In an industry that is dominated by men and often criticized for featuring violent and sexist content, Azure Bowie-Hankins is a standout: a woman producer of a video game—The Sims—focusing on interactions between realistic characters who express a wide range of human emotion. A best-selling game since its debut in 2000, The Sims allows players to create simulated people. In the latest version, The Sims 4, Azure says, “We made the Sims 3D on the inside. Their emotions really come through—they’re expressive and really alive.”
The same could be said of Azure herself. In addition to being a gamer-geek, she sings, plays piano, and once planned on becoming a dancer. “I arrived at Mills as a music major but switched my major to dance,” Azure explains. “The arts community at Mills was amazing. I looked forward to exploring the world through dance and immersing myself in the rich history of the art form.” But in her sophomore year, she suffered an injury that compelled her to change majors once again.
“The structure of Mills’ liberal arts program gave me the opportunity to take classes outside of my field, and I discovered an appreciation for economics,” she says. “The pivot from dance to economics never meant a sacrifice of passion in my education.”
To help Azure identify possible career paths, an economics professor advised her to consider the hobbies she most enjoyed. “I’d loved video games since I was a kid, but I’d always considered gaming to be just a hobby. That summer I interned for Electronic Arts, working with people who had created some of my favorite games. When summer ended, I knew that the gaming industry was the place where I wanted to build my career. Today I have my dream job, and I never would have ended up here if it weren’t for Mills.”