Meet the 100 rising stars of the UK games industry
Check out our interviews with the winners of this year's GamesIndustry.biz 100
Tim Davies still codes and creates art in his spare time, but he is long past the point where he clearly understood his limitations in both areas. “I thought that it wouldn't be possible to work in the games industry without one of those skill-sets,” he says, but after electing to “go down the legal route” he was faced with a choice when he eventually qualified as a lawyer.
“I had two choices: one, work in-house for a film production company, or two, join Sheridans and become the newest member of the best games practice in the industry. It was one of the easiest decisions I have ever made.”
Since joining Sheridans' Interactive Media team in September 2015, Tim has established a reputation for his selfless attitude when it comes to his job - doing everything expected at all times, and much more besides. This willingness to go above and beyond is a manifestation of the pride he feels at having found a way to make a positive contribution to the games industry - if not through art or code, then through demystifying the law to get game developers a better deal.
“The deck is stacked against game developers in terms of the bargaining power they have against the platforms, financiers and publishers,” he says. “On top of that, those platforms, financiers and most publishers use long, hard-to-understand legal documents that only make sense to a lawyer.
“I would like to see platforms, financiers and publishers take a more developer-friendly approach and cut down their legal documents to the bare essentials. Does that mean that I'll be out of a job? Maybe, but I feel that legal documents should not be a barrier to great games getting made.”
Tim is currently working for GamesAid and contributes to the charity's revenue growth and handles day-to-day operations.
However, he's also a talented game designer in his own right. Following his graduation from his MA in game design, he scooped the Peter Caws Postgraduate Prize for his solo title Open Sky. He has also designed game experiences for exhibitions at Somerset House.
“I like thinking about systems,” Tim says. “I like to map them out in my head and rearrange them. I want to paint with the textures of interaction and use the quirks in people's minds to teach them things about themselves.
“Growing up, a job in games always seemed like a pipe dream. When I realised I could study an MA in Game Design, I felt like it was my only chance to really walk down that path. In the future, aside from just being an all-round better designer than I am today, I'd like to be working on serious games, and looking for ways that we can support other industries using game design know-how.”
Just as her employer has redefined success in the industry with Grand Theft Auto V, Timea Tabori works tirelessly to redefine the industry as a more inclusive and welcoming workplace.
In addition to her duties as engine programmer at Rockstar Games, she's a member of the board for IGDA Scotland, and the lead ambassador and national co-ordinator for Women In Games in the region.
Her influence and encouragement is felt throughout the industry, with one colleague telling us: “She's a game in a sea of… rocks… or something. A very inspiring woman to talk to.”
It's this inspiration that Tabori hopes to continue spreading, as she always finds sharing her experience highly rewarding.
“A young woman at the start of their university career reached out to me for some careers advice about getting into games,” she says. “A few years later, I met her at an industry event where she told me she landed a great job at a games company working on a title I was very much looking forward to myself, and that my path and advice had been a source of inspiration to her.
“I find these kinds of moments incredibly humbling and they remind me how much mentorship and the visibility of female role models matter in bringing new talent into our industry.”
Tabori is determined to continue this work, and hopes to see the industry evolve to the stage “where people from all walks of life are able to collaborate on fresh ideas and tell meaningful stories.”
She continues: “I want us to become better at reaching people who are not interested in what games have to offer at the moment and find new ways for creative expression in our medium that I truly believe is brimming with opportunities for learning, growing and human connection.”
Tom's path in the games industry saw him start out in QA before climbing to the role of designer. His very impressive gameography includes LittleBigPlanet on Vita, Limbo, PixelJunk Monster, Prison Architect, Goat Simulator and LEGO Harry Potter.
“He is always full of ideas and enthusiasm for the projects that we are working on but is never closed off from suggestions or criticism, which I believe makes him quite special and good to work with,” one colleague says, while another adds: “Tom is a very approachable designer who prefers to work closely with the programmers and other members of staff to assure that everyone is on the same page and not left in the dark about any segment of the design."
Colleagues also commented on his hunger to learn, which manifests in him taking night courses, devouring books and online game development post-mortems.
“What started as wanting to make games because they were fun turned into wanting to make games because they were able to make people feel a whole range of emotions, in ways that only games could,” he tells us.
