Sections

Meet 100 of the most influential women working in the UK games industry - F - J

Fiona Sperry

CEO, Three Fields Entertainment

Disillusioned by the lack of CD-ROM sales in her work as a publisher, Fiona joined Criterion Software as a games producer in 1997, where she oversaw its flagship console title Trickstyle.

Following the racing game's critical and commercial success, she and creative director Alex Ward relaunched the studio as Criterion Games and focused solely on console titles. As studio director, Fiona helmed five Burnout games, including three time BAFTA-winner Burnout 3: Takedown.

After Electronic Arts acquired Criterion Games in 2004, she became general manager of all of EA's UK Studios and was responsible for over 400 game developers. In 2008, Fiona led Criterion's revitalisation of the Need for Speed series, including the multi award-winning Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, followed by Need for Speed: Most Wanted -- which picked up a fourth BAFTA.

After the birth of her daughter in 2012, Fiona decided to go it alone with a team made up of Criterion Games' former staff , including Alex Ward. They founded Three Fields Entertainment in 2014. Over the last five years the studio has published four games, and is about to launch its fifth, Dangerous Driving.

"Be brave, be resilient, be brilliant," Fiona advises women looking to join the games industry.

Frankie Ward

Esports Host

Following ten years working in production at the likes of the BBC and Channel 4, Frankie's career as an esports presenter began in 2015, after she produced coverage of the League of Legends Worlds Quarter-Finals for the BBC. Shortly after, she joined Twitch.

She has produced shows at gaming expos worldwide for Twitch Studios, and sometimes subs for Twitch partners. In 2017, she began guesting on Ginx TV's live show The Bridge. She has also stage hosted for ESL, Multiplay and NUEL.

In 2018 Frankie left her role at Twitch, and became a full-time host. She has since appeared on the PC Gaming Show at E3 (where she hosted alongside Sean "Day9" Plott), the DreamHack Austin PUBG Showdown, a Nintendo Labo YouTube channel, a mobile tournament for Red Bull, and more.

"Focus on your strengths and how they play their part in a wider team -- collaboration is key," Frankie advises women aiming to break into the industry. "Don't let anyone make you second guess yourself or take away your voice. You matter and you will make a difference."

In her spare time, she interviews game developers on her My Life in Pixels podcast, and streams Rocket League and Overwatch on her Twitch channel.

Georgina Felce

Studio Operations Manager, Big Pixel Studios

Pocket Mortys developer Big Pixel Studios has grown significantly thanks to Georgina Felce -- from five employees to 27 in less than a year -- but games was not her intended career.

After pursuing roles in costume for TV, theatre and film, she was pointed towards the office manager vacancy at Rovio's London studio. This, sadly, proved to be short-lived due to the studio's closure, but Felce had already been won over by the world of games.

"That was when I was really exposed to the true spirit of the industry," she says. "I was inundated with support from studios across the country -- and the world -- and it was how I progressed into my current role at Big Pixel Studios."

Since then, not only has Felce increased Big Pixel's headcount five-fold, she has also been involved in the Women of Silicon Roundabout initiative and Women In Games Conference. Events, she says, are the key for women looking for their place in the industry.

"The vast majority of them are free or of little cost, and networking and making connections in the industry can really help fast-track application processes," she says. "You'll be surprised at how small the UK Games industry is.

"It can be scary attending your first few events, but bring a friend along to help take the edge off the nerves. You'll find most people who attend are really enthusiastic about their craft and the industry, so it's not hard to spark a conversation."

Gabrielle Kent

Senior Lecturer in Game Development/Writer

Following some experience at Iguana Entertainment/Acclaim during her illustration degree -- where she got to "sit around drawing monstrous creatures and zombie priestesses all day" -- Gabrielle got her first role in games as an artist at Pitbull Studio.

In 2003, she went on to work as a senior lecturer at Teesside University, training future game developers. Additionally, Gabrielle founded the games elements of the Animex festival, which she directed for five years. Concurrently, she helped organise the Women in Games conference in 2006.

