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
Freelance Sound Artist
Eli Rainsberry is vocal in thanking BAFTA for the part it played in getting their career started. Having spent a year in its archive department, the connections formed eventually led them on a path to games sound design – aided in no small part by the masters degree and distinction Eli received for the thesis focusing on game-audio-inspired dynamic parameters in interdisciplinary environments.
Eli's credits include the IGF Award-nominated Wilmot's Warehouse and Humble Grove's in-development titles No Longer Home and 29. Their experience in both installation and performance spaces certainly lends a unique style to the work.
“Before having a focus on more interactive things, I worked on a variety of live action short films and sketches,” Eli says. “But, over time, it was nice to come to a realisation on how games clicked for me the most, especially independently made games and curation, and the people behind them.
“It combines my love of animation, interactivity, and play. Not to mention that I've found folks in a small section of the indie game community who have made me feel more than welcome.
“I still intend on collaborating with teams that not only include developers and artists, but also other creatives, such as choreographers and dramaturgists, and anyone else who may not necessarily be involved, or have a past background, in games.”
Excited by the power of games to make her problems melt away as a child, Peruzzo says she got into game development to create experiences like that for other people.
Now a character artist at TT Fusion, Peruzzo is working on the development of LEGO The Incredibles which, she reveals, is the film that first captured her imagination as a child and inspired her to pursue a career in 3D art.
“My mother bought me the DVD when I was a little girl and I was captivated by the special features showing the developers working on the tools for the muscle deformation,” says Peruzzo.
Last year, Peruzzo was awarded the Power Levelling scholarship at GDC. She says attending the event in San Francisco completely changed her perspective and gave her a whole new positive attitude towards game development.
Promoting diversity within the industry should be the focus of games companies in the years to come, says Peruzzo, who would like the opportunity to design more diverse main characters “in order to drive the new generation to recognise themselves and aspire to a career in games.”
Over the next five years, Peruzzo says she would like to keep improving her skills, expanding her portfolio, learning new software, and perhaps opening her own company one day.
“At this point of my career I am also starting to be interested in the themes of the content I am making,” she says.
“I would love to work in a small size team in order to work closely with the game designer, producing games that can entertain but also make people reflect about issues in the modern society, with strong and interesting characters at the center of the narrative.”
Having started out first as a PlayStation moderator and then as a community manager, Francesca Mead is now a product manager at UK studio Ninja Theory.
“Realising that video games still took up a considerable chunk of my free time even after graduating from university, I figured I should put my hobby to good use and start a career working on products that I genuinely cared about,” she says.
“Although no industry is perfect, I wouldn't trade the diversity and excitement of working on games for anything else.”
Mead played a key role in the award-winning Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, heading up big successes in a team numbering only two people. The studio credits her with the development and execution of the game's marketing and PR campaigns, stressing that its success was not only commercial but also in how it helped forward advocacy of mental health.
“Since Hellblade launched we have received a vast number of emails from players who experience mental health issues, thanking us for portraying psychosis in a truthful and empathetic manner, against the grain of how mental illness is usually portrayed in media,” she adds.
“It has been heart warming to see the impact Hellblade has had on those who have played it. I am especially proud of the game considering it was created by a small yet highly dedicated development team of around only 30 people.”
Following some work in legal and copywriting, game designer Gabriela started as an independent creator before joining Ubisoft Toronto as a gameplay tester, working on three Assassin's Creed games, Splinter Cell: Blacklist and South Park: The Stick of Truth. She was then promoted to game designer on Far Cry: Primal, before moving onto Far Cry 5, which has just been released and is the fastest selling game in the franchise.
She also worked in motion capture production for The Division and For Honor, and acted as a story consultant on the upcoming Ubisoft game Starlink, which combines toys with video games. Gabriella is a really multi-talented game developer.
She departed Ubisoft in 2016 to come to the UK and join Creative Assembly. "She is incredibly talented for someone so young and integral to the Total War design team," the studio says of Gabriella. "However, she is also an incredibly committed voice for diversity in the wider industry, and was part of the Pixelles group attending GDC."
“One of my proudest achievements has been working on the launch of both LEGO Dimensions and Total War: Wahammer II,” explains Gemma Cooper, associate PR manager at Creative Assembly.
“LEGO Dimensions was brilliant and innovative, and I really enjoyed attending events to talk about it. However, joining CA to work on Warhammer II allowed me to develop me skills studio side, and work directly with the talented crazy geniuses making games."
Cooper discovered the possibility of being part of the games industry after participating in online forums around esports.
“The communities I was a part of were a hive of creativity and full of inspiration,” she says.
“Thus I found myself wanting to help lead these communities. My work in esports provided me with some basic marketing knowledge, which helped me gain a placement year at Warner Bros. Here I had the opportunity to work with some of the biggest IP in the world. Games don't have any barriers or restrictions. They have a magical way of telling a story and allowing you to experience them in a multitude of different ways. After completing a Geography degree, it was a no brainer that my talents were best suited to games and not researching rock formations.”
