Meet the 100 rising stars of the UK games industry
Check out our interviews with the winners of this year's GamesIndustry.biz 100 | Sponsored by Amiqus
A junior programmer at Hutch, Edmondson graduated from Exeter University just over three years ago. She is also an ambassador for Women in Games, having given talks at schools about STEM subjects and getting into games as a programmer.
“She's a strong and inclusive ambassador for women and LGBTQ+ people in games,” said one colleague. “I am so sure she's going to continue to do great things as a developer, as a mentor and as an advocate within the industry."
Edmondson says her proudest moment was clicking save on the Google Play Store to release Hot Wheels: Race Off, the first game she worked on professionally.
“I still can't quite believe that I helped develop a game which is out there, being played by millions,” she says.
Looking at the future of the industry, Edmondson says diversity is the thing she would like to see tackled the most.
“Not just increasing the number of women, either: increasing the number of people from other genders too, and increasing racial diversity, age diversity, disability diversity, and loads of other areas,” she says. “The games industry is infamous for being predominantly young white cisgender men, and that needs to change.”
Sony London Studio
Like many in the industry, Callum Langstroth found his start in games via the hard work of QA. A stint on the testing team at Sony Interactive Entertainment presented him with the opportunity to join the Sony London team, a chance he eagerly took.
Keen to become a designer and have a visible influence on the games he helped create, he soon found himself working with the team to add new features and systems to a variety of titles. Eventually, he earned a place at the studio as a full time designer.
Praised by his colleagues for his attention to detail, stand-out enthusiasm and natural knack for design, he has since moved up to the New Entertainment team at the London Studio, where he has worked on the SingStar series and other projects.
“Working as part of the New Entertainment team [is my proudest achievement],” he tells us. “We're really trying to do something new in the games space.”
While Langstroth has had a “lifelong fascination with all types of games”, he admits he might not be where he is today if it weren't for his wife pushing him to pursue a career in the industry. Now he's determined to maintain his role, eventually hoping to rise to lead designer or game director.
“I'd love to be part of a team that has led storytelling in games into new areas and to greater heights than it is currently reaching,” he says.
When asked what one element he would improve about the games industry, he points to representation – or lack thereof.
“Not just in the teams that make games,” he notes, “but also in the characters and stories they depict in their work.”
Callum Underwood is already a familiar name for many on Twitter, having garnered quite a reputation for himself when working in developer relations for VR giant Oculus. His studio contact book across the UK and Europe is second to none.
He then joined Raw Fury where he was involved in a number of upcoming indie projects, mirroring his many achievements at Oculus. He has now moved on to social platform Caffeine for whom he is establishing a new office in Newcastle, although he continues to work as a scout for Raw Fury.
Not only has he won himself a reputation for being incredibly connected and equally straight talking, he has also become a leading voice on mental health, encouraging people to be open about the subject – and for employers to start taking it more seriously.
Underwood got into games as he wanted to be involved in an industry he was passionate about and, in his words: “Music was my first calling but it turns out I wasn't very good at it.”
As for what change he'd like to see in the industry, Callum lists “more diversity, less crunch, better pay for junior staff and more acceptance of mental health issues”.
Having grown up playing games like Duke Nukem and Carmageddon with her dad, Oakes fell in love with the medium at an early age. Fast forward a few years, and Oakes is stage host and business development associate with ESL.
With just under two years in the industry, Oakes says she is excited to keep hosting ESL events.
“It would be amazing to look back in five years at some of the biggest shows and know that I was a part of that,” she says.
Oakes would also like to see more women working in the games industry, but it's not about meeting quotas, and more about making an accessible parth for women.
“I've met many extremely talented women who work in games and have made it through sheer determination and passion, yet I'm often asked 'how do we get more women into games?'” she says.
“As an industry we have to strive to promote the best people, but also simultaneously encourage and create an accessible path for women and girls to see that this is a viable career choice. It's not about putting women into the industry to boost numbers, but about creating a space that everyone can aspire to be a part of.”
One of her proudest moments was organising and hosting Battle of the Brands, an exhibition tournament for SpecialEffect which raised over £16,000 for the charity.
“Stories. What I am, I am through stories,” Cash says when asked why he got into games. “Throughout my life, stories have acted as friends, allies, and mentors. I recognised this in my youth and dedicated myself to becoming a storyteller.
“The games industry offered me that opportunity. Through narrative design I have been able to tell stories, and tell them in ways they've never been told before. Better still, I've been able to make a living doing so.”
