Brenda Romero named first game designer in residence at UC Santa Cruz

Award-winning game designer joins UCSC's Center for Games and Playable Media to teach courses and work with students, faculty, and researchers

brenda romero
Brenda Romero

The Center for Games and Playable Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has appointed Brenda Romero (formerly Brenda Brathwaite) as a game designer in residence, the first such position on a UC campus. An award-winning game designer, Romero is co-founder and chief operating officer of Loot Drop, Inc., where she plans to continue working on game titles currently in development.

The new Game Designer in Residence program brings a leading game designer to UCSC to teach courses and serve as an adviser and resource for game design students, faculty, and researchers on campus. The one-year, 80-percent appointment includes teaching foundational courses in game design, giving students an unequaled opportunity to learn directly from an expert practitioner. Romero's appointment starts January 1, 2013.

"It is tremendously exciting to have Brenda Romero as UCSC's first game designer in residence," said Jim Whitehead, professor and chair of computer science in the Baskin School of Engineering. "She brings to the position over 30 years of experience in game design and an extensive understanding of the business of games, and she is an innovator in the teaching of game design. It's huge that our students will have the opportunity to learn directly from her."

Romero will also pursue independent works and explore new ideas in game design. "It's amazing a position like 'game designer in residence' exists," she said. "To have an opportunity to work on designs with students and without constraints allows me to explore some designs that I've not yet been able to explore. My husband [game designer John Romero] and I have been to UCSC numerous times, and its dual focus on design and coding gives everyone a much stronger possibility space to draw from."

The game designer in residence is supported by the Center for Games and Playable Media and will participate in giving design feedback and guidance on several ongoing research projects at the center.

"Brenda's deep expertise in game design as an aesthetic practice enhances our mission at the Center for Games and Playable Media," said center director Michael Mateas, professor of computer science. "Here, we strive to blend excellence in art with technical innovation. Her participation in future research projects will help us explore fundamentally new gameplay possibilities."

Romero entered the video game industry in 1981 at the age of 15 and has been highly influential as a game designer, artist, writer, and creative director. She has worked with a variety of digital game companies, including Atari, Sir-tech Software, Electronic Arts, Firaxis, and numerous companies in the social media space. She is also the creator of an award-winning, ongoing series of non-digital games titled The Mechanic is the Message.

Romero served as chair of the Interactive Design and Game Development program at the Savannah College of Art and Design from 2008 to 2009. She has served on the board of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and chairs the IGDA's Women in Games Special Interest Group. She also serves on the advisory board of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at the Strong Museum of Play and on the advisory board of Game Developer magazine. She is working with John Romero and the Romero Archives to record game designers discussing their game-design processes for historical archiving.

Brenda Romero was named Woman of the Year by Charisma+2 magazine in 2010. In 2009, her game Train won the coveted Vanguard Award at IndieCade for "pushing the boundaries of game design and showing us what games can do." She was named one of the top 20 most influential women in the game industry by Gamasutra in 2008 and one of the 100 most influential women in the game industry by Next Generation magazine in 2007. Nerve magazine called her one of the 50 artists, actors, authors, activists and icons who are making the world a more stimulating place.

About the Center for Games and Playable Media

The UC Santa Cruz Center for Games and Playable Media was formally established in 2010, building on work done since the Baskin School of Engineering began offering a degree in computer game design. The center houses the school's five game-related research labs, including the Expressive Intelligence Studio, one of the largest technical game research groups in the world. The center's mission is to tackle core technology and design challenges to enable the games of the future.