My superpower would be: To morph into any animal I want My celebrity crush is: Anybody named Chris – Pine, Hemsworth, Christina Applegate
Reviving the human quality and artistry of video games
THE POWER OF EFFECTIVE TEAMWORK. Growing up, Irena Pereira was never quite sure which career path to follow. Ultimately, her fascination with the human condition led her to work in video games, an industry she has been operating in for over 20 years, working on some of the top multiplayer titles, including World Of Warcraft.
"So many games have shown us how humanity can work together to do crazy things: you can kill gods, take down dragons and work together to take over frog-infested dungeons. Not only are they fun, they're also a great way to learn how to work with other people who are incredibly different from you."
Working together toward a common good is a practice Irena believes has lost its way in society today. Similarly, in gaming, first-person shooters and sports games that are more about dominance and tactical thinking dominate the landscape. "But where are the video games that teach us how to save ourselves by working together? Because that's also cool. I think video games can help change things, considering that half the people on this planet play them; people of all colors, shapes, sizes and stripes. Games like this might make a difference in how we interact with each other in regular life."
A gifted student, Irena attended the University of Southern California, where she considered studying everything from business to computer science and cinema. "But all I really wanted to do was study media, religion, archaeology, anthropology and sociology. I was obsessed with world history, which is essentially a deep study of human nature." She discovered her love of video games in her college dorm. "They brought us all together. It didn't matter where we were from - and we were a very diverse group - but we all became friends over video games because we could work together and compete in a safe place. And then, in real life, we worked together better."
After college, Irena set her sights on a job at video game developer Blizzard. After five years and more than 15 rejected applications, she was hired in 2006 as a User Interface Designer – their first female hire to a 30-strong engineering team. As the first woman on that team, and one of few women in the industry at the time, including subsequent positions at 38 Studios and Warner Bros., she recalls many problematic experiences. "I always soldiered through because I believed there was a space for my voice, and every step of progress meant I was opening doors for other people."
THE HUMAN TOUCH. Giving opportunities to folks who won't otherwise be heard has also been one of Irena's key motivations for building her own company. Having assembled her dream team of developers from her illustrious career, she aims to create a game that brings people together "and demonstrates a concept of a greater good that we can all benefit from. There's a way to gamify that experience and turn that into a compelling title that nobody's ever seen before."
Going against the grain plays into Irena's natural rebelliousness. Her parents were hippies and community organizers, and her most prominent childhood memories are of fighting for social justice, including protesting against the Gulf War and marching in the annual Los Angeles AIDS Walk, starting at the age of 14. These events "set the trajectory of my life to where I felt it was vital for me to spend my life fighting to ensure that we all get to be ourselves without fear.”