In her spare time, she writes books for children, and is aiming to write for games too. She is currently penning the tie-in novel for Foam Sword Games' Knights and Bikes -- which she also backed on Kickstarter.

Gabrielle advises women hoping to break into the games industry: "Network! Get yourself to events such as EGX, Develop, Women in Games, and make lots of lovely friends and contacts. The male/female ratio in game development is still very skewed, so it's wonderful to build a good network of awesome women working in the same field as you to chat and blow off steam with. Be a positive force and a team player."

Geraldine Cross

HR Director, Playground Games

HR roles don't receive a huge amount of coverage from the games press, which is criminal when you look at the hard work of the likes of Geradline Cross.

She started in the industry at Blitz Games in 2004, and now works as Playground Games' HR director, guiding the company in making the hit racing series Forza Horizon. That's on top of her role as a consultant for NextGen Skills Academy and Creative Skillset.

"I'm lucky to have a few," Geraldine says of her proudest achievement. "The main ones are being part of Playground's incredible achievements, getting to work with such a wide range of talented people with amazing skills, and leading NextGen's Aspiring Women Programme -- which resulted from NextGen's Gender Balanced Workforce Project, and went on to win the TIGA Diversity Award.

"It was hugely rewarding to see these fabulous women enabling their greater, inner selves to drive their careers and to truly flourish."

As for advice for those looking to get a job in games, Cross says prospective candidates need to be proactive.

"Attend events and expand your network," she says. "Take the opportunity to learn from others, and always welcome and learn from constructive feedback."

Gina Jackson

Head of Games, The Imaginarium

Gina Jackson's career in games started, by her own admission, by accident. Back in 1992, she went for a job interview for a graphics tools development role, only to discover that the employer was a game developer.

Now, 27 years later, Jackson has made a huge impact on the UK industry, having held roles at the likes of Ocean Software, Nokia, Kuju and Eidos. She is currently in charge of the new games publishing arm of Andy Serkis' production company The Imaginarium. In addition, she set up the games education company NextGen.

She also, somewhat ironically, helped establish the original Top 100 Women in Games list.

"Setting up the original Top 100 Women in Games list, because it highlighted so many great women working in games, can only be a good thing. I am so pleased that GamesIndustry.biz keeps supporting it," she says.

Asked for her advice for women getting into games, Jackson instead chose to offer some wisdom for those already working in the industry.

"Please be courageous and speak at conferences, events, do interviews, write articles, be seen and be heard," she says. "We can all inspire the next generation but also our peers and our mentors."

Giselle Stewart

Director, UK Corporate Affairs, Ubisoft

Like many entrants on this list, Giselle Stewart did not start out in games. In fact, she was working in a management role at the UK's National Health Service before taking time out to do an MBA at Durham University.

In the wake of that, she met the co-founder of Newcastle-based Reflections, Martin Edmondson, who brought her on board to help the company grow. During this time, the company has had three owners, eventually landing in the portfolio of French publishing giant Ubisoft.

"I love working for an international team as Ubisoft's UK director, and I feel very fortunate to have my base in Newcastle," she says.

But her work at Ubisoft isn't her favourite achievement. That goes to her work at Newcastle's North East Futures UTC, a new kind of school that focuses on STEM subjects.

"The project was challenging, but the team of like-minded individuals from Accenture, Sage, the NHS, and the life sciences industry was inspiring," she says. "The school opened last September in a state-of-the-art building, and we can look forward to a new branch for our career pipeline, confident that students study a relevant, industry-endorsed curriculum, and where every student has a sector-experienced mentor."

Hannah Rutherford

Content Creator, Yogscast

Inspired by 25 years of playing games and her father, Hannah (Lomadia to her fans) began producing content around eight years ago on YouTube. Although her focus is currently on streaming over videos, she also enjoys panels, streams on Twitch, and partakes in the Shady Ladies podcast.

Alongside gaming, Hannah works with charities such as War Child, and participates in the annual JingleJam charity drive, run by Yogscast.

