When Kim Swift was attending school at DigiPen University, she and a team of classmates developed an environmental puzzle game called Nerbacular Drop. They showed the game off to the Seattle-based Valve Corporation, and to their surprise, Valve’s CEO, Gabe Newell, hired them all on the spot.
Nerbacular Drop would then go on to be further developed by the same team, headed by Swift, with the end product being the hugely popular video game, Portal. Four million physical copies and six years later, Portal is still touted as one of the most innovative games ever created. Its success is further immortalized at the Museum of Modern Art, where it is one of just fourteen games selected to be included in the museum’s permanent video game collection.
The success of Portal garnered Swift some much-deserved media attention and she was awarded both the Innovation and Game of the Year awards at the GDC Awards for her work as lead designer. Her overlying design trend has been making puzzle-based and mentally challenging games.
Today, Kim Swift is just 29 years old. Yet already she’s seen more success than many. Listed as one of this year’s 30 Under 30 by Forbes, Swift is certainly one game developer to watch. As one of the best known females working in the video game industry—which is heavily male-dominated—Swift has worked on several projects, including Left 4 Dead, Half-Life 2, and Quantum Conundrum.
Swift is now the Creative Director at Airtight Games, which she left Valve for in December 2009. Her latest project is called Soul Fjord, which is expected to be released in time for the holiday season this year. The game is a “unique randomly generated, dungeon crawler with rhythm-based combat set in a fantasy universe where the genres of 70’s Funk and Soul has melded with Norse mythology.” It could make a fascinating and unique gift for a gamer friend this year.