Sally’s drive for
equality is no game

UCA games graduate Sally Sheppard is leading the charge to improve inclusivity across the board in the gaming industry.

06 Mar 2024

Epic battle scenes, sweeping fantasy tales of adventure, football, adrenaline-filled car chases – you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world of computer games was very much a male-dominated landscape. But you’d be wrong – women are on the rise in the gaming industry, and UCA graduate Sally Sheppard is helping to lead the charge.

This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the boundary-pushing women like Sally, who is paving the way in making her field more inclusive through her business decisions, her use of her voice in the wider industry, and her creative output.

Graduating from UCA just four years ago, Sally has already founded, and is the creative director of, Wyrden Games, is an art director at Arrogant Pixel, a Women in Games Ambassador, and a Lecturer at the University of West London.

This year, she was named in The Game Awards’ Future Class, which lists 50 of the biggest and brightest talents coming up through the industry.

We spoke to Sally about her experiences so far, and what she thinks of the future direction of games.

Hi Sally, what’s been your experiences as a woman in the gaming industry so far? What changes have you witnessed in recent years?

“I think there have been many changes over the years. While I was still at University, we were discussing 'GamerGate' in our theory lectures - it was a pivotal moment and there was a positive and concerted effort to make the industry a better place in the years following. I have certainly seen more initiatives and organisations being more conscious of hiring diverse talent, and making sure that the way we make games - and the games we produce – don’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes."

A head and shoulders image of Sally Sheppard
Sally Sheppard

Women often have to make up a lot of the shortfalls themselves to make an impact – what would you say you’ve had to do to “get ahead” and make your own mark?

“There is a lot of pressure to make yourself heard without being ‘bossy’, and to make yourself known without looking vain or attention-seeking.

“In the first few years of my career, I put a lot of effort into being ‘less than’ so that I didn't upset anyone. More recently I have realised that, instead of using all that energy being ‘quieter’, I can harness it more positively in being louder - pushing myself, other women, and the great organisations and charities that I work with, forward."

We know you’re striving for more inclusivity in the industry – what work have you done so far, and what compels you to do it?

“Obviously, I try to practice what I preach inside my art team, and when making business decisions at Arrogant Pixel and Wyrdren Games. Trying to make welcoming environments where talent can thrive and succeed is my ultimate goal as a leader. I use my position at the University of West London to ensure my students are set up for success, too. It's a tough time for game developers right now, and is especially hard on ethnic minorities and women, who face a disproportionately higher risk of redundancy.

“I volunteer with multiple organisations to try and shed light on causes that I believe in. Into Games and Women in Games are two that I advocate for passionately.”

Do you think advances in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the industry are reflected in the content of the games being produced today?

“Not proportionally. But, the more accessible and diverse the industry becomes, the more the characters and features in our games will reflect their makers. There is catching up still to do - there has been a gap for a long time, especially inside certain genres of games. But the more we bring on board new talent and diverse developers, the more I see games changing for the better.”

How do you want to see women portrayed in the games of the future?
“In the games of the future, I hope to see women portrayed as multi-layered individuals with depth and complexity, rather than just as romantic side-pieces. Women can be multi-faceted. I also love a bad-ass hero but, at the same time, I love to see more female characters who have flaws or who aren't the ‘saviour’ archetype.”

What advice would you give to any girls/women with a dream of working in games?
“Do it! The industry is in a very strange and somewhat scary place right now - but that also means that it is ripe for change. I've met so many incredible game developers (some of whom I am lucky to call friends and colleagues). I've never worked in such a supportive field before - with developers championing developers and celebrating each other's wins. It's an incredibly creative space to be in right now, too, with so much potential. And, honestly, we have the best job in the world - we literally make fun.”

To see more about what’s going on in Sally’s career, check out the Wyrden Games website, and to start the games journey, visit our course pages.