Building communities, amplifying Asian women’s voices and making Forbes’ 30 under 30
Senior Community Manager for Respawn Entertainment Karen Lee has been named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 - Games list for 2022. After graduating from the UBC Sauder School of Business with a Bachelor of Commerce in 2016, Lee turned her love of video games into a career in community management and development for some of the top studios. Now, she’s advocating for change for Asian women in the gaming industry.
Lee decided early on while studying marketing at UBC Sauder that if she was going to sell a product or an idea to people, it better be something she loves. For Lee, that was video games.
“I've grown up around games, and I love the people involved in them – both the communities that gravitate around games they enjoy, as well as the dedicated developers who create these games,” explains Lee.
At 28, Lee has already become a veteran in the gaming industry, having worked at companies such as Ubisoft, Gameloft and, now, Respawn Entertainment and on titles like Assassin's Creed, Rainbow Six Siege and Apex Legends.
While at UBC Sauder, Lee completed a co-op term working as a community manager in a tech startup, which inspired her to branch off from her traditional marketing roots. Her current role as Senior Community Manager at Respawn working on Apex Legends involves helping facilitate the game's development process between developers and the community.
“I'm grateful that the world of community building opened up to me,” says Lee. “I truly believe that this is the most genuine form of ‘marketing’ out there. Empowering your community to drive your brand and product forward is super important given we're in a world where almost every market is oversaturated with brands talking ‘at’ people.”
Apex Legends recently celebrated its third anniversary and has more than 100 million players. Lee says a key part of her role is elevating leaders in the community who are passionate about making the game the best that it can be.
“Give your community reasons to understand and partake in the decisions made behind the products they love, and they will help amplify that messaging,” she says.
Lee credits UBC Sauder with preparing her for pitching ideas, working collaboratively, and understanding the stakeholders in the world of business – all skills that have helped propel her forward in her career. Given her talents for building community, it’s no surprise that the highlight of her time at business school was the people she was surrounded by – her professors and classmates.
One of her favourite memories was her time as Editor-in-Chief of the Cavalier, UBC Sauder’s student newspaper. “I got to meet lots of insanely smart and driven folks who used their spare time to drive our faculty forward,” says Lee.
“The Rainbow Six Siege community expressed interest in getting involved and giving back,” she explains. “On my end, it really was just channeling and rallying these forces together in a way where we can take the power of our game and community to bring about greater change. And thus the Sixth Guardian Program was born!”
She also cofounded Project AWR with Marion Mỹ Anh Baxerres. Sparked by the #StopAsianHate campaigns and the increase in hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic, Project AWR works toward representation, awareness and amplification of Asian women in and adjacent to gaming. It recently surpassed 100 active members.
“Project AWR is dedicated to creating a safe space for Asian women in the gaming industry and to giving them a platform to amplify their voice,” says Lee. “We want to encourage more Asian women who are passionate about games to continue to find and solidify their place within the gaming industry.”
Despite her early success, Lee is even more excited for what is on the horizon for the gaming industry as technologies continue to improve and connect people with the experiences provided by games.
“I’m excited for video games to continue to create amazing new experiences for people to enjoy. I truly believe there isn’t anyone who ‘doesn’t like video games.’ They just haven’t found the right one for them yet! There are so many different types of games—there’s bound to be one for everyone,” says Lee.
Of being named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 – Games list, Lee says the accolade validates that the work she is doing is helping bring about positive change and that her choice to pursue her passion as a career was the right one.
“I don’t think I took the most traditional route based on the career paths seemingly laid out for us in business school, so I’ve had my doubts on if I made the right moves,” she says. “But this helps affirm that I can do what I love while still making use of my degree!”