Meet 100 of the most influential women working in the UK games industry - C - E
CEO and Creative Director, Interior Night
Caroline Marchel started as a game designer on Quantic Dream's Fahrenheit, and later became the lead game designer on Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. She then moved to the UK and, after a couple of years working at Sony's London Studio, she founded Interior Night, a narrative games studio, in 2017.
"Heavy Rain has a special place in my heart, but starting my own studio is a tremendous adventure," Marchal tells us of her biggest achievement. "I'm amazed by the team we've managed to put together and super excited by the game we're making."
She continues: "It's a very exciting time to join this industry with lots of new jobs, and a super dynamic indie scene addressing new audiences and changing mentalities. The old cliche of games made by men for teenage boys is obsolete, so please ladies, join the industry.
"My general advice is: your attitude and personality will make the difference. If you're willing to learn, collaborate and think by yourself, you'll get far."
Managing Director, Indigo Pearl
Caroline began her career in video games as a PA at Virgin Interactive, and eventually ended up running the department she started in. Her job involved extensive travel around Europe, and she launched games such as Command & Conquer and Resident Evil.
After having children, the opportunity to become a founder at Indigo Pearl arrived. Self employment promised the kind of work flexibility helpful when raising a young family, and Caroline started the award-winning PR agency in 2000.
Since founding Indigo Pearl, she has worked with the likes of Blizzard, Bethesda, Ubisoft and Devolver Digital. Caroline has also been a trustee at GamesAid, a UK game charity that raises funds for a diverse range of children's charities
"I work with some brilliant companies that really take diversity seriously, and are implementing initiatives that range from helping more girls take STEM subjects through to making sure that they have generous maternity benefits and equal pay in their companies," says Caroline, regarding diversity within games.
"Make sure you take this into consideration before you apply for a job. Go somewhere you will be appreciated and allowed to grow."
Additionally, she advises women in positions of power within the industry to be supportive of female employees and to try and mentor people along the way.
CEO and Co-Founder, Trailmix
Prior to starting in the games industry in 2011, Carolin Krenzer was working in finance and management consultancy. A recommendation from a friend led her to join Playfish, making free-to-play Facebook games.
"I instantly fell in love with the people, the games and the industry as a whole," she says. "A couple of years later, I had the opportunity to join King as part of a tiny team to start the London studio, where we brought incredible people together to created Farm Heroes Saga. Almost two years ago, I decided that it was time for me to start my own company."
This company is Trailmix, founded with Tristan Clark, with the goal or providing a, "safe and inclusive environment that allows everyone to be the best version of themselves and create games that we are proud of and that are loved by many."
Setting up her own company is Krenzer's biggest accomplishment to date, but it hasn't been easy. "It's been definitely the most challenging thing I've ever done but it's also been an incredible experience," she says.
Attracting people who, like her, were not initially from the games industry is vitally important, to draw from the huge variety of perspectives and experiences that are out there.
"Bringing new people into the industry and keeping great people in the industry is incredibly important," she explains. "We are super excited that three amazing women joined us at Trailmix from non-gaming roles, and they are totally rocking it.
"It's so important that people with all kinds of perspectives and experiences make games, as all kinds of people want to enjoy games that speak to them. If you are looking at joining the industry, you should focus on finding a company or team that you are excited about, and that respects you no matter how new to the industry you are."
CEO, The Treks
Cat began her career in a second-hand game store after leaving school, and then moved into trade marketing at ISM, where she launched games for Activision, GTI, Codemasters and Microprose. She moved into journalism around 1998, working for an array of games publications in print and online, as well as on local radio and TV.
As UK PR manager at Take-Two, she launched Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and, "like everyone else in the business had a brief stint on Duke Nukem Forever." She has led publicity, community, social media and influencer campaigns for huge gaming and entertainment brands across the world, including: LEGO, Harry Potter, Mortal Kombat and Lord of the Rings.
Cat advises women looking to join the industry: "Don't be afraid to think and dream big -- it really is all possible. Seek out your people, find a way to be with them, and together you'll thrive. Be nice, be kind, and help folks when you can."
An avid campaigner for equality within the games industry, Cat has also worked with GamesAid.
Designer, Media Molecule
Catherine Woolley has worked on an impressive variety of games, from blockbusters like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Alien Isolation, to EA's interactive children's book series for DS, and now Media Molecule's Dreams.
