Kids And Adults Can't Stop Playing "Minecraft" — Meet The Women Behind One Of The Best-Selling Video Games Of All Time

    "When we build teams and cultures where we create safe spaces for a variety of ideas to shine through, we create healthier, more productive teams and ultimately, more prosperous businesses."

    With over 300 million copies sold worldwide, Minecraft has become the bestselling game of all time, according to Guinness World Records. But this 2023 achievement is just the beginning.

    Minecraft, featuring various in-game characters and animals on a grassy block

    For Women's History Month, we connected with five women from the leadership team for a "behind the screen" look into their roles, the diverse culture they're creating at Mojang Studios and Minecraft, and the future of gaming with women at the helm.

    1. Åsa Bredin, Head of Mojang Studios, the Microsoft-owned game studio that created Minecraft, believes having a diverse team is key in a creative industry. "Working in a team that is diverse, which represents our player base — not only on gender but through a lot of different aspects — I think that is a conduit for innovation. Innovation and diversity of ideas are critical for innovation to happen," Åsa told BuzzFeed.

    Woman with short hair smiling, facing the camera, wearing a casual shirt outside

    Before Mojang Studios, Åsa had been a game engineer for more than 15 years. With two boys of her own, she's personally witnessed how gaming can positively impact a generation of players. "I'm just excited that there are so many people with me, having seen their kids grow up with this game," she said. "For me, it's really this generational product where people throughout the years have been playing; it's not the same game because it's evolved."

    People at a seminar with a Minecraft presentation on the screen, indicating gaming in education or work

    Programs like the above are why diversity and inclusion within their work culture have become an ethos for this majority women-led team — because without a diverse team, they're unable to serve their diverse community of players across the world.

    "I think that's the key here: that you work in a diverse team where your voice is heard and taken into account," she said. "We're basically the biggest game in the world. We have been around for 15 years this year. And for me, and I think for a lot of people in the studios, it's an honor of being the guardians of this iconic game."

    2. Annie Chenn, Global Chief Operating Officer at Mojang Studios, has worked in the gaming industry for over 20 years. While she has been a part of the Minecraft team for over five years, you may be familiar with her previous projects, like Star Wars Battlefront 2 and the Battlefield series.

    Woman smiling with glasses, in front of computer monitors, indoors

    She also believes that more women in leadership roles are really important for the gaming industry. "Women are also gamers. We don't just like playing games that are more cutesy or anything like that. We play the gamut of games," she explained to BuzzFeed. "And so I think in terms of Mojang, we've hired university grads, where they've come in and said, 'It was super amazing to see female leadership.' And so I think that is something that has attracted the new and career level of people [to our company.]"

    Animated Minecraft characters working on a farm with animals and crops, relating to virtual economies

    Having this form of representation for a gaming giant like Minecraft is imperative as more and more people who identify as women are seeing opportunities for themselves as players and employees within an industry's culture that didn't initially invite them to play. While the stigma around women gamers is still unfortunately present in today's world (for example, the year-long harassment campaign Gamergate just happened a few years ago), Annie acknowledged it's more normal to see women play video games today than when she was younger.

    Minecraft character in armor paddles a boat in a pixelated game world with blooming trees

    With the evolution of players, the leadership team at Minecraft wants to support their community as much as possible so they feel included. "Our community matters a lot to us, and so we engage a lot with them in terms of like, what matters to them, what are they looking for? How do we meet them? How do we engage creators to create with us," she said.

    Person playing Minecraft, showing inventory with an apple, overlaying gameplay scene

    3. Ada Duan is the General Manager of Growth Products and Partnerships for Minecraft at Mojang Studios, meaning she oversees external partnerships (like Sony, Nintendo, and Google) to get Minecraft on as many platforms as possible.

    A smiling woman with long black hair wearing a dark blouse and a necklace

    One of the ways Mojang Studios and Asians at Xbox have been creating safe spaces at work in a male-dominated industry is simply by being intentional about the kind of culture they want to create. "Culture doesn't just happen," Ada told BuzzFeed. "You need to really think about it, talk about it, and talk about where we are in the journey. Also, [you need to] recognize, whether you're talking about your own team, at the studio level, or at the Xbox level, where people are and recognize people are [on] different parts of that journey and make sure you're having those conversations."

