Christina Coffin

From Sega Retro

Christina Ann Coffin
Date of birth: 1972 (age 50-51)
Employment history:
Sega of America[1] (1995[1] – 1998[1])
Origin Systems[1] (1999[1] – 2000[1])
Sunset Entertainment[1] (2000-01[1] – 2002-10[1])
Rockstar[1] (2002-10[1] – 2008-05[1])
Ubisoft[1] (2008-06[1] – 2009-10[1])
DICE[1][2] (2010-03[1] – 2011-12[1])
Role(s): Programmer[2], Engineer[2]
Education: University of California San Diego (Bachelor of Computer Science; 1990)
Twitter: @ChristinaCoffin

Christina “Chris” Ann Coffin is an American video game programmer, software engineer, and visual effects artist.[2] With a vast wealth of programming experience dating back to the early 1980's, she was first hired by Sculptured Software in 1994, eventually migrating to Sega Technical Institute one year later. Serving as the division's Technical Director, she oversaw the production of a number of Sega of America's Saturn projects, even working on the system's Western development hardware.

Coffin is perhaps most associated today with her "boss fight engine" from the cancelled Sonic X-treme, for which she developed one of the game's few instances of a playable framerate. While she departed Sega in 1998, Coffin remains active in the video game industry and currently specializes in the creation of visual effects technology.[2]


Christina Coffin acquired her first computer at the age of 9 - a VIC-20.[2] After typing in her first BASIC program, and realizing she could now code her own games instead of asking her parents to purchase them, she quickly grew an affinity for video game programming and found herself coding games in her free time. After later acquiring an Amiga 500[2][3], and being exposed to its burgeoning demoscene, Coffin grew well-acquainted enough with the system to build a small library of demos, and continued creating games on her own for some time.[2]

While Coffin was completing her computer science degree at University of California San Diego in 1994, she saw a classified ad in a local San Diego paper advertising an available programming position at nearby Sculptured Software. Initially shocked to see what was her first exposure to the video game industry proper, and feeling like her life could use a more relevant change of direction, she applied for the job, bringing a number of her projects and Amiga demos to the interview. Despite her lack of professional experience, her visible passion and desire to create something meaningful shone through, and she was soon hired as one of the company's junior programmers.[2] She would work at Sculptured Software for about a year, where she saw the company transition from 16-bit to 32-bit hardware[2], and experienced firsthand the challenges inherent in making the leap to 3D programming.

Sega Technical Institute

Main article: Sega Technical Institute.

Christina Coffin was hired by Sega of America in 1995[4] as Technical Director of its semi-independent development studio Sega Technical Institute. Working in a number of roles within the two companies, she notably served as programmer of the Sega Saturn's Sega Graphics Library development tools[4], acted in a development and advisory role at Sega of America's various R&D subsidiaries[4], and assisted the company's affiliated third-party developers with their technical support questions.[4]

Coffin's work on Sonic X-treme resulted in notably higher framerates when using her 3D engine.

She would later serve as Technical Advisor on the upcoming Sega Dreamcast[4], programming the system's core software libraries and playing a significant role in its engineering[4] - notably the first time the American division of Sega would have such a direct role in a home system's production. Through her time at the company, Coffin experienced developing for a number of different platforms and architectures - the Saturn, Dreamcast, Windows PC, Silicon Graphics workstations, arcade hardware, and various prototype systems.[4] She eventually left the company in early 1998, migrating to a Software Architect position at Konami Computer Entertainment America that March.[4]

Coffin's name is perhaps most associated today with her programming work on the boss fight engines during the latter half of the cancelled Sonic X-treme's development cycle. While much of the project was fraught with technical issues and unacceptable framerates, Coffin's boss engines were notably smoother and more stable, and were one of few sections of gameplay which were actually playable by the public.

Later career

While working at Konami Computer Entertainment America, Coffin continued to utilize her previous experience when developing Konami's Sega Dreamcast core programming libraries and development tools[4], and would remain working in the company's numerous R&D roles until September 1999[4], where she departed for a brief one-year stint with Origin Systems in a server programming and maintenance role for Ultima Online.[4]

In January 2000, she accepted a Senior Programmer position at Sunset Entertainment, again working in the company's R&D roles, and this time specializing in graphics software, development tools, and game porting[4]; her experience with the Dreamcast again remained useful, not only assisting Sunset Entertainment with their Sega-related projects, but also having a significant development role in the November 2000 basketball game ESPN NBA 2Night.[4]

She began working at Rockstar San Diego in October 2002[4], where she primarily held the same R&D responsibilities as her previous positions, and played a significant role in production and development of a number of the studio's games. Coffin later held roles at Ubisoft[4], Blue Fang Games[4], and most notably Swedish developer DICE[4], where she worked as the company's Platform Specialist Senior Engineer[2], before eventually founding the nearby independent game development company Light & Dark Arts in December 2011.[4]

Since then, Coffin has remained in the video game industry and has acted in a number of roles, particularly the programming and maintenance of game engines[4], and also frequently relates her personal experiences and thoughts as a woman in the game industry - something for which she earned the 2011 International Game Developers Association Women in Gaming Award (Engineering).[5]

Due to her nickname Chris, and her general lack of documented history (being credited as Chris Coffin in many cases), a significant amount of Sega-related history has referred to Coffin as male - a mistake most notably printed in a number of physically-published books.

I want to make sure I’m doing what I love. And I want to be able to look back on my life and say "Wow! I made all these cool games and a lot of people enjoyed them." That’s what would make me feel like I’ve done something useful with my life.

Christina Coffin[2]

Production history


External links