"It's really hard to pick a favourite achievement as I've loved so much of my career," Catherine says. "From making some of my first, lifelong game dev friends at EA, hearing various mum's reviews on Amazon saying their kids are finally reading, to watching people stream Alien: Isolation and feeling proud watching them sit terrified while hiding from the Alien."
Woolley describes working on Dreams as, "the ultimate way for me to give back to people, by helping them out so they can put their ideas in game form" -- something she hopes may encourage more people to try games development as a profession.
"No matter what your age or background, or where you are in life, if you want to work in the games industry, make it your goal," she says. "Yes, it can be hard to find jobs in studios when lots of people want those jobs, but why not have a go at creating a game at home?
"With so many tools available out there you can have a go at being creative and design meaningful experiences to show everyone, Twitter, or just your family or friends. Pick your passion and see where you can take it."
Head of Production, Sega Europe
"I was working in translation project management for a well known photocopier manufacturer and an ex-colleague told me about a job in the localisation department at Activision," Charlotte Harris begins, charting her journey into video games.
"I'd always been a gamer, but I had no idea that I could use my language knowledge and also work in an industry creating entertainment I loved. I spent five years there working on the Star Wars games -- there's not much I don't know about minor planets and characters from that universe."
Harris moved to Sega 11 years ago, working on Marvel titles initially. Today she's part of Searchlight, a division of Sega which looks for content from third-party developers. It's the division that worked on the critically acclaimed Two Point Hospital by Two Point Studios.
"It's thrilling to be a part of their success and be a part of seeing the product from its initial pitch all the way through to launch and beyond, ultimately helping Two Point Studios to make the game they've always wanted to make," she says.
She urges any women looking to get into games to take to social media to seek out support from other industry women.
"I am always really to help or give advice to anyone or to introduce them to someone who might be able to help. Networking is so important in our industry and it can be tough when you are starting out to know who to approach. There are some great groups on Facebook -- Women in Games Jobs and BAME in Games -- where you can introduce yourself. WIGJ also hold networking events at most of the major conferences."
Freelance Games Journalist/Narrative Designer
With over 18 years experience as a freelance games journalist, Chella Ramanan has primarily been writing for the site so often confused for our own, www.gamesindustry.com.
Ramanan has made a name for herself speaking about diversity in games on radio and TV interviews for the BBC. This passion for representation led her to co-found People of Colour in Play in February 2019.
Over the last two years, she has moved into game development as a writer and narrative designer. Her current project is Before I Forget, a narrative game about a woman with dementia. In 2017, she started work on Windrush Tales, a story of the Windrush generation in 1950s Britain.
"This is a hugely creative and exciting industry and I love it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't disappointment me sometimes," she says. "Join the networks that will offer you the support you need, and remember people are often happy to offer advice, so hit those DMs.
"Take heart in the fact that there is a growing army of women and allies who are determined to make this a more welcoming and nurturing place to work."
CEO/Game Director, Harbee Studios
Claire started out her career at Kuju Entertainment in 2000, where she worked on Microsoft Train Simulator and EA's Rail Simulator. Over the next six years, she progressed from content creator to game director.
In 2007, she moved to Media Molecule to work on LittleBigPlanet, before joining the PlayStation London Studio in 2009. While there, Claire worked on the BAFTA nominated Wonderbook: Book of Spells and its sequel Book of Potions, while leading the creative relationship with author J.K Rowling.
Since then, she has concentrated on her writing, consulting for new studios and co-founding Harbee Studios with Russ Harding. Harbee is currently working on its debut game, The Ouidas Project, a narrative title centred around a partially sighted woman.
"There's a real sense of hope around the games industry at the moment," Claire says. "You can't ignore the fact that it's still a male dominated industry, but there are so many fantastic initiatives right now, all of which are improving the work situation for women.
"Over my 20 years I've nearly quit many times, but each time I've decided to stick with it, and for one reason only -- the vast majority of people in the games industry are the most amazingly creative and friendly people I've ever met."
Dr Constance Fleuriot
Artist, Writer, Game Maker
Constance developed her first game, Media, Myth and Mania, for Silver to Silicon in 1993, then after many years working in creative technology, she discovered a renewed passion for games after the 2012 XX Games Jam in London -- the first ever women-only games jam.
