Brenda Romero

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Brenda Romero
Romero at 2015 IGF Awards-GDCA
Brenda Louise Garno

(1966-10-12) October 12, 1966 (age 57)
Ogdensburg, New York, United States
Other namesBrenda Brathwaite
OccupationVideo game designer
Known forWizardry 8
  • Ian Brathwaite (divorced); 3 children
(m. 2012)

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 49[1][self-published source] game titles.

For Wizardry, Romero provided game design, level design, system design, writing and scripting.[2] She also wrote the manuals and documentation for some products in the series.[3] Romero provided writing and documentation for the award-winning Jagged Alliance series.[4] She was the lead designer for Playboy: The Mansion and Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes.


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,[5] and moved up through the ranks to designer for Wizardry 8. While at Sir-tech, Romero also worked on the Jagged Alliance and Realms of Arkania series.[6] She was employed with Sir-tech for 18 years before moving on to 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.[7]

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".[8]

In 2009, Next Generation magazine identified her as the woman with the longest continuous service in video game development.[5]

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 in May 2010.[9] 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.[10]

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 served as the program's director.[11]

Romero was the Program Director of the MSc program in Game Design and Development at the University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland until December 2018.[12][13]


Romero has won several awards in her long career.[14] Some highlights include RPG of the Year for Wizardry 8,[15] a Fulbright Scholar award in 2014,[16] the Game Developer's Choice Ambassador Award in 2015,[17] the Development Legend award at the Develop:Brighton awards.[18]

Date Award Description
2018 Honorific Award Awarded by the Fun & Serious Game Festival[19]
2018 Top 10 Most Influential Women in Game Development Awarded in recognition of Brenda's most popular games.[20]
2017 BAFTA Special Award Awarded in recognition of her creative contribution to the industry.[21]
2017 Development Legend Awarded at Develop:Brighton[22]
2015 Ambassador Award Awarded at Game Developers Conference in San Francisco for helping the game industry advance to a better place.[17]
2014 Fulbright U.S. Specialist Award To carry out master classes and curriculum reviews of Digital Games courses at a number of Irish universities.[16]
2014 100 Most Influential Tech Women on Twitter Named #74 by Business Insider[23]
2013 Top 10 Game Developers of 2013 Awarded a position on the list by Gamasutra[24]
2013 Lifetime Achievement Award The Women in Gaming session at GDC 2013 honoured Brenda Romero with an award for her service to the industry.[25]
2009 Vanguard Award IndieCade awarded Brenda the Vanguard Award for Train Archived March 25, 2017, at the Wayback Machine.[26]
2008 Top 20 Women in Games Gamasutra named Brenda one of the Top 20 Women in Games.[27]
2006 Top 100 Most Influential Women in the Game Industry Next Generation named Brenda one of the 100 Most Influential Women in the Game Industry.[28]
2001 RPG of the Year Wizardry 8 awarded RPG of the Year by Computer Gaming World[15]

Personal life[edit]

Brenda Garno married game developer John Romero on October 27, 2012.[29][30][31][32] She has three children from her first marriage, to Ian Brathwaite.[citation needed]

John and Brenda worked on Ravenwood Fair together. He was lead designer and she was creative director and game designer.[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.

Brenda 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.

She had founded the International Game Developers Sex Special Interest Group (Sex SIG) in 2005.[33] 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.[34]


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.[35]

In March 2014, she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship.[36]

The 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:[37]

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."[38] Train was also featured in The Wall Street Journal[39] as well as on game industry sites including Gamasutra, where it received accolades for its ability to evoke meaning through gestures,[40] the Escapist Magazine,[41] Extra Credits,[42] and on Kotaku.[43] Romero delivered Train: How I Dumped Electricity and Learned to Love Design[44] at the 2010 Gamesauce Conference.

Síochán leat (Irish for "peace be with you") chronicles the history of her children's heritage.[45] 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."[46]


Name Year Credit
Druid: Daemons of the Mind 1995 game and manual writer, tester
Nemesis: The Wizardry Adventure 1996 manual and dialogue writer, scripter
Jagged Alliance 2 1999 writer
Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business 2000 game and manual writer
Wizardry 8 2001 game designer, game and manual writer
Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes 2003 lead designer
Playboy: The Mansion 2005 lead designer, manual writer
Playboy: The Mansion - Private Party 2005 game designer
Ravenwood Fair 2010 game designer
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Commander 2012 director, lead designer, writer
Pettington Park 2012 game designer
Dodger Down 2013 game designer, tester
Gunman Taco Truck 2017 game designer
Empire of Sin[47] 2020 game designer


  • Sex in Video Games is a nonfiction book about the history of sex content in video games.
  • Challenges for Game Designers[48] is a non-fiction book that aims to challenge and improves your game design abilities.
  • Game Balance[49] is a nonfiction book about balancing computer, video and non-digital games.
  • Breaking Into the Game Industry: Advice for a Successful Career From Those Who Have Done It[50] is a non-fiction book about how to get into the game industry with advice from several game industry professionals.