    Minecraft game screenshot with various pixelated animals and characters

    While smaller gaming studios and larger studios like Mojang have already proven women can (and should) helm leadership roles, the rest of the gaming giants simply need to catch up. For instance, according to a survey conducted by Women in Games: "...of the global top 15 games companies, only 16% of women are represented in the executive teams."

    Woman in headset at computer desk with screen, smiling, possibly engaging in remote work or gaming

    "Traditionally people have said, 'Well, I don't really have a gaming background, or I don't have gaming experience, like how do I get into the gaming industry?' And to me, I always say to people that, 'Where we've been in gaming is not necessarily where we're going. If you look back, the gaming industry, similar to many software companies, started out as packaged products; we ship a game, and we move on to the next one," Ada said. "And now, we're really talking about games as a service and live operations. So, having people with diverse experiences from different industries and perspectives helps us prepare to propel and innovate in the gaming industry."

    Two animated Minecraft characters and a pig floating in a starry environment, depicting teamwork or collaboration

    4. Kayleen Walters, Head of Franchise Development at Mojang Studios, hasn't always worked with games — in fact, her career originated in the movie and entertainment industry. "I've worked for, or with, probably the majority of the studios within Hollywood, with the longest stretch of time being at Lucasfilm, where I worked 13 years on the Star Wars franchise.

    Woman in dark shirt with circular pendant, indoors, looking at camera

    One of Kayleen's current projects is the Minecraft movie that's slated to premiere in 2025 with Jack Black, Jason Momoa, and Danielle Brooks as just a few of the actors involved. While Kayleen couldn't speak to the film itself, she did explain how she believes every single one of her projects — whether it's a film, immersive experience, or consumer products project — is created with authenticity and creativity in mind.

    Minecraft game scene with a character holding a tool, standing in a grassy blocky landscape

    Since Kayleen is not the only woman on the leadership team, she believes this benefits the projects more because there is a lot more discussion, compassion, and support than she may normally have in comparison to a more male-dominated leadership team.

    Underwater Minecraft scene with various fish and a swimming pig

    Kayleen adds: "I think there is a lot more 'Yes, ands' in our meetings than 'No, buts.' We want to come with open minds and ways of figuring out how we all come together to create something so much exponentially better than just really thinking about anything bottom-line driven."

    5. Jessica Freeman is the General Manager of Minecraft Marketing and has been at Minecraft for over seven years. Between working on creative campaigns and long-term strategies for the business, she says no two days are the same, especially when the goal is to meet the needs of their diverse, global community.

    Woman in a light top with a necklace, smiling at the camera with her arms crossed

    Jessica adds when safe spaces are created within teams and work cultures, it creates more productive, happy teams that share a variety of ideas, which can bleed into the community of players to benefit from. This, unfortunately, doesn't happen often within the industry. For example, according to Slate, "Over the past five years, industry giants such as Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft have faced lawsuits over mistreating their employees, while grappling with increasing unionization efforts."

    "I know at some point or another, all of the women on our leadership team have experienced moments in our careers where we looked around the table and realized we're 'the only one,'" Jessica explained. "The only woman, the only person of color, the only LGBTQIA+ person, the only non-native English speaker, the only casual gamer. That’s a lonely place to be."

    The truth is, when women are at the helm of gaming giants, they know how to market to women and not treat them as a monolith. "Women come in all varieties, from all over the world, and are attracted to diverse genres of games. We don’t all think and act alike," Jessica explained. "The industry has come such a long way, especially in the past decade, in recognizing that each game is unique and will appeal to a unique target audience based on the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators of that audience."

    Person holding a game controller, focused on gaming as part of an article on Work & Money in the gaming industry

    Women executives can also make the business more sustainable. According to a Harvard Business Review article, when women were included in executive teams, organizations embraced change without being violent in their risk assessments. Essentially, women not only bring new perspectives, but they also shift how executive teams operate.

    "Building healthy, sustainable businesses not only allows the team to create more diverse, inclusive experiences but also attracts more diverse, inclusive players," Jessica said. "And we’ve learned when we put players first, we all win."

    At the end of the day, while no leadership team is perfect and gender equality is important, it's vital for gaming giants to include women in decision-making spaces to show players that diverse, inclusive communities are built not just within the games but in reality, too.

    A group of Minecraft game characters standing in a row, representing diversity in the gaming community

    Do you identify as a woman and play video games? Tell us why you began playing and why you continue to play today in the comments below.