Inspired, she set up Grrrl Games -- an event for women making games -- in 2016. Last year, she ran a government-funded project for Bristol Women's Voice: Deeds Not Words, which encouraged teenage girls to make games inspired by the history of the Bristol women's suffrage movement.
"My advice to women who want to work in games is to start making games," says Constance. "You don't have to be an expert coder or a brilliant 3D artist, but if you want to be then why not try to be? Anyone can watch tutorials online or try and go on a course.
"Get together with friends, share ideas, start designing and building. Come to our Grrrl Games monthly meetup in Bristol. Look out for game jams and meetups in your area or organise one yourself and get connected."
Debbie started in video games during the late 80s. She quit her A-levels, started in games retail, and then co-founded Team17 at just 20 years of age.
After growing the company on the back of Worms, Debbie Bestwick completed a management buyout of the company in 2011, became CEO, and transformed the business into an indie games label -- responsible for hits such as The Escapists, Overcooked and Yooka-Laylee. She received an MBE for her services to video games in 2016, and last year completed one of the most successful flotations for a UK games company on the AIM stock exchange.
A true UK industry success story. Team17 has never been more successful.
"Be it looking to join the industry or already in the industry, I'd like to share that as a person I seriously lacked confidence in my own ability for so long -- it was a different world when I started -- and didn't fully realise the potential within me until the last decade," Debbie says.
"Confidence is such a key thing, and it's why awards like this are so important -- confidence battles can destroy potential. Aim high, surround yourself with positivity and anything is possible. As an industry we need more women in CEO and senior roles. It's all possible, so just go for it."
Content Lead, Space Ape
Initially a journalist by trade, Deborah Mensah-Bonsu was approached by Microsoft, which was looking for someone with a media background and experience with multiple languages.
"And so I fell into the world of gaming," she enthuses. "I worked for Xbox Upload as a producer and presenter. We curated and created content, and grew the community. I loved, loved, loved that job and got hooked.
"From there I moved to Space Ape, where I've been now for four years this month. I lead on Space Ape's content and community engagement, which can be anything from producing livestreams and videos for players and fans, to organising and executing PR or marketing events across different titles."
In addition to her work as community and video content manager at the mobile studio, Mensah-Bonsu is interested in the overlap between games and education, in addition to making the industry more welcoming for new women entering.
"Alongside my day to day, I've gotten really excited about the cross-section between education and gaming," she says. "I'm passionate about supporting women in games, and breaking stereotypes in the industry to create a more inviting space for newcomers.
"I spearhead our student mentoring program, Space Ape Varsity, and I'm super keen on developing future talent at work and through non-profits in my spare time. Last year I won the Career Mentor of the Year Award, which was really humbling and encouraging."
Consultant, Fundamentally Games
Ella Romanos began working in games in 2008, setting up her first game development studio as a graduate. Over the last decade Romanos has founded three development studios, focusing on work-for-hire and development of original and licensed IP.
Since 2014, Romanos has also provided strategic support as a consultant to other developers and organisations. With her background in programming and UX design, and her experience in production, fundraising and company strategy, she works with a broad variety of companies to assist with the development of games and the games industry. Ella has also contributed through her five years on the UKIE board, regularly speaking at industry events and writing articles published by the games press.
Over the same period she has been awarded finalist in the Innovator of the Year category for Women In Technology Awards, was named in Develop's Top 30 under 30, been a finalist in the TIGA Awards Leadership category, and was twice listed in MCV's UK Top 100 Women in Games, including as a finalist in the Business Woman of the Year category.
Editor and Presenter, PlayStation Access
Unusually, Elle started her career in politics -- first in parliament, then as a political reporter for the BBC. It didn't take long before her, "passion for video games crept in," and she started including industry coverage in her work. Eventually, she set up her YouTube channel Bear vs. Grenade.
"It turned out to be the best decision I could have made -- it was, essentially, a public portfolio of the work I could do, and led to me being offered my own television show," Elle says.
"As a freelance presenter, I did everything from hosting live shows at E3 and EGX, to presenting content for brands like GAME, Hewlett Packard and ESL. I also appeared on shows like BBC Breakfast, BBC Click, and Channel 4's Gadget Man, to cover video gaming for mainstream viewers.
