Ross didn’t create Halo. That was Bungie. But she believed in the universe of Halo. When Bungie left Microsoft and went off to make Destiny, Ross stayed with Halo at Microsoft, and she formed 343 Industries.
“A leader who is incredibly creative,” said her boss Phil Spencer. “One of the defining world builders in gaming.”
She thought Halo could be Microsoft’s Star Wars. Ross gave an acceptance speech in front of a crowd of 700 at the DICE Awards, the elite gaming event run by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.
Ross is the 23rd recipient of the prestigious award from the peer-run body, the AIAS. She is one of the rare women honored by the industry for her achievements in the creation of the Halo video games as well as her promotion of diversity and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education for women, under-represented minorities, and children.
As Spencer said, Ross has been integral in the vision and expansion of the Halo franchise that has continued to excite generations of fans, generating nearly $6 billion in worldwide sales to date and has transcended video games to grow into a global entertainment phenomenon.
Ross’ interest in technology and gaming began at an early age, where her pursuit of advanced math and science classes led to a degree in Technical Communication and a concentration in Physics and Computer Science. Following college, she landed an internship at IBM before beginning her profession at Microsoft, first working on operating systems.
Ross began her career in the games industry in 1994, when Microsoft created a PC sports gaming division, leading to her first game release, NBA Full Court Press for Windows. She progressed her career in gaming in a variety of roles, including producer, lead producer, executive producer and general manager overseeing production for all titles within the Microsoft Game Studios portfolio.
In these roles, Ross worked with several leading development studios in the co-development or publishing of many well-known titles, including Counter-Strike (Xbox), Dungeon Siege, Fuzion Frenzy, Gears of War, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, NBA: Inside Drive, Pandora’s Box, Psychonauts, and Zoo Tycoon.
In 2007, when Halo’s creators, Bungie, parted ways with Microsoft as a first-party developer, Ross founded 343 Industries, an entertainment studio committed to fostering the growth and expansion of the Halo franchise. In an interview with GamesBeat, Ross considered the formation of 343 Industries to be her proudest contribution. After all, if it fell apart after Bungie spun out, we wouldn’t have more Halo games.
At Microsoft Game Studios and 343 Industries, Ross has worked with or directly overseen many well-loved Halo games: Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo: Spartan Assault, Halo: Spartan Strike, Halo 4, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Halo 5: Guardians, Halo Wars 2, Halo: Fireteam Raven, and the upcoming Halo Infinite.
Halo has also been a transmedia effort. Ross has helped create the upcoming Halo television series by Showtime, and live-action series, such as Halo: Forward Unto Dawn and Halo: Nightfall. In addition, 12 of 17 Halo novels have been named to the New York Times Best Sellers list and Halo consumer products have generated over $1.5 billion in consumer spend.
When it comes to diversity, Ross cofounded the Microsoft Women in Gaming community as a way for women in the industry to network and support each other. Beginning as a small cocktail event with roughly 20 attendees, it has since then grown to become an annual lunch at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) that counts more than 1,500 in attendance.
Ross was named one of Fortune’s most powerful women in gaming and is a part of The Ad Council’s “She Can STEM” campaign.
Past AIAS Hall of Fame recipients include: Todd Howard (2017), Hideo Kojima (2016), Leslie Benzies (2014), Dan and Sam Houser (2014) and Tim Sweeney (2012).