Roblox’s female creators are building virtual empires

The next generation of female game developers are creating on Roblox right now.

Image from virtual Roblox experience "Mermaid life." Blue and beige dining room setting.

Roblox has seen a big uptick in the number of female creators joining its platform.

In a male-dominated gaming landscape, some female creators on Roblox appear to be thriving. Last year, 30 percent more female creators started using Roblox Studio compared to their male counterparts. But before we dive into what it’s like to be a female Roblox creator, there are a few things you should know about Roblox.

First off, it’s a growing platform for young gamers. In Roblox’s “2021 in Data” report, the publisher revealed its userbase grew from 32.6 million to 50 million by November 2021. Users log onto Roblox from 180 different countries, with the United States, Brazil, and the United Kingdom as the top three nations with the most engagement time on the platform. A part of Roblox’s appeal is the fact that there is a seemingly endless supply of virtual “experiences,” which are often gamified. Last year, the median Roblox user visited 40 different experiences.

But Roblox hasn’t been immune to criticism, with some accusing the platform of exploiting young game developers. In response, a Roblox spokesperson told Input that “‘Respecting the Community’ is one of our core values at Roblox, and we are proud of the positive difference that building on Roblox, with free tools, had made in the lives of many within our developer community. We work hard every day to continue to create an even better environment for them and all of our users.”

Roblox told Input that fees for “hosting, storage, platform customer support, safety/moderation, localization, regulatory requirements, payment processing and platform fees” are the reasons why creators only take home about 24.5 percent of all revenue from their experiences. That being said, the remaining funds don’t all go to Roblox. According to the company, the Xbox/Apple/Google app stores take a 24. 1 percent cut and another 24.6 percent of every dollar spent on the platform goes toward “platform hosting and investment.”

Whether you agree with this payment model or not, it appears that Roblox’s economics are more complicated than you might think — and a lot hinges upon this free-to-create, free-to-play ethos. So I got in touch with three of Roblox’s most successful female creators to ask them how they feel about Roblox.

Jennifer Towne, aka JennyBean, is a freelance environmental and 3D artist who designs virtual and video game environments. She’s also a level designer and has been developing worlds in Roblox since she was 13 years old. Towne was first known for her involvement with Roblox High School, which got over 560 million plays and won a Bloxy Award (which is basically Roblox’s version of the Oscars).

Besides the Roblox Studio and its tools, Towne’s also proficient with game developer tools like Unreal Engine and Blender. Towne’s freelance work led to an internship at Roblox and a contracted role as an environmental artist at Roblox, where she developed Hallows Eve: A Tale of Lost Souls.

Jennifer Towne’s “Eyes of Providence,” created in Roblox.Jennifer Towne / ArtStation

cSapphire, who has not revealed her full name online, is another Roblox creator who started on the platform around age 12. She makes virtual clothing items for Roblox avatars and has sold over 2.5 million virtual clothing items on her Roblox store. In December 2020, cSapphire even collaborated with Gucci to make 7 exclusive outfits.

Anne Shoemaker, aka Myzta, also started creating content on Roblox at the age of 12. Now in her 20s, she has a company called Fullflower Studio LLC which makes Roblox experiences and items. Over the years, she’s gone from being a self-described hobbyist to a fully-fledged entrepreneur, running a business within the larger Roblox ecosystem.

Shoemaker recently created this cute fairy hairstyle in multiple pastels for Roblox users.TheMyzta on Twitter

The following responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

What were you creating when you first started on Roblox?

Towne: I’ve been determined and dedicated to the art of making virtual experiences. Storytelling is really core to human society, and this is a brand new way of telling those stories. My first project that I worked on was with the team behind Roblox High School back in 2015.

cSapphire: As a child, I was always creating things and had a very big imagination. One of my biggest hobbies was art, and it wasn’t until I was around 7 or 8 years old that I got into gaming. When I got into Roblox, it was purely just so I could have fun playing at the time. I joined the fashion community on Roblox and started designing clothes. I liked to dress up my avatar and create virtual items as a way of self-expression. Over the years, my popularity within the community began to grow exponentially. I was then able to transform my hobby of clothing design and art into a steady stream of income on Roblox.

