Culture Crush

Who Run the World

Front-end developer Shelby White talks badass women in video games, special effects, art, and acting

Most of my inspiration comes from the games industry, whether it’s video games or tabletop games. I’ve always loved games and they’re a huge part of my life both recreationally and professionally. Sometimes that’s fan art I find on Dribbble or Tumblr, and sometimes it’s commissioned work for a company such as Magic: The Gathering which features art from hundreds of different artists. But certain people also inspire me—to be better, to pursue my interests, and to never give up.

Zoe Brookes
One of my first big inspirations comes from someone I’m sure no one has heard of: Zoe Brookes. She used to work for a big gaming company called Irrational Games (of BioShock fame). Andy Nick brought her work to my attention one day and ever since I’ve been hooked! She did awesome things for BioShock Infinite that you don’t typically think about when you think of working on a video game: she worked on the BioShock Infinite box art and the point of purchase displays. She also worked on the packaging for collectibles, and she did the logo itself.



More recently, she has done work for Riot Games’ League of Legends and ArenaNet’s Guild Wars. She is an incredibly talented artist and designer and has done some of the neatest work. She is an inspiration to me because now I have something to strive for: I never thought I could work for a video game company—I’m not a programmer or an animator— but I sure can help with logos, in-game graphics, and displays!


League of Legends Ziggs Statue Packaging

Holly Conrad
Another inspiring person in my life is Holly Conrad, more popularly known as Commander Holly. She’s a famous special effects artist, prop-maker, and cosplayer, and she also does Let’s Play on YouTube. She is the owner of CrabCat Industries, a fabrication shop and new media entertainment company. She has created some of the coolest monsters and costumes I’ve ever seen, having the opportunity to work with people and companies such as Guillermo Del Toro, BioWare, and MTV.

White dressed up as Furiosa with Holly Conrad

She is an inspiration to me because she sets her mind on something and she does it, and she does it incredibly well. She took what she loved (special effects, video games, cosplay) and made a successful business out of it. I had the opportunity to meet her in 2015, and in spite of of all her accomplishments, she is humble and adorable.

Ashly Burch
Ashly Burch is another nerdy lady who inspires me. I was first introduced to Ashly and her family in the early days of YouTube, where she made a comedy series with her family that poked fun of games and gamers called, Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? HAWP started in 2008. Since then, she has become a renowned actor, voice actor, and writer. She’s voiced characters from Attack on Titan, Borderlands, Fallout 4, and Life is Strange, and she writes for Adventure Time. Ashly decided she wanted to be a voice actor when she was really young, and that’s exactly what she did. She still works with her family from time to time and I love that.

Ashley Burch

Felicia Day
And of course, there couldn’t be a list about inspirational nerd ladies without mentioning Felicia Day. Felicia Day is known for so much: You might recognize her as an actress from The Guild or Supernatural, or you might know her from Geek & Sundry, a popular YouTube channel. You might have even read her book that came out last year called You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost).

White with Felicia Day

Felicia Day is a musician, a writer, an actress, and an entrepreneur; there really isn’t anything she hasn’t done. She was involved in board and video games at an early age and that never really stopped. She works with gamers and game companies for a living now, creating content for her thousands of fans. While she doesn’t necessarily inspire me creatively, her encouraging story helps me believe that I can literally do anything I set my mind to. And, when I was fortunate enough to meet her at a book signing, we talked about her favorite character in Mass Effect like we were best friends. She’s a real person. She has battled some of the same shitty life experiences as you and me and she’s come out on top, humble and determined. She’s the epitome of Girl Power.

I think what makes all of these ladies so inspiring to me is that they are successful women in industries typically overrun with men. They took the things they loved: video games, special effects, art, acting— and made careers out of it. I’ve seen all these inspirational women lift up other women in their professional and personal lives. All of that is important to me: creativity, diversity, hard work, and feminist ideals.


Got you hooked? Here’s more:

The Comic Con Cosplay Music Video 2016
Check out the incredible costumes

Fiction Gets Real: Cosplay
Real Art’s in-house cosplay expert talks about this remarkable, imaginative practice

The Next Great Game
Motion graphics designer Lauren Valko talks VR and gaming


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