Meet 100 of the most influential women working in the UK games industry - K - L
Co-Founder, State of Play
State of Play was founded to make mini-games and websites and animations, so it's fair to say that the BAFTA-winning studio that Katherine Bidwell founded has far outstretched its original remit. Today, the studio is known for its independent games, such as Lume, Lumino City, Kami and Kami 2.
"[My proudest achievement was] winning a BAFTA in 2015 for Artistic Achievement for Lumino City, that same year we were nominated for British Game and Innovation," she says. "We were the classic underdogs in the category we won, in terms of size of team and budget, and it was a truly special time for us."
It stands to reason, then, that Bidwell has much to say when it comes to game development.
"Be adaptable, play-test your games, and if no one's having fun, change the idea," she says.
"It's tough to do, but If in your gut you know a game isn't fun or doesn't have the ‘sweet spot' -- a good game requires other people will notice too. Trust your instincts."
Creative Director, Triangular Pixels
After completing a degree in physics and space research, Katie started her career as a level designer at Frontier Developments in 2008. Ambitious from the off, she set her sights on graduating to a lead designer or creative director role.
She moved to a few different studios, working on a range of platforms and types of projects, before starting at Sony London Studio, where she discovered AR and eventually VR.
"I continued to work after hours on building my knowledge of AR and VR, learning about their limitations, and designing around them to make those limitations either not be felt by players, or feel like benefits," says Katie.
Inspired, she began her own VR projects and set up independent games studio Triangular Pixels with her husband. In 2017, the developer's title Unseen Diplomacy became the first HTC Vive game to be nominated for the BAFTA Games Innovation award.
"The games industry can be quite incestuous -- very close knit with lots of people having worked with each other before," Katie advises women looking to break into the industry. "To get into that you really need to put yourself out there, go to events and expos, network with professionals.
"From a practical aspect always carry around plenty of business cards, even as a student. You never know when someone may ask for your email, phone number or portfolio."
Team Director, Lick PR
Kat Osman began her career in PR on a placement, before being eventually being hired to work with clients such as Olympus, LG, Gala Bingo and Eidos Interactive. Working with the latter company inspired her to move into video games properly.
She started with a short stint at PC publisher CDV, before moving agency-side again to work with some of the biggest names in video games, including Vivendi, Activision, Bethesda, Blizzard, Capcom, Codemasters, LucasArts, Midway and Sega.
Having worked on so many big campaigns, in 2014 she went alone and started Lick PR.
"There have been a lot of things I'm proud of, including a feature on World of Warcraft on the Six O'Clock News, launching Fallout 3 across Europe, preview events for Monster Hunter World and Devil May Cry 5, working with 50 Cent, getting Jonathan Ross in our Saints Row IV car with the dubstep gun, Goldie in a pair of Turtle Beach headsets, and of course Rebellion's 25th Birthday," Osman tells us.
"Starting Lick PR is also very much up there. I've been privileged to have worked with some incredible people from team members to clients, press to talent, and most of all, Lucy Starvis -- the L in Lick.
"Lick was founded when the last agency we worked at collapsed and left us not only jobless, but without salaries. It's the initials of the last four from the old agency team. It was a tough journey to begin with, and one that I could not have done without Lucy."
Events Marketing Manager, EMEA, Twitch
Kelsey started out writing about games in her spare time over ten years ago. However, she soon realised she was "terrible" at writing and swiftly made her way to working PR in London.
When her "dream job" popped up at Twitch in 2016 she enthusiastically applied and, bolstered by her previous campaign and event experience, landed the role.
As part of her work on the BAFTA Young Game Designer competition, she collaborated with young girl's magazine Girl Talk on a feature outlining the previous year's winner.
"As someone with two female younger cousins, this felt like a giant win," she says. "It was great to see a publication like this take such an interest in an industry that is predominantly male, and help to promote a change in the standards."
She advises women looking to break into the industry: "There are many networking events now for women in the games industry. I would recommend going to one and making yourself some new contacts as soon as possible. Not only will these people make a great support network and become useful work connections, you will make some lifelong friends too."
Video Games Editor, The Guardian
Keza MacDonald started in the media on a magazine 13 years ago, but she now says it, "feels like about 300 years."
During that decade-plus in the media, she has worked across websites, online video, TV, radio and print.