Shoemaker: On Roblox, I would create little houses and furniture where my friends and I could role play living in a house together. Eventually, I decided to create my own building game, which is when I officially started making games on the platform. The first experience I made got around 100 players, which was really motivating to me as a young creator.

What are you working on now?

Towne: Most experiences I work on with a team, so it certainly isn't just me. Tranquility, however, was a solo project I worked on quite recently, and it was an attempt to show what I could do as a developer and a storyteller. It resulted in unanimous acceptance into the Elite Builders of Robloxia, and made me the first female member accepted into the group. The Elite Builders of Robloxia is an application-based group of individuals who specialize in building immersive and creative environments within Roblox. To get in, you must have a majority vote from the group’s members. The goal with Tranquility is to emphasize environmental storytelling, and to make a project that was unique and evoked certain emotions. Oftentimes we see showcases and creative environments which don’t strive to tell a story.

From Towne’s Roblox experience “Tranquility.”Roblox

This story of Tranquility revolves around a character that feels inclined to prove themselves by taking over their father's business as a blacksmith from an early age, attempting to perfect their craft through overworking and under sleeping in a small enclosed environment. It communicates underlying mental health issues in the story as well. It was a project that I put my heart and soul into.

Another experience I work on is Untamed Planet, which is focused on wildlife conservation. 50 percent of our proceeds go towards wildlife conservation, and the team at UP is determined to make games on the Roblox platform to inspire the next generation of philanthropists.

From Towne’s Roblox experience “Untamed Planet.”Roblox

cSapphire: I make art and virtual clothing items for people to wear on their avatars. When creating clothes and art, I use a drawing tablet and an art program. I have had the pleasure of making items for some popular Roblox experiences such as Bloxburg and Royale High. I enjoyed creating merch for several Roblox YouTubers as well, such as russoplays, Keisyo, and InquisitorMaster.

Shoemaker: I have been building a company on Roblox, Fullflower Studio LLC! We are creating meaningful games that will make a positive impact on those who play it.

From Shoemaker’s Roblox experience “Mermaid Life,” which has received over 43 million visits.Roblox

What challenges have you faced as a Roblox creator?

Towne: There are so many challenges that can occur during the game development process. One of the trickiest ones I have found is scoping down and meeting deadlines on time. When working with passionate people, we find ourselves throwing ideas among each other to create these really cool features and mechanics, but more often than not they will take up too much time to develop. So we’ve learned to ask ourselves “How can we condense this to a realistic idea?” and “How can we take the steps to get to our big goal(s)?”

Shoemaker: It has been quite challenging transitioning from a young hobbyist game developer to running a company and managing teams to create these experiences at the age of 22. But I have learned a lot of great things through these challenges. It has also been very helpful reaching out and finding mentorship in the space to figure out the more complicated business side of things. To anyone looking to start a game studio or any kind of company, it is so important to have some good communication with others in your space. It is also important to remember that we are all learning so it is okay to not know what you are doing all the time!

Have you faced harassment/discrimination as a woman in the gaming industry? How has the Roblox community been for you?

Towne: As time passes, it's certainly become clear that there are things people will say and do because I am a woman, but I haven't experienced this on the platform. The first time I noticed how much representation mattered was at Roblox Developer Conference in 2018. There were probably about 8-10 women out of 300 developer attendees in 2018. I thought “Hey, it’s really important the women here represent and inspire more women to get into the games industry.” Since 2018, the number of ladies that attend RDC has grown larger and larger each year.

I also strongly believe that Roblox gives us the opportunity to redefine what it means to work in the video games industry, and because the platform reaches so many people around the globe, I hope that it inspires more ladies to be a part of this medium. Let’s speak out, be there for one another, and ensure that any harassment/discrimination in the workplace can be prevented or addressed as soon as possible.

cSapphire: I would say that being a woman in the overall gaming industry isn't very easy. I sometimes found that in the past when I was much smaller, people would not take me as seriously or some people would make passive aggressive comments about me being a woman. In my opinion, I find that the Roblox community is not as harsh as some other communities since it is more diverse. Overall, I feel like I fit in the community very well. On other platforms, I usually do not have a positive experience and sometimes I actively try to hide the fact that I'm a woman by avoiding voice chat.