"However, I'm now firmly in front of gaming audiences, as editor and presenter at PlayStation Access, the official channel of PlayStation UK."
She advises women looking to embark on a career in games: "Seek out other women. The support network you're adopted into as a woman in gaming is incredible, and I would not be where I am today without the encouragement, advice, and recommendations of the wonderful women I've met."
Ellie Brown and Helen Andrzejowska
Directors, Ocean Spark Studios
The founders of Ocean Spark met while studying games design at college. As two of very few girls on the course, Helen and Ellie found it comforting to have each other for support.
They went on to study together at Huddersfield University, and armed with a game pitch from co-director Zach Cundall, applied for the entrepreneur placement year provided by the university.
The studio's main title, Tetra Elemental Awakening, was showcased at Rezzed 2017, and was granted funding from Creative England. This led to opportunities from Red Kite Games, and VR studio Cooperative Innovations.
However, the founders decided to put their full focus on Ocean Spark Academy, which is aimed at inspiring young children -- especially girls -- that a career in the games industry is possible. They now teach fundamental skills at free to attend workshops that gives kids a kickstart to their careers in games.
They advise women looking to join the games industry: "We appreciate being female in a male-dominated industry can be intimidating, and our advice would be to not be discouraged but to embrace it.
"Be known for your skills when creating games and always be an inspiration to other females within the industry. There aren't many of us, but we're a force to be reckoned with."
Chief Product Officer, Spirit AI
As a graduate student, Emily started writing games as a hobby. For the next decade she wrote interactive fiction games, built freeware tools, and worked with the hobbyist interactive fiction community. In addition, she also wrote games reviews and gave occasional talks.
As the academic job market became increasingly difficult, Emily decided to try working in games. It turned out to be a permanent career change.
"From there, I've done a mix of things: freelance game writing, some work in studios, a previous startup involving AI-driven characters that sold to Linden Lab. I even wrote a radio play for the BBC about indie game development," comments Emily.
"I'm now at Spirit AI, where I'm chief product officer overseeing both of our products. One of those is Character Engine, which comes very directly out of the work I've been doing all these years. The other is Ally, which monitors for toxic human-to-human interactions in game chat communities. I'm also on the advisory board of the AI Summit at GDC currently, and frequently speak on AI and interactive narrative topics."
She is most proud of the interactive fiction meetup she started in London, which has been running for over five years.
Senior Technical Developer, Jagex
Emma Hall started in games after finishing university with a computer science degree in 2014. Her first job was with RuneScape maker Jagex as a junior technical developer, and she's been with the Cambridge games studio ever since.
She is known for taking on extra responsibility, both related to development and in other areas. These include being a scrum master and a product owner, in addition to being a "wellbeing champion" trained in mental health first-aid.
Landing this role at Jagex is Hall's proudest achievement to date.
"I've worked over the past four years to help launch updates to the game every week, as well as support my team to do the same," she says. "That is, and always will be, one of the best parts of my job: supporting my team and watching them grow and enjoy the things they do. You can see their passion in every update they make, and the players notice it, too."
Hall says that securing a job in the games industry is a balance of working hard and ignoring those who say you can't do it.
"My advice would be to work hard and don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it," she says. "You can if you want to and put your mind to it -- nothing is off limits. Start early if you can, practice your skill in your own time. Build a portfolio.
"There's nothing more impressive to recruiters in the industry than to see you're so passionate about what you do, that you spend your personal time working on it and perfecting your craft."
Talent Manager, Creative Assembly
A games professional of ten years, Emma Smith has been instrumental in growing Creative Assembly to become one of the biggest studios in the UK. Peers praise her for cultivating a, "fantastic environment for women to thrive," in addition to founding the studio's Legacy Project.
The project centres around Creative Assembly's activities with schools and universities, inspiring a new generation of game developers. Smith describes it as, "by far my proudest achievement."
"While it may be a passion project for me, it's also one for the whole studio," she says. "We work on what draws us together as a team, and to see that making a real-life difference is amazing.
"We've seen young children get stuck into making games without any fear of failure; girls change their GCSE options to enable them to be both creative and academic; graduates who never really considered this industry as a profession going on to join us at CA; and having some of the most capable, talented, enthusiastic students show off their first games.
"Not only do we get to relish in the enthusiastic potential of these next generation game makers, but it has a lasting impact on our developers who come away feeling inspired."