Her most memorable moments so far include a visit to Ubisoft Montreal for her first ever capture session of Far Cry 3, and touring the Rare campus. She loves meeting developers, and sharing in their enthusiasm.

"A wise woman in gaming once told me to always buy dresses with pockets in -- and she was right -- so I'm passing that advice along," says Hannah. "I also cannot overstate the importance of good organisation, so get yourself a physical diary where you can collate all your projects and reminders.

"It's such a busy industry all year round, with very specific high-pressure moments, so having a place to gather ideas or schedules without being digital can be quite refreshing, especially if your work and home lives merge frequently due to travel."

Harinder Sangha

Operations Director, Sumo Digital

"My proudest moment was to be given the opportunity to go down in Sega history, to become the first female studio head for Sega Europe," begins Harinder Sangha, who is a true veteran of the UK development scene.

She has held numerous positions at the likes of Codemasters and Sega, and has just recently joined the team at Sumo as operations director. Harinder is renowned for her support of developers, with her expertise in finance, facilities, IT infrastructure, HR and recruitment.

She has a proven record of creating a diverse and motivated workforce of over 55 staff in a busy work environment, and providing an open-door policy for staff services and counselling. Her work at Sega Hardlight saw the studio win at last year's Best Places To Work Awards.

"This is an amazing industry, male or female, so embrace it with both hands, follow your passion, and don't be afraid to show it," she advises to those looking at a career in the industry. "In return you'll have the time of your life and meet the best people along the way."

Hayley Brant

Senior UI Artist, Rocksteady

Beginning her career as a graphic designer in print, Hayley was invited by a friend to interview at Sumo Digital. She started out as a 2D artist, working on the UI for Outrun -- four years and 12 titles later she was a freelancer working on games for EA, Ubisoft, Rare, and even platform apps for Xbox One.

Her career has also seen her sit on the BAFTA Games jury, and spend the last two years at Rocksteady.

"The industry has changed significantly since I first started," Hayley says. "Year-on-year it's becoming more diverse. The number of women in games is going up, but we still need more -- so don't hesitate, follow your passion and come and join us."

Helen Burnill

Commercial Director, Mediatonic

Helen worked in marketing and communication for a decade before joining the games industry. Although she covered an array of sectors, found herself bored with what she was doing. At one point, she even considered applying to medical school.

A long-term lover of games, she spotted a job on the Mediatonic website and promptly applied for the role. Despite barely fulfilling the job spec and having no industry experience, her determination led to being hired as business development manager in 2013.

Helen has ascended rapidly up the ranks at Mediatonic since. She cites the book Lean In, by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg, as a particular inspiration.

She advises women looking to join the industry: "Don't think twice, just do it. Every day is fun -- even the stressful ones are an adventure... Ultra-smart, hardworking people who give a damn about what they do and each other, working together in the happiness industry. What's to think about?

"Not just in relation to women -- there's a surreal perception outside the industry that you need to code or be technical to be in games. That's about equivalent to saying you can't work in the property business without an architecture degree."

Hollie Bennett

UK Head of Communications, CD Projekt RED

During her time at school, Hollie Bennett was told a career in video games wasn't possible due to her not being an artist or knowing how to code. She made the decision to become a midwife, but she also became part of Destructoid's community, going on to run events and provide coverage for the site. Ultimately, Hollie was hired as the site's European community manager.

"At the time it felt like the best of both worlds; I had my grown-up ‘real job' and now I was in a position where, thanks to Destructoid, I was given unprecedented access to a world I loved," she says. "I never considered it getting much better than that."

But it sure did get better, with Bennett leaving the NHS and securing a role at Bandai Namco before moving to Sony. Here she spent the longest part of her career launching and developing PlayStation Access.

"PlayStation Access has been my favourite project," she says. "I've spent nearly six years working with the most incredible people, seeing wonderful games, travelling the world and creating a channel that not only we're proud of, but PlayStation is, too. It was six years of blood, sweat and tears, but it was worth it."

