Brenda Romero

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Brenda Romero
Brenda Romero in 2014.JPG
Romero in 2014
Born Brenda Louise Garno
(1966-10-12) October 12, 1966 (age 50)
Ogdensburg, New York, United States
Other names Brenda Brathwaite
Occupation Video game designer
Spouse(s) John Romero (m. 2012)
Children 3

Brenda Louise Romero (née Garno, born October 12, 1966), previously known as Brenda Brathwaite, is an American game designer and developer in the video game industry. She was born in Ogdensburg, New York and is a graduate of Clarkson University. Romero is best known for her work on the Wizardry series of role-playing video games and, more recently, the non-digital series The Mechanic is the Message. She has worked in game development since 1981 and has credits on 22 game titles.

For Wizardry, Romero provided game design, level design, system design, writing and scripting.[1] She also wrote the manuals and documentation for some products in the series.[2] Romero provided writing and documentation for the award-winning Jagged Alliance series.[3] She also worked on other notable franchises including games such as Def Jam: Icon, Playboy: The Mansion, Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes, and others.


Romero began her career in 1981 at video game developer and publisher Sir-tech Software, Inc., on the Wizardry role-playing team. She worked first as a tester,[4] and moved up through the design and content creation ranks to lead designer for the award-winning series. While at Sir-tech, Romero also worked on the Jagged Alliance and Realms of Arkania series.[5] She was employed with Sir-tech for 18 years before moving on to game maker Atari where she worked on the Dungeons & Dragons series for consoles before joining Cyberlore Studios in 2003 to work on the Playboy: The Mansion game. Romero's research for the game was ultimately published in a book, Sex in Video Games.[6]

In 2006, Romero was named one of the 100 most influential women in the game industry by Next Generation magazine and her peers.[citation needed] Nerve magazine cited her as a "New Radical" — one of "the 50 artists, actors, authors, activists and icons who are making the world a more stimulating place".[citation needed] In 2009, Next Generation magazine identified her as the woman with the longest continuous service in video game development.[4]

Romero served as Chair of the Savannah College of Art and Design's Interactive Design and Game Development department until November 2009. She moved to San Francisco to consult as Creative Director for social media company Slide, Inc., and then became Creative Director of social gaming company Lolapps, Inc. in May 2010.[7] She co-founded the social game company Loot Drop with John Romero in November 2010, then left Lolapps and joined Loot Drop in February 2011.[8] In 2013, Romero became the first game designer in residence at the Games and Playable Media Program of the University of California at Santa Cruz. She also serves as the program's director.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Romero married game developer John Romero on October 27, 2012.[10][11][12][13] Together, they worked on Ravenwood Fair, with John as lead designer and Brenda as creative director and game designer. John and Brenda became engaged on March 24, 2012. Brenda has three children from a previous marriage.[citation needed]

IGDA and activism[edit]

Brenda and other game developers at a BAFTA event in Los Angeles in July 2011. From left: Rod Humble, Louis Castle, David Perry, Brenda Romero, John Romero, Will Wright, Tim Schafer, Chris Hecker.

Romero was an active member of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). In 2008, she was elected to the IGDA's Board of Directors. On March 28, 2013, she resigned as co-chair of the IGDA Women in Games SIG in protest over an incident in which scantily-clad women performed for a party co-sponsored by IGDA and yetizen, since she felt that the performance conflicted with IGDA's support for the advancement of female game authors and designers.[14][15][16]

She founded the International Game Developers Sex Special Interest Group (Sex SIG) in 2005.[4][17] Since working on Playboy, she has studied adult and sexual content in video games and is regularly interviewed about the subject in the media. She has written a book on the subject, Sex in Video Games.

She is an anti-censorship activist and a proponent of parental rating awareness.[citation needed]


She is a regular speaker at universities and conferences including the Game Developers Conference, Austin Game Developers Conference, and Montreal International Games Summit. Some of her lectures have been held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University, and Clarkson University.

In the spring of 2007, she was awarded the Presidential Fellowship at Savannah College of Art and Design to develop an exhibit and presentation titled, "What You Don't Know About Video Games...". In April 2008, Romero became Chair of the Interactive Design and Game Development department at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Brathwaite left SCAD in November 2009 to return to full-time commercial game development.

In December 2012, she was appointed "Game Designer in Residence" at the University of California, Santa Cruz.[18]

In March 2014, she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship.[19]

Mechanic is the Message[edit]

In February 2008, Romero began work on a series of non-digital games known collectively as The Mechanic is the Message. According to the series abstract:[20]

The Mechanic is the Message captures and expresses difficult experiences through the medium of a game. Much like photographs, paintings, literature and music are capable of transmitting the full range of the human experience from one human to another, so too can games. Due to their interactivity, the installation suggests that games are capable of a higher form of communication, one which actively engages the participant and makes them a part of the experience rather than a passive observer.