  1. ^ "Brenda Romero's Ludography". March 24, 2017. Archived from the original on March 25, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  2. ^ "Game Credits for Wizardry 8". May 19, 2008. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  3. ^ "Wizardry Gold". MobyGames. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  4. ^ "Jagged Alliance". MobyGames. June 25, 2004. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Celebrating Female Game Devs of Yesteryear". Archived from the original on October 30, 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2016. The longest-serving female game developer in the business will also be attending the WIGI Conference. Brenda Brathwaite...{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ "Brenda Romero's MobyGames entry". Retrieved May 19, 2010. Credits for work on Jagged Alliance and Realms of Arkania, among several others.
  7. ^ Brathwaite, Brenda (2007). Sex in Video Games. ISBN 978-1584504597. Since the first computer games became available, sex has played a role in some form...
  8. ^ "Brenda Romero named first game designer in residence at UC Santa Cruz". Jack Baskin School of Engineering. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  9. ^ "G.I.R.L. talk with Brenda Brathwaite". Archived from the original on May 22, 2010. Retrieved May 19, 2010. I'm happy to announce that our first guest is Brenda Brathwaite, the Creative Director at Lolapps...
  10. ^ Alexander, Leigh (February 23, 2011). "Brathwaite Joins Loot Drop For Old Reunions, New Frontiers".
  11. ^ "Brenda Romero named first game designer in residence at UC Santa Cruz". December 2012. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  12. ^ "University of Limerick MSc Faculty". Archived from the original on March 25, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  13. ^ "Coup for UL as it attracts world leading game developer". February 2016. Archived from the original on June 30, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  14. ^ "Bio Awards". Archived from the original on June 2, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  15. ^ a b "Computer Gaming World Announces Winners of 2001 'Premier Awards". Archived from the original on January 28, 2018. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  16. ^ a b "Minister for Education and Skills welcomes gaming super star Brenda Romero to Ireland". August 28, 2014.
  17. ^ a b "15th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards".
  18. ^ "Brenda and John Romero to be named development legends at Develop Awards 2017". MCV. March 17, 2017.
  19. ^ "Brenda Romero recibirá el Premio Bizkaia en Fun & Serious Game Festival/".
  20. ^ "Top 10 Most Influential Women in Game Development". March 8, 2018.
  21. ^ "Brenda Romero To Receive BAFTA Special Award". March 31, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  22. ^ "Develop: Brighton Development Legend". MCV. March 17, 2017.
  23. ^ "Most-Influential Tech Women on Twitter 2014". Business Insider.
  24. ^ "The Top 10 Game Developers of 2013". December 11, 2013.
  25. ^ "GDC 13: Women in Gaming Awards honours developers". MCV. March 29, 2013.
  26. ^ "Life, Love and Death in 5 minutes". Archived from the original on March 25, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  27. ^ "Women in Games: The Gamasutra 20".
  28. ^ "3783". Archived from the original on October 11, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  29. ^ Brenda Romero's Facebook relationship status
  30. ^ John Romero's Facebook relationship status
  31. ^ Brenda Romero's tweet confirming their relationship status
  32. ^ John Romero's Twitter status update confirming their relationship status
  33. ^ Terdiman, Daniel (August 16, 2005). "Game developers form sex 'special interest group'". CNET. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  34. ^ "The 'Sex in Games Lady' Is In". WIRED. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  35. ^ Stephens, Tim (December 18, 2012). "Brenda Romero named first game designer in residence at UC Santa Cruz". University of California, Santa Cruz. Retrieved February 19, 2013.
  36. ^ Alexander, Leigh (March 28, 2014). "Romero awarded Fulbright fellowship for Irish industry work". Gamasutra. Think Services. Retrieved March 29, 2014.
  37. ^ "The Mechanic is the Message". May 7, 2009. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  38. ^ "IndieCade applauds 2009 finalists and awardees!". IndieCade. October 5, 2009. International Festivals of Independent Games. Archived from the original on February 19, 2010. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  39. ^ Brophy, Jamin (June 24, 2009). "Can You Make a Board Game about the Holocaust?: Meet "Train" - Speakeasy - WSJ". Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  40. ^ "Sande Chen's Blog - Reflections on Train". Gamasutra. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  41. ^ "The Escapist : TGC 2009: How a Board Game Can Make You Cry". May 1, 2009. Archived from the original on December 27, 2009. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  42. ^ "Extra Credits: Sex in Games". Extra Credits. October 17, 2012. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  43. ^ "In Defense of the Classic Controller - Project Natal". Kotaku. June 29, 2009. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  44. ^ "Train: How I Dumped Electricity and Learned to Love Design". August 20, 2010. Archived from the original on January 16, 2016. Retrieved September 29, 2010.
  45. ^ "On Train and "The Irish Game" « Shambling Rambling Babbling". July 29, 2009. Archived from the original on July 11, 2020. Retrieved March 14, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) at the Wayback Machine.
  46. ^ "Sign Your Work « Applied Game Design". July 26, 2009. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  47. ^ IP, Chris (June 17, 2019). "'Empire of Sin' looks like a new-school 'Mob Rule'". Engadget. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  48. ^ Brathwaite, Brenda; Schreiber, Ian (2008). Challenges for Game Designers (2nd ed.). p. 352. ISBN 978-1584505808.
  49. ^ Romero, Brenda; Schreiber, Ian (2017). Game Balance. ASIN 1498799574.
  50. ^ Brathwaite, Brenda; Schreiber, Ian (2011). Breaking Into the Game Industry. Cengage Learning. p. 304. ASIN 1435458044.

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