Holly Pickering

Art Director and Narrative Designer, A Brave Plan

Holly Pickering began her career on the Lego series at TT Games, but she soon discovered that indie games and smaller projects provided more motivation. Her own title, SALT: A Social Story, caught the attention of Georg Backer, who snapped her up as art director and narrative designer on upcoming adventure The Bradwell Conspiracy.

Already her favourite project to date, it provided a career highlight at EGX 2018 when, after four years of development, the game was finally unveiled to much interest.

"The fact that people are really excited about the game and want to talk to us about it is pretty mind boggling to me," she says. "Bradwell had some very turbulent times during development, and it's still amazing that it's actually going to come out for people to buy and play."

Pickering is also co-founder of LadyCADE, which organises casual and femme-friendly social gatherings, and she is always open to helping women find the role they want in the industry.

"The games industry can be very opaque and overwhelming to research, and sometimes you just need to reach out to someone who can point you in the right direction," she says. "I have never met a woman in the games industry who wasn't willing to help, because we all know what it's like to be on the other side."

Jane Douglas

Co-Editor, Outside Xbox

Seven years ago Jane Douglas co-founded YouTube channel Outside Xbox, which has since grown to become the world's favourite unofficial Xbox channel, with 2.3 million subscribers and nearly one billion video views.

Formerly of Gamespot UK, Douglas was accompanied in the transition to YouTube from traditional games media by friends and Outside Xbox co-founders Mike Channell and Andy Farrant.

Producing videos for YouTube called for a host of new skills, but their experience of professional writing and presenting was the foundation of the channel and key to developing its voice and style.

After the successful development of Outside Xbox, the enthusiasm of its audience powered expansion and experimentation; in recent years. Douglas has been proudest of the launch of sister channel Outside Xtra, and popular spin-off Dungeons & Dragons series Oxventure.

The best surprise has been the warmth and friendliness of the community that has grown up around the channel. Less surprising but equally brilliant is working every day with her favourite people.

Jen Simpkins

Deputy Editor, Edge

Award-winning games journalist Jen threw herself into heady pursuit of her dream at university.

"I wrote and edited for a student news site, joined some fellow game fans at their hobbyist site, wrote for a digital magazine, attended events at The Guardian's offices, and started my own video game review blog on WordPress -- I'd set myself deadlines for articles to make sure I was producing a certain amount a week," she says.

"It was about creating a CV that proved I was driven and disciplined, and honing as many skills as possible in the process."

In 2015 she landed a staff writer job at Official PlayStation Magazine UK, eventually becoming its games editor.

She advises women looking to join the industry: "It's probably going to be a lot harder than you think, in some very painful ways. Sorry! It's important that you're not labouring under any kind of illusion here.

"The good news is that there are more women and other minorities than ever working in the industry now, and we're all pretty militant about protecting and supporting each other, instead of competing to be ‘the best one.' If you want to do this, we'll be here to support you -- god knows we still need you."

Jen loves producing each issue of Edge with the team, and also the many opportunities to interview her, "industry heroes." She also won Journalist Of The Year at MCV's Women In Games in 2018.

Jessica Curry

Composer and Broadcaster

BAFTA-winning composer and co-founder of The Chinese Room, Jessica wrote the music for Dear Esther -- a score that went on to a worldwide orchestral tour.

"I had a limited knowledge of games and made the assumption that it was all about blowing stuff up and wielding huge guns," says Jessica of her initial reaction to working on Dear Esther. "Now I know that guns and blowing stuff up only constitutes 98.7% of the industry, so all is well."

She also composed the score for Everybody's Gone to Rapture, which netted her two BAFTAS, was named soundtrack of the year by MOJO magazine, and even made the ClassicFM Top Ten.

In addition, Jessica has also worked on Google Daydream game So Let Us Melt, and AR experience The Seven Ages of Man, which will be screened at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Additionally, Jessica presented an evening of music at the Royal Albert Hall, and hosted High Score -- ClassicFM's series on video game music.

"Find allies, never forget that you have every right to be here, and don't give up," Jessica advises women working in the games industry.

