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Elizabeth Sampat

Game Design, Writing, and Activism

 

Elizabeth Sampat is an award-winning game designer and activist.

At work, I design blockbuster titles that are played by millions of fans every day; when I come home, I craft personal games that are intimate, revealing, and push the boundaries of the relationship between game and player.

In my spare time, I also work to make the industry I love a better place for women and marginalized people. I was on the IGDA Women In Games steering committee for two years; Marie Claire called me "The Game Changer" when they named me one of "20 Women Changing The Ratio" in male-dominated industries.

My personal work has been covered by the LA Times, Lifehacker, and VICE, and my advocacy and talks have been covered on PolygonKotakuThe Escapist, and more. I'm also an accomplished writer outside of the game industry, and have been published on OZY, The Billfold, and The Yearbook Office. My book Empathy Engines: Design Games That Are Personal, Political, And Profound was released in early 2017.

I am kind of a feminist, and definitely trouble.

 

Selected Work

➤ Subway Surfers

Game Design Department Lead, SYBO Games

➤ Plants Vs. Zombies 2

Senior Game Designer, PopCap Games

➤ Castle Story

Senior Creative Designer, Storm8

➤ Kingdom Clash

Senior Creative Designer, Storm8

➤ Ghost Recon: Commander

Game Designer and Writer, Loot Drop

➤ Fallen London

Freelance Writer

 

Areas of Expertise


Mobile Game Design

I've been working in mobile games since 2011. Since then I've worked on some of the biggest mobile titles in history, including Plants Vs. Zombies 2 and Subway Surfers— the most downloaded game in mobile history. I also do consultation on monetization, system and feature design, and narrative design.
 


Public Speaking

Over the years, I've given dozens of talks at conferences and universities around the United States and Europe. I've talked about topics like how to fall back in love with what you do, why you should make games that scare you, and how to support and hire marginalized people.


IndePendent Game Design

In my spare time, my passion is making independent games that are personal and that revolve around connection: between players, between players and the designer, and connecting the player to themselves. Among these games is Deadbolt, was a 2012 Indiecade award nominee that I've brought to conferences around the United States and Europe.


Activism

I can't stand broken systems, so I'm constantly working to improve the world around me. My work to improve the game industry for marginalized people has been written up in Polygon, Kotaku, The Mary Sue, and The Verge, and my personal work strives to make the world a better place.


Writing

When I'm not making games, I write essays about personal experience, the game industry, and popular culture. I've written for outlets like OZY, The Billfold, and Gamasutra, and I was a regular contributor at The Yearbook Office. My book Empathy Engines: Design Games That Are Personal, Political, and Profound released last year.


Empathy

I'm not part of the movement to design games that elicit empathy: instead, I believe in designing empathetic systems that respect players. My interactive tool to inspire constructive apologies and making amends, Am I Part Of The Problem?, was played over 10,000 times in the first week it was live.

 
 

 
 
Design everything on the assumption that people are not heartless or stupid, but marvelously capable, given the chance.
— John Chris Jones