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Women in Games: The Gamasutra 20

May 21, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 9 of 21 Next

Heather Kelley

Visiting Assistant Professor of Art, Carnegie Mellon University

Career overview

During her twelve-year career in the gaming industry, Heather Kelley has worked on everything from next generation console games, to interactive smart toys, to web communities for girls. She is now the Kraus Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Adjunct Faculty at the Entertainment Technology Center, both at Carnegie Mellon University.

Before becoming a professor, Kelley worked as a game designer at Artificial Mind & Movement and at Ubisoft in Montreal, where she played an important role as a level designer and multimedia artist on such titles as Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.

Most recently she has collaborated with The Hexagram Institute for Research and Creation in Media Arts and Technologies on a game that integrates full-body interactive gallery exhibits into the gameplay experience.

Major accomplishments

With her dedication to designing games for women and girls, it's no surprise that Kelley served as co-chair of the IGDA's Women in Development special interest group for seven years -- while simultaneously working on award-winning games and her own interactive media projects.


Kelley is perhaps best known for the game prototype she developed for the 2005 Montreal Games Summit game design challenge, the theme of which was sex. Lapis, a colorful title that was mocked up as if for the Nintendo DS, simulated female orgasm without any graphic imagery.

Instead, the player was represented by a small rabbit, whose thoughts rose high above the clouds and items that represented happiness (like cupcakes) in a symbolic form of ecstasy. Games don't get more innovative than that.

What her peers say

Bonnie: "Though, of course, Heather Kelley stole my heart with Lapis, it's her consistently solid work as a designer (and on top of that her clear creativity) that earns her my serious respect. Who else could make a game about a bunny experiencing pleasure as a flight past a series of baked goods, and then help develop hardcore games?

The fact that she's now entered into the academic world is also wonderfully promising. An entire class of students taught with her unique approach is a class that's bound to produce amazing things."

Photo credit: Copyright 2003–2008 Simon Law, and available under the GNU General Public License, version 2 or later.

Article Start Previous Page 9 of 21 Next

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