Jodie Azhar

CEO and Game Director, Teazelcat Games

More than a decade after joining the industry as an animator, Jodie Azhar is the head of her own studio, which she founded last year (and named after her cat). She draws from years of experience at Zoe Mode, Rebellion and Creative Assembly, and is keen to explore the possibilities for narrative games.

"Starting Teazelcat has been incredibly exciting," she says. "It's a lot of work managing both the business and game development, but I've had a lot of support and interest in what we're creating.

"It's still early days for us so I'm focusing on our first game and enjoying bringing my own design ideas to life. But I'm also looking forward to building the studio further and bringing people with interesting ideas together to tell different stories and share culture through the medium of games."

In addition to being an avid proponent for women in games, she's also a team member of POC In Play, a new racial equality and inclusion movement. Azhar urges aspiring developers to apply for roles, even if they worry they lack the experience or qualifications.

"Have confidence and put yourself forward," she says. "You don't have to fulfil every requirement on a job specification in order to apply. Hiring managers can often be flexible, and someone with potential who'd work well with the team is a better hire than an expert who doesn't work well with others."

Dr Jo Twist OBE

CEO, UKIE

Dr Jo Twist is CEO of UK Interactive Entertainment, the games industry trade body for the UK.

With a background in commissioning and journalism, she is deputy chair of the British Screen Advisory Council, London Tech Ambassador, BAFTA Games Chair, Mayor of London's Cultural Leadership Board Ambassador, Creative Industries Council member, and a Visiting Professor at Ravensbourne University.

In 2016 she was awarded an OBE for services to the creative industries. She's a SpecialEffect vice president and Disabilities Sector Champion.

She's a regular speaker at events and is known for her passion and support for the entire UK games scene. A popular figure in the business, the games industry's recent success with the UK Government has been in part due to the hard work of UKIE under Twist's superb leadership.

Jude Ower

Founder and CEO, Playmob

Jude got started in the industry through working on games for education and training. From there she became interested in the impact games can have on human lives and the planet.

Jude was inspired to start Playmob in 2011, "to help make the world a better place through gaming." She has raised over $1.5 million for good causes via games thus far.

"Seeing the impact our little messages in-game can have, to encourage players to take action, has been amazing," comments Jude. "Seeing how people truly want to make a difference and how we as an industry can provide a platform for people to do so."

Additionally, Jude is a member of UKIE, a BAFTA games judge, and has spoken at various events including Women in Games.

She advises women looking to break into the industry: "Find a mentor to help guide you, and network as much as possible to meet people and learn about the industry. People are very supportive in the industry, so getting to know a few will go a long way."

Julia Hardy

Video Game TV Presenter and Host

Originally starting her career in TV on a music show called Rockworld, Julia was asked to start hosting a review show covering both film and TV.

"I started to blend that into the show reviewing games and making really stupid sketches," she says. "I did one called PAP -- PARENTS AGAINST PLAYSTATION -- which involved me and my co-host dressing up and playing games like they were ruining our children. Oddly, it's not that far off the current media perception still."

Since then she has worked at the worked at myriad UK TV stations, including Bravo and Challenge TV.

"Then I basically harassed Radio 1 for a few years saying things like, ‘You know what's really cool and popular? Games!' -- over and over until they finally gave in and created The Gaming Show for iPlayer," she says.

"That has been a real joy to bring into the world, and the feedback has been amazing. People are always surprised that the BBC has a gaming show. It shows that times are changing and that makes me very hopeful."

But her work hasn't been limited to TV. Hardy has worked hard to highlight the sexism and negative treatment women receive, including giving a Ted Talk on the subject and writing a blog, Misogyny Monday.

And while she has dealt with this negativity head on, Hardy says that things are changing in games.

"In terms of sexism and all that jazz, it's definitely changed. People are more aware and won't stand for it, so there is support there," she says. "Put it this way, I haven't had any content for my old blog in about two years now. It's either changed or I've scared them off -- either is good for me."

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