In the future, Cooper hopes to influence young people at lower education levels to join her in the industry she loves.
Having started off as a games writer, George has since carved a niche for himself in the events side of the business. As well as running the popular Gamerbake cooking gathering, he is also a regular speaker at games events and has consulted on a wide range of projects for an assortment of companies.
He also became an ambassador for charity SpecialEffect in early 2017 and now runs Gamesforum London.
“If it was possible to put a bet on someone who is going to have a deep lasting and positive career in the games industry then I'd put all my money on George,” says one nominator.
George's passion for games stems from a childhood spent engulfed by them.
“I'd like to see the industry improve its support of employees suffering from mental health conditions,” he adds. “While I'm aware that the games business is getting better at doing this, I think it is important to go further to support workers operating in consistently stressful environments.
“In the long term, I'm looking to take a slightly different path. My aim is to enter politics and – maybe one day – champion the industry as a member of parliament.”
Warp Digital Entertainment
There aren't many people who can say they've been working in video games since the age of just four. But George Perkins can, having been credited as a tester on Disney's Peter Pan: Adventures in NeverLand.
Perkins' entire life has been driven by his determination to get into games. Virtually all of his school projects revolved around game design, and his teenage years were consumed by building small games of his own. After choosing not to go to university, George landed a job at Warp. Having started clearing tables and stocking the fridge, he is now the producer of Warp's porting house. His nomination for BAFTA Young Game Designer of the Year seems entirely fitting.
His credits already include the likes of Rare's Sea of Thieves, Devolver's Ruiner, and Rain World by Adult Swim. He is also deeply involved in Super Rare Games, which specialises in publishing physical versions of popular indie games.
“The amount of inspiring people working in video games is unreal and I am very honoured to be part of it going forward,” he says. “In five years I really hope that I can say I have been part of some original, fresh IPs alongside an independent development team. I want to look at a project and think ‘I was there at the beginning and have really achieved something special'.
“To be frank, I don't mind where I am going in the future, as long as I am around amazingly talented individuals in this gorgeous industry.”
In the eyes of many, the Brexit referendum wasn't good for much, but it proved to be a pivotal moment for Greg Buchanan's career.
He was living in Guildford - “the Hollywood of games, if by Hollywood you mean a hill and a few pubs” - and picking up work with game jammers at Lionhead, when the pain of the Brexit result pushed him into action. Paper Brexit, a “free political nightmare game”, was covered by several prominent websites, and gave him the confidence to pursue a career as a freelance writer.
“We're in a golden era of games narrative, a half-century that future generations will look back on as where the medium's rules, opportunities, and classic principles were defined,” he says. “I wanted to be a part of this.”
Since then, Greg has worked with Supermassive Games, Larian Studios [as voice director] and THQ Nordic, among others, as well as being a member of the Games Committee for the Writer's Guild of Great Britain. But he is most proud of his work on the 30-hour story update No Man's Sky: Atlas Rises for Hello Games.
“It was immensely gratifying to see the team's hard work come to fruition with the highly positive reception from both the press and fans of the game,” he says, “and I am deeply thankful to both Hello Games and the writers who came before me for the rich universe I was given the keys to.”
Guy Richards helps developers. In recent years, he's held two such support roles: as a member of the PlayStation Third Party Developer Relations Team - supporting the launch of PS4 and PSVR. And then European account manager for ID@Xbox – helping the biggest independent companies in Europe succeed on Xbox One and Windows 10.
“Growing up I was a big console gamer and I enjoyed how gaming brings people together,” he tells us.
“I remember a Geography trip where my friends and I got in trouble for hiding an N64 in our room and staying up every night having Mario Kart tournaments. After finishing my degree I wanted to combine my education with my passion. I was fortunate that my hometown of Guildford is a hub of game development and I couldn't believe when I reached out to Electronic Arts and got my first job as a publishing coordinator.”
He continues: “One of the coolest things about platform roles is working on new technologies and initiatives. At Microsoft I get to work on a wide range of opportunities across streaming, subscriptions and mixed reality. Looking forward I am super excited by the potential these technologies to take gaming to the next level. I hope my relationships with content creators can help drive this.”
But if he could change one thing about games it is to make online gaming communities more inclusive.
Henry's CV is already crammed with recognisable and award winning games.
Having been a project lead on Microsoft's BAFTA-winning Mush, he went on to co-found Mudvark and create the very successful mobile hit Mortar Melon. His follow-up title, Hue, won over 25 separate awards.
He's also a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit and has spoken at a wide range of events including GDC Europe, the Develop Conference and Launch Conference.
“I've been making video games since I was nine years old, but always viewed it as a hobby rather than a career path,” Henry says.
