Introducing the 100 most influential people working in the British games industry - 2017
Editor, Kotaku UK
Eurogamer, VG247, IGN, The Guardian and now Kotaku, Keza MacDonald’s journalism has touched many of the biggest games media brands.
Yet despite the career in online media, it was print that inspired her to get involved.
“I had parents who were suspicious of games, but I read voraciously as a kid, so magazines were my window into this awesome, wide world,” she says.
MacDonald says launching Kotaku UK is her proudest achievement, and she’s constantly having to adapt to the market.
“First there was the shift from print to online, from paid to ad-supported, and now we’re shifting away from an ad-supported words model and spreading out into all sorts of areas such as video, patronage, subscriptions,” she says. “The games media was so narrow when I started. It encompasses so much more than just writers now.”
She continues: “I’d love to find a way to make great games journalism pay better. As ad revenue declines, so does the quality of what we read and watch. I want to fix it.”
Her advice for budding writers is to learn journalism skills. “Learn interviewing, information gathering, putting together an argument. We get ten pitches for opinion-based or personal stories for every one explanatory or investigative pitch. It’s supply and demand: make yourself useful, be competent, and the work will come.”
Director of International Communications,
Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Catherine Channon is one of the games industry’s most prolific fundraisers, and someone who has swam, sung and run to raise money for GamesAid.
“Each of us in the industry is in an incredibly fortunate position,” she says. “As a general rule we’re a smart, successful and talented lot, it’s easy to forget that, and I feel it’s a responsibility for me to use my smarts and communication skills to help those who haven’t necessarily had the same breaks. Some truly difficult and tragic circumstances have befallen some of my PR peers over the years and it’s a stark reminder that we’re all just a moment away from a change in fortune and needing some extra support ourselves.”
In terms of career, Channon is one of the industry’s top PR experts, who - like many on this list - began in retail.
“At 18 I took a Saturday job in my local independent in Bath and could never have foreseen where it would lead,” She says. “The shop opened numerous doors and gave me a sales driven focus that remains at the heart of what I do now. While working in the store I was approached by Sky TV to be a videator on Sky’s GamesWorld. I also befriended just about everyone at Future Publishing, which would later lead to a career in journalism and onto PR.”
Owner, Indigo Pearl
Caroline Miller is one of the most highly regarded PRs in the industry, although she describes her journey as one of “luck not design.” After travelling, she came to London looking for work in the middle of a recession. Fortunately, then friend-of-a-friend Rosemarie Dalton mentioned there was a PA job available at Virgin Games, which Miller secured.
Today, Miller is the owner of 20 year-old PR agency Indigo Pearl, and has supported pretty much every major games business either directly as a partner or indirectly over a pint.
“The thing I’m most proud of is running Indigo Pearl whilst being a mum,” she says. “It’s only as your kids get a bit older and things get easier that you look back and think how the hell did I do that?”
She has also worked actively with GamesAid, which is how she met the inspirational charity workers Lyn Prodger (Action for Kids) and Mick Donegan (SpecialEffect).
“My god, these people are the best of us,” she says. “I’d really recommend spending time with them to leave you feeling good about the human race.”
Mark Turpin started off podcasting about Blizzard and formed a friendship with Blizzard PR manager Jonnie Bryant and Activision’s Keith Cox.
The pair invited him to events and he often helped out, attracting the attention of Indigo Pearl. He joined the PR agency to handle the launch of Trion World’s Rift.
“I then met Simon and Lewis of The Yogscast, who I invited to press events,” he says. “At the time few PRs were recognising YouTube influencers. We became better friends and saw an opportunity to make an impact by growing out a new breed of entertainers. This saw me leaving Indigo and becoming Yogscast’s business development manager, and then CEO.”
With Turpin’s support, Yogscast has become the first UK channel to hit one billion views. It now operates a YouTube network, produces first-party channels for publishers and every Christmas it runs a huge charity campaign.
“I’d say the $6m raised for charity is the proudest achievement that I’ve been a part of,” he says. “We spend our busiest month and work double hours to raise money for fantastic causes.”
Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg
He can certainly be a controversial figure in the games media, but Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, or PewDiePie, is also one of the most influential people in games today.
Born in Sweden and now living in Brighton, Kjellberg has an astonishing 53.8m subscribers. He describes himself as an entertainer first rather than a games media personality. His coverage has even made an impact upon the charts. In 2014, the popularity of his Skate 3 videos saw customers swarm to UK retailer GAME to buy it, forcing the firm to re-stock the title.
Games Editor, The Guardian
In recent months, veteran games journalist Keith Stuart has found himself in the limelight for his debut novel A Boy Made of Blocks - which tells the story of a father and his autistic son connecting over Minecraft.
“It was exhausting and stressful, but it’s been an amazing experience,” Stuart says. “Getting emails from people telling me that it meant a lot to them is incredible. It’s also given me a whole new appreciation for people who create things and then put those things out in the world for others to experience and review.”
Stuart has spent more than two decades in games journalism, beginning on Edge, which he says was the only magazine pretentious enough to let him discuss how the theories of writing, theatre and cinema could be applied to video games.
He’s most proud of his current job as one of the few games editors at a major mainstream publication: The Guardian. And despite his success as an author, he still has big journalistic ambitions.
“I want to interrogate the industry and its assumptions more,” he says. “I want to employ writers from a more diverse pool. I’d like middle-aged white guys like me to be in a minority for once.”
CEO, Network N
“I wanted to work in games media since I was 10,” begins James Binns. “I first met the Future crew at a party in Oxford. They said I looked like one of them. My first job was on Total - a SNES mag back in 1993.”
Binns spent 18 years at Future, working on major brands such as CVG, PC Gamer and Edge, before taking the brave decision to go it alone.
“The choice to start Network N was not brave,” he disagrees. “I stayed in games media and Bath. I had a strong co-founder in Tim Edwards, who had a decade on PC Gamer. The big unknown was trying to build a company culture and new products. That was insanely hard. I learned that you can trust your friends and that nobody can do everything and do it well.”
Network N and its 25-strong team remain Binns’ proudest achievement, but he’s not done.
“We’ll develop our existing staff and double the team size. That’ll get PCGamesN to 10m uniques and our ad network to a billion impressions a month. We can do all that and still stay independent.”
EMEA Director of Partnerships, Twitch
Christopher Mead began his career as a pro-gamer on Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare between 2006 and 2010. That led to him joining Twitch in Europe, and he’s since become an internet celebrity as the face of the MingLee emote – which is used more than 70 times per minute on the Twitch platform.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have been blessed with a plethora of role models at Twitch, including Stuart Saw, John Howell and Kevin Lin,” says Mead. “I also played competitively under Michael O’Dell at Team Dignitas and his persistence, desire and pragmatism has been an inspiration to myself.”
Mead’s success also extends to his livestreams, and he’s happy to help those longing to carve out their own niche online.
“Don’t forget that you’re likely building a community of viewers – and be sure to keep to a schedule,” he says. “Make use of all the platform tools at your disposal.”