She Games Bio: Kim Swift, the Girl Who Created Portal


She Games Bio: Kim Swift, the girl who created Portal

In a time where women are taking the center stage in business, tech, and politics, how have we not heard more about this Gamer Developer Choice Award winning innovator?

Portal 2, a physics-based puzzle game created by Valve Corporations in 2011, is a title that represents the gold standard of gaming. Despite being released nearly a decade ago, the game’s iconic orange and blue teleportation rings are still warping diehard fans through mind-bending levels, trying to beat their best time, and a new generation culturing themselves in the classics whilst broadcasting the action on Twitch. Even those who have not experienced a play-through will recognize references to Aperture Sciences or the singing turrets that prevent you from escaping the dark laboratory. Despite this title being near-and-dear to the hearts of many gamers and a staple of the modern gamer’s diet, it is obscurely known that this shining moment in 21st-century digital entertainment was brought to us by the leadership of a female developer; Kim Swift.

Commonly mistaken for a secretary, as stated in a 2013 blog post, Kim attended DigiPen in Washington, DC for game design before founding the predecessor to Portal and Portal 2 called Narbacular Drop. Recognizing its genius, the game and developing team were quickly employed by Valve Corporations. This title not only won Game of the Year award, but it has also became one of the company’s most notable titles. In a single year following its release, Portal 2 sold over four million units across platforms. 

More than ever, women are being celebrated for taking center stage in business, leadership, and politics.  But, Kim was an innovator before the era of #MeToo and the current feminist wave and her minimal commentary on the topic of being a woman in a male-dominated industry reflects this admirable resilience. Swift comments that she keeps a low profile and focuses on creating games, aware of how candid work-related comments could have ramifications that could harm her co-workers and the industry she lives for. 

Thus, Kim leads by example to support other women and girls making strides in the industry. Her success did not end with Portal as she continued to develop titles such as Half-Life and the Left 4 Dead series. And as of 2018, her resume also includes work with Electronic Arts’ and the development of Star Wars BattleFront II.

But how does Swift persevere through the roadblocks that are unfortunately still present, even after proving herself as not only a worthy peer but a leader in the industry? She does in “hopes [for] a little girl out there [to] realize that her dreams are achievable”.

Biography written by Maggie Mae Lee

Maggie LeeComment