"Video games have kept getting more and more interesting," she admits. "I've been lucky to survive several huge media shake-ups in the past 13 years, and be able to keep doing what I do."
Though she had the fortune to work for illustrious publications like IGN and her current home, The Guardian, it's her work setting up Kotaku UK that she's most proud of.
"Launching Kotaku UK was amazing," she explains. "I think Kotaku does the best specialist games journalism around and I'm super proud to be a part of its history."
MacDonald does say that the industry is far more welcoming to women than the outside perception might suggest.
"It is, in my experience, considerably friendlier to women on the inside than it can appear from the outside, though it's not perfect," she admits. "Games are super interesting and there are now about a billion different jobs in and around them.
"Find what interests you, find a company that will welcome you, and don't let idiots on the internet put you off."
Development Director, Futurlab
Kirsty began her first games job in 2000, testing games for the BBC. After graduating in artificial intelligence and computer science at Edinburgh University, she moved on to testing mobile Java games at THQ Wireless and I-play.
At I-play she moved over into a design role, working on several games within the Fast & Furious franchise, before leaving to become lead designer at Cohort Studios -- which led to Kirsty working on a launch title for the Move controllers.
Following stints at Relentless Software, Zoë Mode, and EA Bright Light, Kirsty joined independent games studio Futurlab in 2010. Since then the firm has released ten games across eight different platforms, and has grown to a full-time team of 16.
She looks forward to an upcoming Futurlab project involving an IP she cares deeply for. In 2015 Kirsty was voted onto the UKIE board, where she remains.
She advises women looking to join the industry: "Just do it. It's an incredibly warm and welcoming environment, not to mention creative and fun."
Marketing Consultant and Founder, KA Games
In her own words, Korina Abbott's career started "as a uni drop-out who spent too many weekends playing DDR in the Trocadero Arcade". Her experience organising games tournaments and moderating forums ultimately encouraged her to apply for a community moderator role at Sony in 2007.
Since then she has worked at Ubisoft, Square Enix and Bethesda, but in 2015 she decided to leave the world of blockbuster games and take on her biggest career challenge to date.
"By far the hardest, most rewarding thing I have done is start my own agency," Abbout says. "Being able to work with smaller developers, particularly female and non-binary developers, has been wonderful. It's also been hugely rewarding to create jobs in the industry and offer opportunities to new talent, especially those who are often overlooked"
Abbott has forged strong relationships with indie developers, with peers describing her as "so much of what is lovely about the independent games scene". Outside her work, she promotes initiatives to improve the diversity of the industry, and encourages more women to follow their dream of a career in games.
"The games industry is full of warm, supportive, brilliant women who are delighted to see new female talent coming in the door," she says. "Make friends, find mentors and know that there are opportunities for you. If there's a job in games being advertised and you think you can do it, apply."
Technical Artist, Sports Interactive
From her teen years all the way through university, Kristrun Fridriksdottir had been making games. Her path to the games industry, however, was not easy.
"My path into the games industry started in IT, to computer art and rigging, moved to fine art and found its middle ground in tech art where I have been able to use all of my backgrounds," she says.
"From my teen years and throughout my university degrees I made several playable video games, ranging from Flash to 3D. Throughout my studies, multiple people told me I should be working in games, but it was a reality I struggled to accept after having a few bad experiences.
"When I graduated, my cousin told me that I had told her when I was five years-old that I was going to make video games when I grew up. I have no recollection of this conversation, but my five year-old self clearly knew what she wanted."
Kristrun now works as a technical artist at Football Manager developer Sports Interactive. Perhaps as a result of her journey, Fridriksdottir's advice for women looking to get into games is to stay strong and stay the course.
"Don't listen to the naysayers, the haters or the doubters -- listen to yourself," she insists. "Running into them is inevitable. Remember, those negative statements are their insecurities, and not yours.
"Surround yourself with people that support you. If I had listened to all the people that doubted me, I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't have gone to university, I wouldn't have seen the world, I wouldn't be in the games industry.
"No one but you knows what is best for you… Be yourself. Be determined and courageous, it will benefit you. Take a chance on yourself. Apply. Attend industry events. Network. We don't bite, promise."
Lead Environment Artist, Inkle
Although a long time gamer with an interest in graphics, Laura's career in games started out by accident. Due to the strong industry links at her university, she was offered a role as a junior artist at Sony's Cambridge studio.
