it was also a hell of a lot of fun. And this is coming from a person who doesn’t generally like PvP at all. Sadly, technical issues would plague Shadowbane until its eventual demise.
Where Are They Now and Why the Hell Should I Care?
Sara is still hard at work in the industry as the Design Lead at KingsIsle Entertainment, working on Pirate 101. It may seem like a far cry from her development days with WolfPack, but Sara is far more than just a game designer. She also happens to be an industry expert in MMO systems design, RPG combat balance, data mining, web tools, and data management. She’s given talks all over the world, including one of the most recommended topics from GDC Online 2011 in Austin, TX entitled Fundamental Multiplayer RPG Math. Her knowledge of gathering data and being able to interpret and use that information is virtually unmatched.
Women in the game industry are far more common now than they were a decade ago when Sara got her start, and it’s thanks to pioneers like her that this has occurred. Fortunately for all of us, more and more women are getting involved in various aspects of the industry, whether it’s in game design, community, art, audio, systems management and more. As a collective whole, we desperately need even more women to get involved and offer more ideas about what games can be and how our interactions with them can change. For the strides we’ve made over the last 10 years, we have women like Sara to thank. We know it couldn’t have been easy, but thank you for stepping up and showing that women have the ability to stand toe to toe with anyone in a male dominated field.
If you have a suggestion for a game designer, art director, creative lead, or any other person intimately involved with a game's completion that you'd like to see highlighted, hit me up on Twitter or send me an email here!