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 Portal  Designer Kim Swift Leaves Valve For  Dark Void  Dev
Portal Designer Kim Swift Leaves Valve For Dark Void Dev
December 7, 2009 | By Chris Remo

December 7, 2009 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC

Kim Swift, a designer of Valve's acclaimed first-person platformer Portal, has left the Half-Life creator to build up a new team at nearby Dark Void developer Airtight Games.

The news was revealed in an announcement by Airtight. The company says Swift will hold the title of project lead at the studio, and will "build and lead a team in the development of games aimed at a more diverse audience."

No details about the nature of her first project were given, but Airtight Games president Jim Deal said her hiring "represents a strategic move by Airtight Games into new and broader gaming markets."

"I've learned so much and had some amazing experiences at Valve," said Swift in a statement. "But when I heard I had the opportunity to work on innovative titles with my friends over at Airtight, I couldn't pass it up."

Swift rose to quick prominence in the game industry after she and the rest of her co-developers on the Digipen student project Narbacular Drop were hired by Valve Software. That game served as the direct inspiration for Portal's mechanics.

Airtight, located in Redmond, Washington, is not far from Bellevue, Washington-based Valve. It was founded largely by the core developers behind FASA Interactive's 2004 title Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge. Capcom is publishing its first game, the jetpack-centric action game Dark Void, due out next year for Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3.

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phil fish
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wonder if this year's game design challenge fiasco had anything to do with her leaving valve.

hopefully airtight is a bit more progressive about these kinds of things.

Scott Siegel
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I was actually wondering the exact same thing.

Glenn Storm
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Pardon my ignorance, Phil and Scott. Can you give us a handy 'fiasco' link?

Carlo Delallana
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What was the game design challenge fiasco?

Joakim Hagdahl
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Valve (or her?) pulled out from taking part in the GDC 2009 game design challenge session regarding "First Time".

Glenn Storm
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M'kay. Perhaps that's less of a consideration to leave a company like Valve? :shrug: I would imagine the stated reasons, like working with friends, might have a little more weight.

But in any event, best of luck, Kim! :)

Llaura Mcgee
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I really don't believe the 09 Game Design Challenge has anything to do with it. Now that L4D2 is out, she probably just wants to go in a new direction (tired of Portal 2? Of FPS games?), and have much more influence (lead a team?) on her work. Airtight is a studio to keep an eye on in 2010, good luck to her!

On the tangent of these comments and the 'fiasco'. Back in March I wondered if it wasn't Kim herself that was uncomfortable with the particular topic, and having the faceless entity of Valve 'pull her out' was a way to save face, and avoid any embarrassment. It's not a stretch when the other two participants were men, and the audience was mostly male.

That said, someone like Phil Fish might have a better insight to Ms. Swift than I do.

Eric Adams
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@Carlo, how are you man! :-)

Hey, whatever happened to Portal 2? I expected there would be a followup by now with Kim at the design helm?

Bob Stevens
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From student to project lead in 4 years. Pretty good career trajectory.

Wolf Wozniak
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Kim Swift has got more balls than I ever would...

Well, maybe if I was the lead designer on Portal, I guess I'd do whatever the hell I wanted to too.

jr mart
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@Glenn, here's the link or whoever else wants to know (

Brandon Sheffield
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Paul McGee, it definitely wasn't Swift who decided she couldn't handle the topic.

Taure Anthony
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Fiore Iantosca
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@jr mart - cockblocks


steve roger
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I think that it is highly likely that the GDC fiasco has something to do with it. But I doubt it has to do with it directly. Getting pulled from that contest means that she the position she held with Valve did not allow her the freedom to choose what she wanted to pursue or present professionally. It isn't all that hard to figure out she will have a bit more power in her new position. Plus you can bet that she is likely to get a bigger piece of the action financially as well as artistically at Airtight Games.

However, it is hard to imagine that one would be willing to leave the relative safety of her position at Valve--or, and this is abject conjecture, that perhaps Valve wasn't as safe as she thought post-GDC.

In any event, she is quite talented and it is nice to see her work being recognized in this male dominated industry.