“Then one day I read a review of the game Uplink in a magazine, and they mentioned it was made by just two guys who were burning copies of the game onto CD and selling it out of their car. It was this moment when I realised that it wasn't just big studios that could make games, and I started taking it more seriously.
“Shipping my game Hue on consoles and PC was a dream come true. It was the first project where I felt like I truly had creative control and didn't make any compromises. To see it receive such a wonderful reception from players and critics was hugely reaffirming, and my proudest achievement to date.”
Hsiao Wei [Michelle] Chen
Having graduated with a distinction in Video Games Enterprise and Production at Birmingham University, Michelle saw games as the perfect avenue to balance both her technical and creative interests.
As well as being nominated for Student of the Year at the Extra Mile Awards and winning the Student Award at the European Women in Games Conference in 2017, she was also the seventh winner of the Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women.
In addition, Michelle is a member of the BAFTA Games Crew, a STEM Ambassador and Women in Games Ambassador. Her drive to increase the industry's equality is now shaping her future career.
“I'm proud whenever I finish a game and people get to play it, and if it made them happy or made a little difference in their lives,” she says.
“I'd like to increase the ratio of women working in the games industry. Part of what I do as a STEM Ambassador and Women in Games Ambassador is talking to young girls and encouraging them to pursue STEM and games as a career.
“I'd also like to start a gaming incubator for underrepresented game developers, especially women and people of colour.”
Hollie first landed on people's radars when she started her own Nintendo website at the age of just 16. Her first official role in the industry came at Ripstone, where she landed the job of community manager.
There she is involved in everything from media and influencer relations, to PR strategy, social media and copywriting. She has also grown Ripstone's Twitch channel from virtually nothing to partnered status – the same as she has achieved with its Discord server.
On top of this she's also a SpecialEffect ambassador and, alongside her fundraising, champions the cause of increased accessibility in gaming.
“Working with publishers and PR managers on my Nintendo website meant that I discovered a whole load of roles that up until that point I didn't even know existed,” she says. “I knew that I needed to bag myself a job in the industry that I loved and that's what I went out and did.
“Being based up North can mean a lot of missed opportunities, so I'd like to see organisations taking a less London-centric approach. Things are changing but there is always room to do more.”
The games business may still be young relative to other entertainment industries, but as the years pass preservation of its history becomes more and more important. Most people on this list are involved with making games for the here and now. Holly Nielsen works to offer perspective and insight on their increasingly long and fascinating past.
Holly's interest in writing about games was first kindled by the awe-inspiring “pun-work” in Official Nintendo Magazine, and as she grew older it became clear that the relative youth of the industry was what made it so fascinating. By specialising in the history of gaming - particularly old English board games - Holly has developed a distinctive and valuable voice in an industry that all too often neglects its own past.
“Getting my first piece published in the Guardian was amazing,” she says of her proudest achievements to date. “Giving talks and lectures on history and games at the V&A and King's College London are also highlights. More recently, being asked to lead a week on history and video games for the University of Cambridge's Public and Popular History seminar is incredibly exciting.”
Looking ahead, Holly wants to build on a portfolio that already includes The Guardian, The Telegraph and the International Business Times, while also completing a PhD in history - and in doing so, encouraging the discussion of the heritage of the games industry in the academic world.
A Brave Plan
“In my life there have always been two constants: art and video games,” Holly Pickering tells us. “I spent a lot of my teenage years learning Photoshop, making pixel art and using The Sims 2 Body Shop to create custom game content. When one of my neighbours worked at Autodesk and told me I could take a three month vocational course in 3D for games at Escape Studios instead of going to university, I knew I had to give it a go.”
The result was a career that has seen Pickering work as an artist on everything from family-friendly blockbusters like TT Games' various LEGO titles to indie outings such as White Paper Games' Ether One.
In 2015, she took on the role of art director at indie studio A Brave Plan, a move that set her on a very different path to most of the industry's artists. Effectively now second-in-command at the studio, Pickering found herself leading a team and meeting with stakeholders and publishers – a challenge her colleagues say she rose to magnificently.
She also branched more into narrative and game design, drawing on the experience she gained working on the Bossa-published indie adventure The Bradwell Conspiracy. While she remains proud of the projects she has worked on in larger teams, it's her solo independent efforts she's most proud of.
“People still ask me about - and encourage me to finish – SALT: A Social Story, a prototype I showed at Rezzed 2015,” she says. “I'm also really proud of Mama Seuss, a massage game I made as part of a six-week Code Liberation workshop, which was shown as part of an exhibition at the V&A.”
Looking forward, Pickering yearns to work on a virtual reality experience, one that builds on the work done by The Void's Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire and Dotdotdot's Somnai.
“I'm really inspired by the potential for VR and immersive untethered experiences,” she says. “Seeing the way that people react to actually being in an immersive 3D space is really exciting and shows how games could engage with new audiences and new genre types.”