The series is composed of six separate non-digital games that experiment with the traditional notions of games.

  • The New World, 2008
  • Síochán leat, 2009
  • Train, 2009
  • Mexican Kitchen Workers – prototype
  • Cité Soleil - concept phase
  • One Falls for Each of Us – concept phase

Of the six, Train has received the most attention, and won the Vanguard Award at Indiecade in October 2009 for "pushing the boundaries of game design and showing us what games can do."[21] Train was also featured in the Wall Street Journal[22] as well as on game industry sites including Gamasutra where it received accolades for its ability to evoke meaning through gestures,[23] the Escapist Magazine,[24] Extra Credits,[25] and on Kotaku.[26] Romero delivered Train: How I Dumped Electricity and Learned to Love Design[27] at the 2010 Gamesauce Conference.

Síochán leat (Irish for "peace be with you") chronicles the history of her children's heritage.[28] Romero made the game following The New World, a game she originally made to teach her daughter about the slave trade. Romero designed Síochán leat to teach her daughter about her Irish heritage and traces the family's history from the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland to their ancestor's eventual immigration into the West Indies on the paternal side and Canada on the maternal side. The game features a burlap pillow simulating an earthen mound covered by 26 pieces of grass, each representing a county in Ireland. In a talk given at the Austin Game Developers Conference in September 2009, Romero noted that the burlap was filled with mementos of her upbringing and her heritage, including photographs of her great grandfather, Paddy Donovan, and one of her mother's rosaries. On her blog, Romero notes that "the game is signed in many ways and is highly autobiographical. It is my history and it also reveals my feelings about its present state."[29]


  1. ^ "Game Credits for Wizardry 8". 2008-05-19. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  2. ^ "Wizardry Gold". MobyGames. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  3. ^ "Jagged Alliance". MobyGames. 2004-06-25. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  4. ^ a b c "Celebrating Female Game Devs of Yesteryear". Archived from the original on 30 October 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2016. The longest-serving female game developer in the business will also be attending the WIGI Conference. Brenda Brathwaite... 
  5. ^ "Brenda Romero's MobyGames entry". Retrieved May 19, 2010. Credits for work on Jagged Alliance and Realms of Arkania, among several others. 
  6. ^ "Sex in Video Games". Retrieved May 19, 2010. Since the first computer games became available, sex has played a role in some form... 
  7. ^ "G.I.R.L. talk with Brenda Brathwaite". Retrieved May 19, 2010. I’m happy to announce that our first guest is Brenda Brathwaite, the Creative Director at Lolapps... 
  8. ^ Alexander, Leigh (February 23, 2011). "Brathwaite Joins Loot Drop For Old Reunions, New Frontiers". 
  9. ^ "Brenda Romero named first game designer in residence at UC Santa Cruz". Retrieved March 31, 2014. 
  10. ^ Brenda Romero's Facebook relationship status
  11. ^ John Romero's Facebook relationship status
  12. ^ Brenda Romero's tweet confirming their relationship status
  13. ^ John Romero's Twitter status update confirming their relationship status
  14. ^ "IGDA draws backlash, member resignations over female dancers at GDC party (update: IGDA responds)". Polygon. 2013-03-28. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  15. ^ "Women in the gaming industry share their number one reason to be in the business". Polygon. 2013-03-28. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  16. ^ "Updated: YetiZen explains hiring of gamer models, not dancers, for its GDC party | GamesBeat". 2013-03-30. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  17. ^ Terdiman, Daniel (August 16, 2005). "Game developers form sex 'special interest group'". CNET. Retrieved September 6, 2012. 
  18. ^ Stephens, Tim (December 18, 2012). "Brenda Romero named first game designer in residence at UC Santa Cruz". University of California, Santa Cruz. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  19. ^ Alexander, Leigh (28 March 2014). "Romero awarded Fulbright fellowship for Irish industry work". Gamasutra. Think Services. Retrieved 29 March 2014. 
  20. ^ "The Mechanic is the Message". 2009-05-07. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  21. ^ "applauds 2009 finalists and awardees! | IndieCade - International Festivals of Independent Games". IndieCade. Archived from the original on February 19, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  22. ^ Brophy, Jamin (2009-06-24). "Can You Make a Board Game About the Holocaust?: Meet "Train" - Speakeasy - WSJ". Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  23. ^ "Sande Chen's Blog - Reflections on Train". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  24. ^ "The Escapist : TGC 2009: How a Board Game Can Make You Cry". 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  25. ^ "Extra Credits: Sex in Games". Extra Credits. 2012-10-17. 
  26. ^ "In Defense Of The Classic Controller - Project Natal". Kotaku. 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  27. ^ "Train: How I Dumped Electricity and Learned to Love Design". 2010-08-20. 
  28. ^ "On Train and "The Irish Game" « Shambling Rambling Babbling". 2009-07-29. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  29. ^ "Sign Your Work « Applied Game Design". 2009-07-26. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 

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