Gaming legend Jane Whittaker joins Leeds' XR

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by Simon Austin
Jane Whittaker

Gaming industry legend Jane Whittaker has joined the board and executive team of Leeds VR studio XR Games

During a 34-year career, Whittaker has held senior management and board roles at Atari (for 11 years), MGM (five years), and EA (14 years). 

Her portfolio includes mega-hits GoldenEye 007 (N64), Alien vs. Predator, The Sims, HR Giger’s Darkseed and major contributions to Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Whittaker’s title at XR Games will be Chief Hopping Officer, a name coined by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to spotlight her wide-ranging expertise and ability to simultaneously hop between roles. 

XR Games’ CEO Bobby Thandi said: “Jane brings a wealth of experience that’s unparalleled in the games sector, and invaluable as we launch into the emerging VR market. Jane delivers concept, code, and corporate vision to our board, and I’m super excited that Jane has chosen to join XR Games.”

Whittaker added: “I firmly believe as the technology matures, virtual reality is going to be a tidal wave that sweeps through the entertainment industry. XR Games is positioning itself to ride the crest of that wave with incredibly innovative products and approaches set to revolutionise VR. It’s an exciting time to be a member of the XR team.”

Whittaker is soon to be the subject of a BBC series, featuring industry giants such as Bing Gordon, Sam Tramiel and Wild Bill Stealey. 

She was originally known as Andrew Whittaker and last year explained: “I was born a very rare mix of male and female, including body parts. A type of siamese twin. I had over 40 surgeries during my childhood and that is where I actually learnt to code, in the long days of hospital routine, sat in a bed for hours on end.

“Am I male or am I female? the jury is out as nobody including the medical profession can answer that definitively and neither can I. In fairness, I don't even try. A long time ago I decided that I should just concentrate on being me and leave labels for soup cans in supermarkets.

“What has changed drastically are attitudes in the industry and the wider world at large, where I can now work at senior levels in our amazing industry using my real name of Jane. Yes, it is my real name! The days of quietly being told to use a male name as you will sell more copies, or discussions of which restrooms you can use in a dev studio are behind me.

“The world has changed, I no longer have to shy away from publicity to protect myself. I can talk about my past, talk about my games, talk about who I am with confidence. It means I can join groups like LinkedIn. It means so many things.”