Kim Swift

Image: Half-Life Wiki Specialty: Game Design Major Contributions: Lead designer, Portal Director, Quantum Conundrum Senior Designer at Amazon

Image: Half-Life Wiki
Specialty: Game Design
Major Contributions:
Lead designer, Portal
Director, Quantum Conundrum
Senior Designer at Amazon

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On October 9th, 2007 gamers were introduced to a test subject named Chell, the sardonic robot GLaDOS, and a Weighted Companion Cube that cannot talk, and if it does, you should ignore its advice.

The puzzle game Portal was a surprise hit, partially due to its unique gameplay and an innovative physics engine that earned it many accolades.  This physics engine was based on an earlier project called Narbacular Drop, a senior project designed by students at the DigiPen Institute of Technology that included programmer Kim Swift.

Swift grew up playing video games with her dad and says she knew in high school that she wanted to make games herself.  She had been considering a computer science program she heard about DigiPen.  Each year of the program, students make a different kind of game with the fourth year project being based on physics and 3D, which led to Narbacular Drop.

The game caught the eye of Valve Corporation, and after a short demonstration the student developers were offered a job on the spot and Swift became the lead designer of the new project that became Portal.

Portal received numerous awards.  It was included on Time’s 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time and Wired named it one of the most influential games of the decade.  The Game Developers Choice Awards honored Swift and her team with the Best Game Design Award along with Game of the Year.

While many debate if video games should be considered art, and Portal was part of a Smithsonian exhibit in 2012, Swift told Wired that she considers her work “toys.”  But she defends this as the point of her work, that it’s part of helping adults use their imaginations.  “Games can be art, and they can be significant and all the glorified things that we want them to be…But if you ask a kid if their toys are important, they’ll say yes, and please don’t take them away.”

After the success of Portal, Swift went on to work on the Left 4 Dead series for Valve, before leaving in 2009 to work at Airtight Games and create the game Quantum Conundrum.   In 2014 she joined Amazon as a senior designer.

Suggested By: William Russell

Written by Mary Ratliff

Sources:

Wikipedia: Portal

8th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards

Wikipedia: Narbacular Drop

Eurogamer: Narbacular Drop

Wired: Portal Designer Kim Swift Won’t Let You Take Her Toys Away

Steam: Portal

See Also:

Twitter: @K2theSwift

Wikipedia: Quantum Conundrum

Mental Floss: Kim Swift, The Woman Behind Portal

Gamasutra: Still Alive: Kim Swift and Erik Wolpaw Talk Portal

Kotaku: SplitScreen Episode 5-Spilling Secrets with Kim Swift (YouTube)

IGS 2007: Kim Swift-Our Journey from Narbacular Drop to Portal (YouTube)