Shoemaker: For me personally, I have found that the Roblox community has been a very welcoming space as a woman in the gaming industry. There are so many women creating on Roblox now and I am so excited to watch it grow. Diversity is so important when it comes to game development and creating experiences. We need the minds of people from different cultural backgrounds to properly represent different perspectives through gaming and experiences. I hope to see the creator space become loudly diverse as virtual experiences grow in popularity.

Do you think that in the future, people will be spending more and more time online in metaverses and virtual worlds like Roblox?

Towne: I certainly think that the metaverse (and the virtual worlds related to it) will grow overtime. We have such a strong potential on Roblox to create these spaces, but what that means to the creator is what will define what the metaverse turns into. The metaverse itself is such a broad term. It could mean meeting spaces, games connecting to each other in ways that were unimaginable before, chat rooms, and more. Perhaps it’s a way to educate others in more accessible ways, or inspire change that creates real world impact. There’s so much potential with the metaverse, I really hope we change the world in a positive way with it.

From Towne’s Roblox experience, “Untamed Planet.” Roblox

cSapphire: The pandemic moved a lot of people online and made people connect in ways that they weren't aware of before. Even though this isn't permanent, I think it has opened a lot of eyes to how vast virtual worlds really are. Even for brands, there is a lot of potential that some are jumping on right now. I think that the metaverse is really attractive to a wide variety of people due to the lack of limits. You can really create anything you want.

Shoemaker: Technology and social media are such a key part of our lives at this point. Our virtual identity is just as important as our real one. To be able to represent yourself the way that you want in a virtual setting is very powerful. I definitely see the potential in the metaverse being a key part of our lives in the future.

How has Roblox changed your life?

Towne: Roblox is almost a home to me. Roblox is a platform that led me to meet friends I would consider family, a creative outlet, and a community during dark periods in my life. All these things are important when you are learning to process yourself and your emotions, which I try to help people do every day with the experiences I build. Roblox can also be a great way to create change both locally and globally. A lot of developers are starting to see that and focus on that.

cSapphire: Roblox has definitely changed my life. The platform really allowed me to foster a lot of artistic visions into actual ideas. When I was a child, my dream job was to always be a doctor. When I started college, I was pursuing a degree in nursing. I dropped out of college a few months ago since I realized that I can't see myself in the healthcare field when Roblox and art in general brings me much more fulfillment. It was scary at first, but I can now it was worth it since I have a great job at a Roblox game studio, and my career grows more as I collaborate with more brands/people.

Creative director of Gucci Alessandro Michele (far left) presenting an award to cSapphire (second from left) in Roblox.Roblox

Shoemaker: I did not expect that a platform I joined when I was 12 years old would be part of my life for 10 years in so many ways. When I was younger it was just something fun for me to do in my free time after school. Now, it is my entire career. Roblox lead me to becoming a game developer, learning to code, and 3D modeling. I was even able to start an entire company where I work with so many talented people every day!

What are your future plans and goals as a creator?

Towne: Overall, my goal is to become a great force for change, and a positive team leader within game development as a whole. My eventual goal is to redefine the games industry, and focus on creating work environments that promote a healthy lifestyle while also being highly productive. I want to make games that blow the industry away, not just on the Roblox platform! It's going to be an amazing next couple of years. There’s so much adventure, excitement, and change coming our way. I’m excited to make it happen by, for, and with the community.

cSapphire: Creating art and sharing it with others is one of my biggest passions in life. I am currently working full-time at a Roblox game studio, and I solely live off of Roblox. After working with so many talented Roblox developers and creators, I believe that my overall dream is to continue creating on the Roblox platform as my job. Roblox is one of the best platforms to express yourself and your creativity. I can say creating on Roblox for as long as I have has changed my life for the better. To say that I can pay bills and support myself from doing what I love is a dream come true.

Shoemaker: I have always loved fashion and would like to participate in the virtual fashion space. I want to see people wearing my virtual clothes and accessories. Virtual identity, as I previously mentioned, is a big deal. I see a lot of potential in it.