The sense of ownership related to designing and building things from scratch, as well as people being able to play her designs, drew Laura to the role. During her time at Sony she won a BAFTA with the development team on LittleBigPlanet PSP -- a project where she was encouraged to contribute lots of ideas.
She stayed at the studio until its transition to Guerilla Cambridge, and eventual closure in 2017. Not long after, Laura took a lead role at Inkle Studios, where she has spent two years creating the environments for narrative adventure Heaven's Vault.
She advises women hoping to break into games: "Bring your friends. Seriously. Bring the people who would thrive here but don't realise that this is a place they could be. This industry can, and should, be for everyone. Just imagine what we could create, if we could bring together all the architects and illustrators and scientists and historians -- everyone that doesn't feel like this industry traditionally has a place for them."
Senior PR Manager, UK and EMEA, Capcom
Laura Skelly's career in PR might have started off with a one-year placement at now-defunct publisher THQ, but the rest of her career has been spent at Japanese publisher Capcom. She started as a European PR executive, and rose to head of European PR over the course of a decade.
In her time in the industry, Skelly has worked on a variety of campaigns, but it's one of the most recent campaigns that she's most proud of -- the Resident Evil 7 Escape Experience in London.
"I wanted to bring the Resident Evil 7 game to life -- playing on the storyline with the characters, setting and puzzle gameplay that the series is known for," she says. "I worked with some really talented agencies to bring all the elements together, and the event went on to be a huge success on launch weekend, attracting thousands of consumers and media and generating mass coverage across a range of publications.
"The Experience ended up coming second in the National Event Awards, which I consider a huge achievement -- going up against other famous household brand names and losing out only to Samsung."
The PR guru says that women shouldn't be intimidated by the games industry -- it's important to follow your dreams.
"I don't think women should be scared to participate in the industry or be put off by negative stories they may have heard. Women deserve a chance in this industry," she says.
"Regardless of what your career path looks like -- maybe you want to be in marketing, maybe you want to be a game developer or a designer -- you should chase that career dream and become a voice in the industry."
Narrative Designer and Writer
An accomplished writer, Leigh Alexander's work has been nominated for many awards -- including BAFTAs, Golden Joysticks, GDC and IGF -- and this year she won the prize for Best Writing in a Video Game from the Writers Guild of Great Britain.
Her titles range from the Love Island game to the political-medieval mobile series Reigns (specifically Her Majesty and the Game of Thrones spin-off), which she views as a particular boost to her career.
"The incredible opportunity to write Reigns: Her Majesty with Nerial really accelerated my development as a narrative designer, particularly where systems and procedural tools are concerned," she says.
"I have my own company now, working with amazing teams here and abroad on ways to deliver sophisticated, story-driven games to new audiences, and some exciting collaborations I'm looking forward to announcing later this year."
When offering advice to women looking to enter or progress in the games industry, Alexander has two words: stick together.
"This industry is extremely competitive and a lot of dudes are happy to see women fighting amongst themselves for that one 'diversity spot'," she says. "But by joining professional networks and supporting one another, we can act together, share resources and shift dynamics.
"There is literally zero downside to being generous and transparent with each other, building each other up and putting each other forward."
Technical Director, Furious Bee
Lizi Attwood specialised in games and graphics during the final year of her degree, "not because I wanted to make games particularly, but because the modules looked really interesting and they were 100% coursework."
"I'm dyslexic," she explains, "so I always tried to look for fun things to do and I always tried to avoid exams. I decided, with more luck than judgement, that this was the career for me. I wasn't intentionally trying to get into the games industry, but it looked laid back and accepting of people who are a bit different -- plus I wouldn't have to wear a suit to work."
For someone who may not have intended to work in games, Attwood's achievements are mightily impressive. She secured roles at EA, Disney and Activision, and is currently handling the code for Sam Barlow's hotly anticipated Telling Lies, the successor to the seminal Her Story.
Having lucked her way into games, as she describes it, Attwood is keen to help more women follow her lead, encouraging them to get in touch.
"I love what I do and I want other people to love what they do, too," she says. "Don't listen to people that say ‘X or Y is really hard' because it might be hard for them, but not for you."
