An Interview with Sherry McKenna

An Interview with Sherry McKenna [Hosted by United Female Gamers Forums]
Date: 13 August, 2003
Interviewer: Cynthia Threadgill
Interviewee: Sherry McKenna


Women and computer technologies. It’s a concept that’s still a little bit strange despite our strides to overcome gender issues in education and the workplace. It’s an issue, but not a new one and definitely not one that can’t be overcome. Case in point: Sherry McKenna, a pioneer in Computer Generated Imaging and CEO and co-founder of Oddworld along with her partner Lorne Lanning. In case you haven’t heard of Oddworld (And if you are a gamer, shame on you!), it’s the company that produced the Oddworld series of games including Abe’s Oddysee (Playstation), Abe’s Exoddus (Playstation) and Munch’s Oddysee (Xbox) as well as several award winning image sequences.

Sherry McKenna has twenty years of experience in areas including feature film special effects and commercials and was gracious enough to give her answers to a few questions related to women, gaming and even footwear! Here’s the interview:

Cynthia Threadgill: Ms. McKenna. First off I want to thank you for agreeing to do this little Q&A with me. I know that you’re a very busy woman.
I understand that you don’t particularly care for videogames. So what on earth made you decide to get into a, well… frankly a male-oriented and male-dominated industry?

Sherry McKenna: It is not that I perceived it as male oriented or male dominated. Before I became the CEO of Oddworld, I worked in the cg/special effects world which is basically male oriented as well. I wanted to make cg animated features and my partner, Lorne Lanning, convinced me that the way to do that was to create a franchise, a brand, a Universe so to speak that would attract the Hollywood folks, and the fastest way to do that was via video games.

CT: Have you had any instance where you feel that the men in the industry have snubbed you in any way?

Sherry McKenna: Truth is I pay very little attention to that so I would most likely not notice. It is not part of my reality.

CT: What kind of a girl were you? I don’t see you as one of those girls who only played with toy ovens and dolls.

Sherry McKenna: Sure, I loved dolls and had a fabulous doll collection. I was not very athletic and certainly not a tomboy.

CT: Does/did your family support you in your endeavors and did you in anyway foresee your future?

Sherry McKenna:
My family totally supported me in whatever I chose to do as long as I did it to the best of my ability. I studied communication and psychology in college but had no idea really of what I would do with them. But I knew that whatever I would do, it would work out.

CT: You’ve done so much with your life already. What drives you now?

Sherry McKenna: Hmmm, I guess the desire to do great work and do it with passion. Doesn’t really matter what that work is as long as it is done with total commitment.

CT: So many hours and so much work goes into the creation of computer-generated (CG) shorts and video games and they have won numerous awards. Yet, Squaresoft’s big production “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” failed miserably at the box office. Do you ever see computer-animated features and video games getting the respect that they deserve from the entertainment industry and where will Oddworld be within this industry?

Sherry McKenna: Oh I think we already have the respect from the entertainment industry. Most movies fail if they do not have great stories and characters that we care about. And as far as respect for video games, it depends on whom you want that respect from. I personally would like to make games that appeal to folks who want to be inspired, not necessarily those who want to just shoot and blow things up. But everyone should have the right to make whatever kind of entertainment they want.

CT: What can we expect next from Oddworld?

Sherry McKenna: Hopefully we will deliver a game that is totally different than what you are expecting but one that could only come from Oddworld.

CT: Do you have any advice for the stay-at-home-mom who’s deciding to go back to college or the young woman about to head off to a university and out on her own? And do you see an age or gender barrier to women entering into any part of this vast videogame/computer imaging industry and if so, how should they handle it?

Sherry McKenna: I am not big on giving advice but I would say that the most important thing in life is to figure out what you want and then pursue it with a passion. And when it comes to barriers, since I do not see them, they do not exist for me. They do not need to be part of one’s reality.

CT: Finally, I have a bit of an odd question (no pun intended). When I started doing interviews a long while back I always asked the person what was their shoe size.
You see, it’s my opinion that what’s on a person’s feet are a window into that person’s soul. It’s one area where bigger isn’t necessarily better. A woman with big feet doesn’t have nearly as many choices in footwear as a woman with a daintier size. She has to be creative to make a statement. Is she going to just go with the sensible shoe or is she going to try to be first to the store to get that rare, perfect pair. And for women with small feet, they have almost endless choices, but are they going to go with just what’s trendy or are the going to go for something that says “this who I am today”. Socks, stockings, pantyhose or just plain bare; I feel that if all guys looked at the eyes and the feet, then they’d get a better idea of who and what kind of woman they’re dealing with. I’ve been told that I look very stern and mean, but all someone really needs to do is look down at my feet to see that I wear Black Hello Kitty sneakers to see I have a softer side. So may I ask? What is your shoe size? It’s ok if you don’t want to tell.

Sherry McKenna: I wear a size 7 shoe but to be totally honest I am not a big fan of shoes. I try to wear shoes that I can slip off and thus be barefoot which is how I am now, sitting here at work with my shoes under my desk and my feet bare.

CT: Now that you’ve answered that question, will you autograph one or a pair and send it to me? I’d like to start a “Women of Gaming and Entertainment shoe museum/collection”! Just like some guys collect the shoes of sports stars, I’d like to collect shoes of women who’ve dominated their respective industries. If so, please let me know! Haha!

Sherry McKenna: Sure, I can do that. Since most of my shoes are thongs anyway, it is an easy request to fulfill.

(Note: I gave it a shot and it paid off! Yay me!)

CT: Thank you again Ms. McKenna. I appreciate your time and applaud your efforts. You’ve done what so many women dream of doing. You’ve made it. I hope that you will continue to inspire others and that your future is blessed with continued success. Thank you and congratulations.

Sherry McKenna: I thank you for those lovely thoughts. They are much appreciated.