Kate Edwards is the executive director of the International Game Developers Association. She is also a geographer, writer and content culturalization strategist, most active in information-based cartography and video game content. She was born in Lynwood, California on 24 February 1965 and was raised in Mission Viejo, California. She has resided in the suburbs of Seattle since 1989. She is known for pioneering the field of geopolitical risk assessment in digital content and content culturalization, from online maps and reference materials to video games, and her work on the geocultural impacts of the globalization and localization of content. She once wrote, "We can actually look at any specific local culture as a combined set of “content assets” that clearly define the look, feel, sound, taste and general nature of the culture in very much the same way the content assets of a game define the look, feel, sound and general nature of the unique game world." (Chandler, 2011, p. 21)
After initial studies in Aerospace Engineering, and Industrial Design she completed her B.A. in Geography and a Certificate in Cartography in 1988 at California State University, Long Beach. After a year of working at Thomas Brothers Maps in Irvine, California, she entered the Geography graduate program at the University of Washington in Seattle where she received an M.A. in Geography in 1991, with a thesis on "Virtual Worlds Technology as an Interface to Geographic Information".
After one year of further graduate study towards her doctorate, she applied for a cartographer position at Microsoft. Edwards was hired as a contractor in February 1992 to help build the maps for version 1.0 (1993) of Encarta Encyclopedia. Her "permatemp" role expanded to become the Cartography Lead for Encarta for the 94, 95, and 96 versions while also helping with the evolution of Microsoft's virtual earth technology and Encarta World Atlas project. In 1995, she obtained a full-time position at Microsoft as its Geopolitical Specialist.
She proposed and founded a new team called Geopolitical Strategy, approved by the company in 1998. As Microsoft’s Senior Geopolitical Strategist (her final title at the company, after using simply "Geographer" for years), Edwards was responsible for the risk assessment of geopolitical and cultural content across all products and locales. In the Microsoft Studios, Edwards implemented a “geopolitical quality review” process and was responsible for reviewing the potential sensitivities of nearly all 1st party PC and Xbox games between 1995 and 2005 as well as many 2nd and 3rd party titles. Academically, she restarted her Ph.D program in 1998 and passed her general exam in early 2000 to obtain her Ph.C (Ph.D Candidate) status.
In March 2005, she left Microsoft to launch Geogrify, a geocultural consulting firm specializing in content culturalization and strategy, with a specialty in video games, cartography and general cultural sensitivities in digital content. She has spoken at many geopolitical forums and game conferences and has been a regular columnist for MultiLingual Computing magazine since 2005. In addition, she was a senior advisor for Business for Diplomatic Action until its closure in 2010 (which aimed to improve the image of the US overseas), the founder and chair of the Game Localization Special Interest Group (SIG) in the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) since 2007, a board of directors member for the IGDA Seattle chapter, and she was awarded Chartered Geographer (CGeog) status by the Royal Geographical Society (UK) in 2004. Edwards is also known to be an active advocate of improving geographic and cultural literacy in the U.S. and beyond.
In the video game industry, she worked on numerous titles while at Microsoft, including the Halo 1 & 2, Fable 1 & 2, Jade Empire, Forza Motorsports, and the entire Age of Empires series. At Geogrify, she has continued working on many game titles, including: Dragon Age 1-3, Ninja Gaiden 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Dance Central 1-3, Halo 4 and Ryse. In March 2011, she was awarded the IGDA's 2011 MVP award for her contributions to the organization and to the game industry.
In December 2012, Kate was appointed as the new executive director of the International Game Developers Association after Gordon Bellamy moved on from the position in July of that year. She continued her culturalization consulting work on the side.
In October 2013, a Fortune Magazine feature via CNN Money selected Kate as one of "The 10 Most Powerful Women In Gaming."
References & sources
- The Game Localization Handbook: Chandler, Heather (2011). The Game Localization Handbook. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. ISBN 0763795933.
- A December 2010 interview by Gamesauce
- A June 2012 interview during the Media Across Borders conference
- An October 2012 interview by the Puget Sound Business Journal
- An October 2012 interview by the KPLU radio (Seattle)
- A January 2013 interview on Polygon.com
- An October 2013 Fortune Magazine/CNN Money feature on the 10 Most Powerful Women in Gaming