Technical Evangelist, Unity Technologies
Liz Mercuri began her career in web development for finance, but soon wondered if her skills and love of programming could be applied to the games industry. It was during her Masters studies that she found her big break, applying for -- and winning -- the Prince William Scholarship.
This earned her an internship at Rocksteady, and eventually her current position as an evangelist at Unity. She now mentors at student game jams, speaks at major events like GDC, and shows off the latest Unity features to studios around the world.
Her most crucial message for hopeful developers is to never be afraid to ask for guidance or try to connect with established professionals.
"Connections are super important in the games industry and they're really fun to make," she says. "The industry is full of so many smart, passionate, interesting, open-minded people -- don't be afraid to share your ideas and your work and ask for help and feedback.
"If there is someone that you really feel that you could learn a lot from, ask about mentorship or guidance… The worst that could happen is that they say no, and that's totally fine. It's about finding an ecosystem in which you can thrive and learn. And eventually you'll be in a position to give back and that's even better."
VP of Publishing, Dovetail Games
Inspired by her ZX Spectrum, Lizzie wanted to work in games from the age of 11. She started out her games industry career as webmaster at Gremlin Interactive in 1997, and stayed for two years.
She then went on to become EA's first European community manager in 1999. From there, Lizzie worked with specialisms in community and digital marketing for many years, prior to managing the firm's marketing and publishing divisions as a whole.
She has "zigzagged" up through publishing roles since, and has released over 100 games with the likes of PlayStation, Codemasters, NaturalMotion and Jagex across a range of platforms.
"There's no other industry I'd want to be in," Lizzie advises women looking to break into the games.
"Its creativity can bring you inspirational highs and sometimes tricky lows, but your tenacity is always to be celebrated. Be as bold as you feel comfortable with and always ask the questions you have."
Although she has many personal achievements within the industry, nothing beats the sense of pride she feels when watching colleagues excel.
"The longer my own time in the industry, the more incredible people there are," she adds, "and that's a huge sense of pride for me as I see the ground-breaking work they release."
COO and Co-Founder, Weather Factory
Lottie started her career in games -- armed with a degree in English literature -- by cold-emailing "all the indie studios in London" asking if they needed an unqualified but keen helping hand.
Eventually, she landed a job running social media for an advergames company, and wrangled a promotion up to production not long after.
Lottie then went on to join Failbetter Games as a producer, working on Fallen London, Sunless Sea, and Sunless Skies.
She left in 2017 to co-found new narrative studio Weather Factory with Failbetter Games founder Alexis Kennedy.
Driven to release something new and experimental, the company launched the multi-BAFTA-award-nominated Cultist Simulator.
"Despite being the minority, there are a lot of women in games. We're here, and if you're interested in games, or are a big ol' creative nerd of any kind, I'd love you to join us," says Lottie.
"It's a wonderful place to be which changes almost daily, and you're performing an act of feminism just by existing in this space. Now's also a wonderful time to start making waves -- people are increasingly looking for female input on the products, policies, and overall culture of the industry, and this is a wonderful chance to help make the vast domain of games better for all women."
COO, Target Media
From the sales team at the now defunct Virgin Interactive Entertainment to chief operating officer at marketing and advertising firm Target Media, Louise Gaynor has climbed through the ranks to where she is today.
She spent seven years at Virgin, ultimately becoming marketing manager before leaving in 2001 to become account director at Target Media. She has stayed with the company ever since, taking one promotion after another.
Considering what advice to give women starting out in the games industry, Louise says people should look at the independent games business.
"You have the opportunity to work as a team, you can use a wide range of skills, and you are surrounded by creative talent and entrepreneurs," she concludes.
Executive Producer, Rare
Like a lot of people from the heady days of 1999, Louise O'Connor says her games career began accidentally.
From humble beginnings, O'Connor has spent her entire 20 year career at Rare, starting out as an animator. She has since worked on classics like Conker's Bad Fur Day and Viva Pinata and is now an executive producer.
For her, it's small things like sharing moments with her team during development that make up her proudest achievements.
"It's even those moments internally, when I see someone I've been working with get promoted, or watch my team accomplish something new together," she says. "Or when we all click on some aspect of design that we couldn't quite get before."
She suggests that other women looking to break into the industry ask questions and be inquisitive, determined, and hard-working.
"Be willing to listen and to absorb, and then take those learnings and add them to who you already are, so you are your own best version of the developer you want to be," Louise concludes.