Cash recently left developer Failbetter Games having worked on Sunless Sea, Sunless Skies and Fallen London. He now works as a freelance writer and designer and has co-founded Stave Studios with several former Failbetter pals.
“It is my hope that, in five years, I'll be working as a founding member of Stave Studios along with Sam Partridge, another former-Failbetter colleague of mine,” Cash adds. “We're dedicated to creating a sustainable environment where our team can continue making games. Each of us has our art; if I had the honour to continue writing and designing with them, it would be one of the greatest joys of my life.”
Catherine Unger is already a hugely experienced animator and illustrator, having worked with a broad range of clients including Disney, Channel 4, Tate, Preloaded, Cadbury's and Amplify.
"She brings incredible charm and warmth to every project she works on, and absolutely deserves to be recognised for her amazing work so far," one voter says.
Unger has also worked across a wide array of fields such as concept art, art direction, GUI and game assets. Most recently she was one of the lead artists on Nintendo Switch hit Snipperclips, while her other credits include Haunt the House and Detective Grimoire.
“Collaborating with Nintendo was a childhood dream come true and the response to the game has been unbelievable,” she says. “My mum even recognises it, so that's cool.
“Around the time I graduated, mobile games started to kick off. I had always fantasised about working in games throughout my life, but it felt like the only avenue into the industry was to learn 3D. Suddenly with this new spike of 2D games being developed, I knew I could transfer my skills instantly. The first time I made art for a game was incredibly exciting. Seeing people interact with my work and explore it in completely unique ways was so much more satisfying than someone watching an animation.”
As social strategist for Assembly and Xbox UK, Charleyy is already a tremendously well-known and popular figure in the UK games industry. Her campaigns have been amongst the most successful in Xbox UK history and won her a nomination at this year's MCV Awards.
Her success is not limited to behind-the-scenes either, as she's a host on new Mixer show Ultimate Gaming Challenge. Having initially got into games through writing, Charleyy followed the shift to video, landing herself a spot on Ginx, from which she was headhunted by Assembly/Xbox.
“Sitting down with my daughter once a week to watch back my Mixer show is one of the best feelings in the world,” she says. “She giggles and laughs when I – often – fail, and she always asks me to show her the games in our own house. I feel like I'm able to share my job and my hobbies with my best friend and it's priceless.”
Charleyy is also a major figure in the promotion of equality in the sector.
“Visibility for the LGBTQA+ community is a huge aim for me in everything I do,” she adds. “In terms of running the Xbox UK channel, I try to keep everything as gender neutral as possible and will sharply reply to users who refer to the Xbox Community Manager as a male.
“Seeing more developers, publications and networks embracing this community is certainly one huge way to improve this business.”
To describe Chella Ramanan as a games journalist is something of a disservice. While she is indeed known for articles on The Guardian and GameIndustry.com (not to be confused with your favourite business site GamesIndustry.biz), she also has many other talents.
She's one third of 3-Fold Games, an all-women's development team based in the south west of England, where she serves as narrative designer for the studio's debut title Before I Forget – available in the Leftfield Collection at EGX Rezzed.
Ramanan is also a member of BAME in Games, an ambassador and board member of Women In Games, and one of the eight chosen industry members showcased in the Ensemble exhibit, a London Games Festival initiative that highlights notable BAME professionals working in games.
She's also a presenter, gamer, writer of fiction and lover of cake. All in all, more than worthy of a place on this list – so how did she start such a prominent career?
“I had a friend in the industry and his stories about the behind the scenes intrigued me and made me think about them more critically, rather than just playing them,” she says. “Games are the perfect intersection between technology and art, combining different kinds of creativity and I'm so excited to see the scope of that creativity continue to grow.”
Unsurprisingly, her desire to see a more accessible industry is a driving force in all she does, with Ramanan telling us that: “Inclusivity and diversity really are key to ensuring games are telling relevant stories and delivering experiences that reflect the world around us.”
She continues: “This is a great industry, so why wouldn't we want as many different kinds of people to join us in making it even better?”
Many Cats Studios
There are a lot of individuals in the games industry trying to right the gender and racial imbalances, but Chris stands proudly as one of the few attempting to encourage people with disabilities and learning difficulties into the sector.
Chris's social enterprise studio, Many Cats, employs and works with disabled people to create games that are designed to have a social impact.
“The future of the industry will need to be a more inclusive place, as fresh and exciting ideas will come from people of different backgrounds and experiences working together,” Chris says.