“I think the lack of diversity in the industry is still very worrying. There's only so many ideas a bunch of 18 to 50 year-old white guys can come up with. There's obviously a lot of factors that go into what career choices people make and who gets hired, and I feel as an industry we could stand to do better in figuring out why and then doing something about it.”
Tom Regan's love of video games began at just eight years old when his parents bought him Pokemon Red. Hundreds of hours of critter-catching later, his appetite for all types of games was firmly established – but he never imagined he'd get the chance to work in the industry.
While working bar jobs in his early twenties, he learned that a handful of small blogs were looking for contributors, so he tried his hand at writing.
“My articles were pretty awful initially, but I soon improved and slowly worked my way up the ladder, eventually writing for bigger sites and getting better access to industry events,” Regan recalls. “I started working for event setup company NJ Live while freelancing for various websites, and the more I was exposed to the industry from both sides, the more I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
Since then, Regan has written for some of the industry's best known magazines and sites, from Edge and GamesTM to IGN and The Guardian. He later made the leap into PR with a role at Indigo Pearl, where he produced content for the official PlayStation Blog, and worked on games such as World of Warcraft, Batman: Arkham Knight, Dirt Rally and Rock Band 4.
He is now UK gaming editor at Wikia's Fandom.
“The last nine months working with such driven and talent people at Fandom has been an incredible experience so far,” he says. “But I guess I'd have to say I'm probably proudest of being able to go it alone as a full time freelancer last year. The fact that I managed to live entirely self-sufficiently while getting published by outlets like The Guardian and Engadget still feels pretty surreal when I think back on it.”
Sumo Digital designer Wesley Arthur first made his mark on the industry as a student, helping to develop puzzle game PieceFall for PlayStation 4. His talent shone through from this initial release and he has since gone on to contribute to much bigger titles, including Disney Infinity 3.0 and the acclaimed Hitman revival of 2016.
Colleagues at Sumo praise both his “amazing eye for detail [and] impressive technical knowledge” as well as his determination to put 110% effort into everything he works on. He has even delivered lectures at his former university, in the hopes of inspiring students to follow his example.
“[PieceFall] was a huge task, and grew my network of connections massively,” Arthur says. “It's got to be the main thing that propelled my career, so despite its obvious flaws and quirks, I'm still very proud of it.”
Arthur counts Cliff Bleszinski and Jonathan Blow among his heroes and aspires to match their impact – although recognises it will take a lot of hard work.
“I always want to progress further,” he says. “I'd strive to be at least a senior designer; preferably more. Thankfully at my current job, my ambition is carefully handled so that I don't run before I can walk, but I will always do my best to rise through the ranks. I'd like to see my current project through the door, and to see it succeed. It certainly is a challenging one, but that just makes the payoff more rewarding. I'm happy to see what life throws at me next, but at some point I'd really like to create my own IP.”
Having uprooted from Canada and moved to London last year, Zachary has already made a big impact at Coatsink, wowing colleagues with his incredible voxel art.
"Zach is a hardworking and talented artist who's had so much experience working on so many different games – he's already made it to art director level at such a young age," one nominator says. Another added: "Zach is one of the best voxel artists around. His style is very distinct and he's always happy to help others learn how to create voxel art."
Zachary is entirely self-taught, and it was gaming's combination of so many different fields of study to create beautiful interactive art that drew him in.
“The acceptance of new perspectives and people during my first year of trying game jams really made me feel like the industry was right for me,” he says. “In the next five years I'd like to have a studio with a few employees – excluding myself and my partner – that specialises in making games using voxel art.”
Sony London Studio
Zoe Brown started off her career in games three years ago as a development producer for Guitar Hero Live at FreeStyleGames, where she worked alongside the gameplay, networking and user interface teams. She was astonished to be making games for a living, because she'd never considered it an option before - despite being a long-term gamer.
From there, she took the leap into publishing, joining Square Enix and working on Life is Strange: Before the Storm as a producer.
After two critically adored titles, Brown found her way to Sony's London Studios, working on interactive live-action experiences and Virtual Reality as a senior producer. London Studio seems like the ideal fit for Zoe, as it's a team devoted to making games for a broad market.
“I've always tried to share my passion for games with friends and family but the difficulty curve is a huge barrier to entry,” she tells us. “It's already happening, but I'd love to see console and PC games find a way to serve the core audience, while also implementing systems that make it easy for newcomers to engage.
“I want to keep working with new, cutting-edge technology, make games that appeal to new people and tell compelling stories that people connect with.”