Rieko Kodama, one of the most important developers in the history of both Sega and the wider role-playing genre, has died at the age of 59.
As IGN report, she actually passed away back in May, but her death was not announced publicly by the company at the time. Fans recently discovered a tribute to Kodama in the credits section of the Mega Drive Mini 2, however, prompting Sega producer Yosuke Oskunari to confirm the sad news.
Her contributions to Sega’s catalogue of classic titles and series was immense. Beginning with the company in 1984, she would work on everything from design to pixel art, and spent the her early career on series like Alex Kidd and Fantasy Zone.
She was then the principal artist on the original Phantasy Star, and would keep working on the series through its sequels, rising to the role of director by the fourth game.
Her other notable works include Dreamcast classic Skies of Arcadia, which she again led development on, while she also contributed as an artist to games like the first two Sonic titles and Altered Beast.
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Kodama may be best remembered, though, for her pioneering work as a prominent woman in games development, for which she has been labelled “The First Lady of RPGs” (and indeed was awarded the Pioneer Award at GDC 2018), and leaves behind a legacy of characters and games that were designed for everyone, not just traditionally male audiences.
“I usually don’t think to make games strictly for a female audience, myself, but I think my RPGs attract a larger female audience”, she once said in an interview. “Violent, war-themed titles seem to attract an overwhelmingly male audience. I think if companies want to get more girls to play their games, they should keep this in mind.