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Rieko Kodama, a renowned Sega developer, passes away at the age of 58

Kodama served as an inspiration to female programmers and gamers around.

A terrible loss has befallen the video game industry. Phoenix Rie, a renowned Sega developer also known as Rieko Kodama, passed away at the age of 58. Her cause of death is still a mystery.

Kodama passed away in May of this year, according to IGN, but her passing wasn’t made public until this week. Before Sega producer Yosuke Okunari revealed that she had passed away earlier this year, rumors started after a memorial message was discovered in the Mega Drive Mini 2 credits. Okunari responded to a tweet asking if Kodama had passed away with, “As you understand it. “We honored her,”

We wish that the departed will rest in peace and we extend our gratitude for her great contributions to Sega. Sega declined to provide any other information out of respect for the family.

Kodama was a well-known Sega developer and a forerunner in the role-playing game industry. She started her career in 1984, working as an artist on classics like Fantasy Zone and Alex Kidd. Later, she made contributions to titles like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Skies of Arcadia, but her work on the Phantasy Star series—where she eventually rose to the position of director by Phantasy Star 4—is perhaps best recognized.

The First Lady of RPGs, Kodama was also well-known for being one of the earliest successful female game developers. Her colorful, varied character designs produced heroes for every player. As a woman myself, I try not to just have them as patriarchal fantasy figures, as persons needing to be redeemed, she once said in an interview. We are seeing more autonomous women in games intended for female audiences, but I prefer to develop female characters that people of all can empathize with, she said.

Yuji Naka, a co-creator of Sonic, paid homage to Kodama on Twitter. Hirokazu Yasuhara, another co-creator of Sonic, expressed his “proudness” at having collaborated with Kodama and added, “I still can’t believe it, it’s very terrible. My experiences working with her on Sonic and Phantasy Star are pleasant ones. I attended the wake and funeral and was shocked by how quickly it happened. I make a prayer for your eternal peace.

She was “a pioneering artist and designer of videogames,” according to Spelunky founder Derek Yu, and 8-4 creator John Ricciardi described her as “always very polite” and “a great legend in Japanese game production.” Kodama received the Pioneer Award at GDC 2019, which was presented by Necrosoft director Brandon Sheffield, who remarked that “she was, and still, one of the greatest.” “She was unable to accept her lifetime achievement award at GDC because of her sickness. At least having it during her lifetime makes me happy. I hope she understood how much her work meant to everyone in the world!”

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