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Global Game Jam Welcomes new Executive Director Maria Burns Ortiz, Bids Farewell to Director of Partnerships Charly Harbord

GGJ Executive Director Maria Burns Ortiz

May 7, 2024 – Global Game Jam®️ (GGJ) is excited to announce that Maria Burns Ortiz has been confirmed as our new Executive Director. 


"We are delighted to welcome Maria Burns Ortiz as Global Game Jam's new Executive Director." said Sabrina Culyba, GGJ Board President. "Maria's background exemplifies the kind of collaboration and innovation that defines Global Game Jam. She not only has the depth of practical leadership experience to guide and grow GGJ, she has also worked extensively in the intersection of communities and game development. We can’t wait to see where her vision helps to take the organization."


​​In this role, Burns Ortiz will build upon the success of the Global Game Jam, the world’s largest game creation event. With a focus on strengthening the organization’s financial foundation to ensure sustainability and growth, she will work to expand industry partnerships and new opportunities for current and aspiring game developers to participate in GGJ events worldwide.


Burns Ortiz joins GGJ after a decade in the games industry. As co-founder and CEO of 7 Generation Games, she brought over 30 games and an educational game development platform to market. Leading design and business development, her work centered around using games as a vehicle to deliver culturally reflective narratives, develop 21st-century skills, and empower youth while building community and economic opportunity. She also brings a track record of successfully securing funding via grants, sponsorships and crowdfunding.


Having developed games from Los Angeles to the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Reservation to the Chilean Andes, she has been recognized as an industry thought leader and advocate. She brings expertise on community-inclusive game design, video games as learning tools, diversity in tech, and entrepreneurship. She has been a digitalundivided fellow, National Latina Business Women Association “Rising Star,” Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal’s 40 Under 40, Forbes Next 1000, and an invited speaker at the White House’s “United State of Women” summit.


A New York Times bestselling author, Burns Ortiz transitioned into gaming after a successful career in media and has taught at Emerson College, Tufts University, and The Loft Literary Center. A graduate of New York University, she lives in Minneapolis with her husband and three children. 


"I deeply believe in the transformative power of video games and that game development should be accessible to anyone anywhere," Burns Ortiz said. “It is an honor to lead Global Game Jam, an organization that embodies that mission. I look forward to working with our talented team and connecting with our committed network of volunteers to support our passionate community of Jammers around the world and take GGJ to the next level."


Burns Ortiz replaces previous Executive Director Tim Cullings, who stepped down in February. Charly Harbord, who was previously GGJ’s Director of Partnerships, served as the organization’s interim leader after Cullings’ exit, though Harbord also left the organization at the end of March. 


"I was lucky enough to work for GGJ for almost two years," Harbord said. "In that time, I had the pleasure of having amazing people as colleagues and really feeling the sense of community that GGJ stands for. I’ve been humbled by how many amazing successful people in the industry made their very first game in GGJ.  It truly is the starting ground and any investment in GGJ is an investment in the future of gaming."


The board of directors wishes Harbord well. 


"We are grateful for Charly's contributions to Global Game Jam over the past two years," Culyba said. "Though we were sad to lose her, we are certain she will continue to be a strong voice in the games community."


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