“I want the recruitment process to be improved so that it is not excluding those who may find certain processes challenging or off putting. Also, I'd like to see more opportunities for those further removed from employment to learn skills in games development.”
Chris was helped to establish Many Cats through the Teesside Launchpad, which is something he remains very grateful for.
“To pitch and gain support to start something means a lot, especially as I was up against a lot of innovative North East businesses,” he adds. “This has been further bolstered by winning funding and a place on the DigitalCity Fellowship Accelerator to help me build my studio in order to aid the most people I can. It has been great to see the support by developers and gamers to make the industry a more diverse place.”
Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe
Claire's love of games stretches back to memories of stealing moments with her older brother's Commodore 64, and it hasn't dimmed one bit now that she's playing 4K releases on her PS4 Pro - not least because she's now an associate producer at Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe.
“While at university I heard I could combine my love of gaming with getting a monthly wage,” she says, “So I applied to Worldwide Studios QA and I've found it pretty difficult to leave PlayStation ever since.”
Claire's talent was spotted within a year of starting in QA at Sony, and she now has experience working on several PS4 games for Sony XDev. Her colleagues speak of a desire to give PlayStation a broader reach, opening up the platform to new audience demographics by producing titles in the PlayLink series.
This required not only working with developers from all over Europe to create and test quality products, but also to do that in a new and experimental format that links console and mobile play. According to Claire, working on NapNok Games' Frantics has been the highlight of her career so far.
“It's the first game I've worked on from being a twinkle in our eye, all the way through to being released,” she says. “From working a pitch up together, presenting it internally, getting it fully funded, then being able to work alongside the team to define and develop the game, before being released exclusively on PlayStation 4.”
Dan Da Rocha
While some labour for years to get a foothold in the games industry, Dan Da Rocha managed to do so straight from university - by starting up Toxic Games and finding success with its debut release, Q.U.B.E, in 2011.
“This was a huge achievement for me as it's something I didn't know was possible at the time,” he says. “But I went with my gut, and I was determined to jump into the deep end to see what the outcome would be. It paid off.”
That confident start has allowed Da Rocha to build a career that combines making games with another of his childhood ambitions: touring the world in a rock band. Making and touring games at international expos has some of the same appeal, he insists, and he has just finished doing so for Q.U.B.E 2, which launched this year to excellent reviews.
Beyond game development, Da Rocha is also focused on educating people about how to break into the industry, in part through a series of videos for YouTube and other platforms. Indeed, when asked which aspect of the games business is most in need of improvement, this remains his chief concern.
“It's about educating parents, students and aspiring devs looking to get into games, and pulling back the curtain of how the industry works and that it can be a real career,” he says. “The question I get asked a lot is, ‘How can I do what you do?' I want to get this info out there to a wider audience.”
As an artist at Ustwo, Danette Beatty has already worked on one of mobile's highest-profile sequels – Monument Valley 2. As a former teaching assistant, she has naturally gravitated to the role of mentor, and is a regular contributor to Women in Games.
Danette, who hails from the United States, has also enjoyed stints as a freelance 3D artist and at Sirvo Studios.
When asked what she is most proud of, she replies: “Putting myself through university and moving to another country by myself. I wouldn't be here now if I didn't take the steps that I did to get into the industry. I was really only able to accomplish this due to help from many individuals, but I am still proud to acknowledge the personal strength it took to get through many hard times in order to be where I am now.
“Games as a medium has really captured my attention from a young age. Not only being able to tell a wide range of stories, but being able to interact with whole other worlds is really an amazing thing.”
Derek De Filippo
Derek made a name for himself at Kuju where, as analyst and designer, he launched the Kuju Startup Fund. He's currently business manager at SIDE and boasts clients including Frontier, Splash Damage, Dambuster, NDreams, Avalanche, Focus Home Interactive and 10Chambers.
“I'd love to say I always knew I would have a career in this industry but that didn't materialise until later in my life,” he says. “Immediately after university a lucky opportunity to get into games emerged. I took my chance and never looked back.
“I'm particularly proud of launching a games fund with a friend and investing in three titles which all made it to market. It was early on in our careers and yet we fully delivered despite enduring many challenges.”
Derek says that he'd love to see developers receive the same recognition and appreciation as creators in fields such as music and film, adding: “Wouldn't it be great if one day the general public understood how much goes into making games and celebrated developers for it? I think channels like YouTube, Kickstarter, Early Access and dev-vlogs are certainly helping, but there's more we could do.”