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Just Add Water founder Stewart Gilray dies at 51

UK industry veteran was hospitalised with COVID-19 shortly before Christmas

Stewart Gilray, the founder and CEO of long-running UK developer Just Add Water has died.

Gilray has led the company for over 15 years, overseeing its growth as a provider of production and development services to various studios across the UK, including Codemasters, Rebellion and Bossa.

He was hospitalised with COVID-19 on December 20 and, after fighting it for the past few weeks, passed away today. He was 51.

Gilray's career began as a freelance programmer in the late '80s, when he worked with notable studios such as Psygnosis, Bullfrog, Core Design and Argonaut Software.

He worked at a range of companies throughout his career, including 21st Century Entertainment and Revolution Software, before founding Just Add Water back in October 2006.

The company has made a name for itself through its work reviving the Oddworld franchise. More recent releases include last year's Sniper Elite VR, Toy Soldiers HD and Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality.

Stewart is survived by his wife Bec, as well as their son and daughter.

Fellow developers and games professionals have been sharing tributes across social media and via email. More will be added as they come in.

"Stewart was one of the most loved people in the games industry," said indie developer Shahid Ahmad. "He made friends wherever he went and was an immensely talented, award-winning games developer.

"He and I hit it off at our very first meeting well over a decade ago and had been very close friends since, sharing our highest highs and lowest lows. He was one of only a handful of people in the industry who I trusted enough to open up with. I'm devastated at his untimely passing and want to assure his wife and children of the games industry's support.

"My thoughts and prayers are with them. Stew is irreplaceable and so is our friendship. The massive outpouring of love for him is testament to him as a man who cared deeply about people."

UK industry veteran Andy Payne added: "I knew Stew for 30 years right back in his days at Hewson. We were mates. In recent years, I had helped Stew with his thinking around the future of his company, Just Add Water. It was only at the end of November that Stew told me the great news of the deal he had agreed to take the business forward. He was happy and all was good. I then got a message from Stew about Ian Hetherington's passing on December 15 and we talked about what a tragedy that was.

"On December 20, Stew told me he was going into hospital with Covid. This morning, I heard the news that Stew had died. We have lost another UK games industry veteran of many years, way too young. My thoughts are with Bec and his family and all the team at Just Add Water."

PlayStation principal engineer Byron Atkinson-Jones added: "Stewart was somebody I truly considered to be a friend. He was always there to help. He never judged. He would often call me on the phone to check up on how I was doing. He was passionate about games and our industry. I will miss him terribly, we lost a genuine friend today."

Thunkd founder Andrew Crawshaw said: "For over a decade, Stewart, and his studio, Just Add Water, have been a constant presence in the roller-coaster world of game development, and also one of the region's success stories. It was clear he had a vision for JAW, and the last few years have seen the studio flourish.

"Along the way he helped numerous local devs to start or advance their careers -- I lost count of the number of jobs ads I forwarded to the Ga-Ma-Yo and Leeds Games Toast communities. Despite frequently having his tongue firmly in his cheek, he could, and did, give great advice. His passing will leave a uniquely-shaped hole in the gamedev community."

Q-Games CEO Dylan Cuthbert said via Twitter: "My friend Stewart Gilray was taken from us a few hours ago. Covid cut short his life and destroyed so much. He was the nicest bloke I knew, stubborn as hell, and always there for me. RIP Stew, you daft bugger."

Also via Twitter, long-time games designer Brenda Romero said: "Rest in peace [Stewart]. I can't believe you're gone. Stew was such a good friend and a great ally. I'm going to miss our convos, stupid investigations into bullshit things, just everything."

Sports Interactive founder Miles Jacobson said: "It's difficult to put into words how much Stew meant to so many people -- both those he knew in real life, and those he interacted with online. To the point where, when he first went into hospital, he was getting and responding to so many messages that his wife, Bec, asked people to stop sending so many so that he could concentrate on his recovery.

"He'd worked on and shipped 30 games in his career, the first one I played being the conversion of Powermonger on the Atari ST back in the early '90s, through to Sniper Elite VR, which he was so proud of the teams work on. Always happy to give help and advice when asked, and would be the first to praise others for their successes, but also not shy to ask for advice from those he trusted -- and was so excited about the future plans that he had for Just Add Water.

"The UK games industry has lost so many wonderful people in the last few months, and it's so sad that today it's lost another great one. My thoughts are with Bec and their two kids who he loved so much."

Game Republic managing director Jamie Sefton added: "Such awful and sad news -- Stew was always an amazing supporter of the Yorkshire games industry, running his Just Add Water studio in Otley and then Leeds, working on major game franchises such as Oddworld and Doctor Who as well as original games such as Gravity Crash.

"Stew was a judge at the Game Republic Student Showcase for many years and was always very passionate about encouraging young people into an industry he loved. Stew was one of us. My heart goes out to his wonderful family and all at Just Add Water."

Simon Barratt, co-founder of Cooperative Innovations told us: "Stew was such a great part of the industry for such a long time, I was lucky to get to know him through the Yorkshire games development scene as a fellow company founder. I fondly remember working together on Munch's Oddysee HD and our trips to the pub together near the office in Otley. He will be sorely missed by many as someone who really cared about his teams and projects. When I heard he was unwell I was sure that his brilliant stubborn nature would get him through this fight and it's a real shock hearing the news today. We're all thinking of his family and our friends at JAW at this time. RIP Stew"

Team17's group CEO Debbie Bestwick added: "Today, the games industry mourns the passing of a very good friend and colleague to many of us. Stew was simply amazing he was ' Mr always there for you' be it celebrating success or helping solve problems. A huge loss to the UK games scene but more so as a good friend to so many around the world. Such sad and tragic news my heart is with his wife Bec and children."

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