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Helen Heikkila: Developing Games, Stories and Worlds

Age: 21

Program: Honors Specialization MIT

Year: 3

Hometown: St Thomas


Meet Helen: a third year MIT student with a passion for video games. Helen is currently interning at a London video game studio, where she hopes will be the launching point for a career in video game writing and development. While the video game industry is very male-dominated, Helen hopes to encourage more women to enter the industry and pioneer more feminist video games.

Tell us all about your work with video games.

I interned for a video game development studio this semester in the Community Department. The Community Department interacts with the gaming community through forums, events, videos, and other media. I have mostly been involved with contests and livestreams. It’s been a great experience. It’s so cool that the company celebrates the unique qualities each person offers to the team, and everyone in the Community Department is so welcoming.


What made you want to work in the video game industry?

I love stories, art, and that rush of dopamine gaming gives people—a rush that some have claimed causes widespread videogame addiction. I grew up gaming and I continue to game today. Some people treat themselves to ice cream when they have had a bad day. Others binge watch their favourite TV show. I turn on a video game and escape to a world where I can accomplish things I’ll never experience in this life. I can save Megaton from nuclear disaster, I can become a space ninja, I can manipulate time.

Videogames are a unique storytelling medium, and I have met wonderful people in the gaming community. I don’t think any other industry is quite like it.


What’s something that people might find surprising about the video game industry?

I can only speak about my short time so far, but what surprised me was how many women work in the industry, and how many women hold important positions. There are more men than women where I intern, but the ratio wasn’t as shocking as I anticipated. It’s certainly possible that the place I intern is an exception to the rule. Nonetheless, it was a pleasant surprise.


If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

Like every major industry, the video game industry has a fear of taking risks. I would love to see more companies taking risks on unconventional games. The medium has so much potential to create new worlds and stories, but that potential can’t be fully realized unless companies take a chance on videogame ideas that don’t guarantee high profits. Many people think videogames are just about fighting, and it’s true that fighting is a constant theme, but that’s not all videogames are about. Fighting games are tried and true; they almost guarantee profit, and they’re lots of fun, but it would be amazing to release the financial restraints on videogame developers. I would love to see what they could create if their imaginations ran wild.

What would you say to a university woman who wanted to be part of the video game industry?

Do it! Start writing, start drawing, start animating, start programming. This industry is still relatively new, and being a part of its development is exciting.


What are your plans for the future?

I want to make video games. I love interacting with other gamers, and I love all of the teamwork, passion, and creativity that goes into making games. Most of all, I love the potential for rich storytelling. I’m just happy to be involved in the industry right now, but in a perfect world, I would write the dialogue and storylines for games.



Video game: Fallout 3 / Ocarina of Time / Life is Strange / Warframe (I just couldn’t narrow it down more….)

Study spot: Any quiet place where I can hang out with my dog

Professor: Tim Blackmore

Month: October

Book: Tekkonkinkreet (it’s a comic book)



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Ella is proud to be HC Western's President for the 2017-2018 year.
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