MCV/DEVELOP’s 30 Under 30 2022

Welcome to this year’s 30 Under 30, where put the spotlight on the best and brightest young talent in the industry that the industry has to offer. 

“We’re proud to support the MCV/Develop 30 Under 30 because it honours some of the unrecognised superstars and gives them a platform for their work to be celebrated. It’s important to support rising talent as they are the future of the games industry. I’m super excited to have met them in real life this year at IRL 2022!” – Kim Parker, founder and managing director, OPMJobs

“MCV/DEVELOP saw more nominations than ever for this year’s cohort of the 30 Under 30, so if you made it into these pages then you should feel very accomplished. Our internal decision making process took ages, and at one point I was pretty in favour of us changing the list into the 50 Under 50 just so that we could get more of you in. Sadly, that wasn’t a possibility, so if you didn’t make the list this year, please do try again next time. There are lots of amazing people out there in the UK video games industry, and I’m happy I got to meet so many of you at IRL this November!” – Vince Pavey, staff writer, MCV/DEVELOP

The 2022 30 Under 30 Cohort

ANNA CAULCOTT-COOPER

Senior Programmer at The Chinese Room

Anna is well known at The Chinese Room for combining her technical know-how and excellent interpersonal skills, making sure that everyone is on the same page, and even going out of her way to create additional documentation when she feels it is needed. If we were to choose one word to describe her, it would be “mentor”. She has not only taken newly hired graduates under her wing to make sure their first industry experiences are good ones, but also spends her free time volunteering in industry outreach programs to represent women that code. Anna also won the Women in Games award for Development Impact earlier this year.

ALEX BARNES

Associate Game Director at Firesprite

Alex joined Firesprite as a game designer in 2017, and in less than three years has become an associate game director on the upcoming release Horizon: Call of the Mountain, the first AAA virtual reality entry for what is undeniably one of PlayStation’s biggest contemporary franchises. He is a passionate, creative and knowledgeable developer, as well as a grounded, adaptable and approachable leader that empowers those around him to deliver their very best work.

ALICE LEAMAN

Head of Operations at British Esports

Alice has worked with the British Esports Federation since 2018, and over that time she has grown Student Champs into a competitive video game tournament with over 300+ schools and colleges taking part. Described by one supporter as the “absolute cornerstone of the UK esports educational scene”, Alice has driven an incredible 80% year-on-year rate of growth for Student Champs, and still also coordinates a large network of staff and volunteers to make sure events, tournaments and initiatives happen alongside her day-to-day efforts. She has also put key work into encouraging educators to appreciate the benefits of esports, which has without a doubt helped to fuel the growth of the new esports BTEC diploma.

ALYX JONES

Post Production Lead at Liquid Violet

Going through the struggle of being homeless at 15, all the way to working on sound for massive AAA hits like Elden Ring, has given Alyx Jones a unique perspective. It’s one that has led her to looking for ways to lift up and help other people in whatever ways she can, including at Liquid Violet, where she’s been working with senior figures to introduce more diverse, unbiased hiring practices. Alyx also spends a lot of her time outside of work volunteering, and is on the committee for Limit Break this year alongside spending regular time with three mentees. She also co-founded Guildford Game Audio, a community group that provides resources and mentoring for newcomers to her field, was a judge for the Ivor Novello Awards, and won the Sound Hero Award at Game Dev Heroes 2022.

ANNA LECUE

Senior Game Designer at Sumo Digital

Anna wants to build a better games industry, and often advocates for leading with kindness and supporting the mental wellbeing of employees working on projects, a cause that only grows in importance alongside the ever-expanding scope of video games themselves. She’s a positive force for change in regards to the way the video game industry treats mental health and even makes waves outside of her own studio, delivering well-received talks at developer conferences and Women in Games events. Anna is not just a strong and empathetic leader, but also a talented video game designer, having worked on games like Goodgame Studios’ Legends of Honor, Pixel Toys’ Warhammer Age of Sigmar and now a soon-to-be-announced original IP at Sumo Leamington.

ANNI VALKAMA

PR & Marketing Executive at Super Rare Games

Despite only having been in the games industry since December, Anni has been at the forefront of 16 video game marketing campaigns for Super Rare and has already received her first in-game credit for Grapple Dog. Anni also cares deeply about accessibility and inclusivity, and has now made sure that all of Super Rare’s marketing is also available in plain text, provides alt text for images and meets WCAG 2 contrast and colour requirements. Earlier this year she also managed the Safe Spaces charity fundraising campaign that raised £5,400 to support homeless LGBTQ+ youth in the UK alongside 17 other game developers from across the world. She is also one of the key figures behind GameDevs North.

BECKY JOWSEY

Senior Producer at Uplift Games

Becky was one of MCV/DEVELOP’s honourable mentions for the 30 Under 30 back in 2020, and we think she has only continued to grow and succeed in the industry in the time that has passed since then. She’s not only been a driving factor in changing how Uplift Games approaches producing its releases, but has guided and supported their rapidly expanding team in a myriad of ways too extensive to reasonably cover here. She has a veritable squad of supporters both inside and outside of her company, and is the sort of producer that is both respected and “always willing to go to bat for anyone when required work is more than they can possibly do” to boot.

BEN JOY

Partner Strategist at Etch Play

BEN has been on a steady upward trajectory in the video game marketing industry, working with clients like Hello Games, Deep Silver, Media Molecule and Futurlab on some of their very biggest titles in recent years. He combines his aptitude for overseeing talent and social media campaigns and uses both his analytics data and a keen brand awareness to widen a client or brand’s audiences whenever he can. He’s also a supportive, understanding and insightful person that is seen as an authority on marketing strategy by some of the world’s best teams.

CHARLOTTE KENNY

PR Manager at Honest PR

Charlotte is one of the rockstars of the games PR industry, and as a creative, analysis-driven communications specialist she has already worked with an enviable list of brands, including big names like Epic Games, Jagex and Frontier Developments. When we were gathering nominations for the 30 Under 30, one thing that came up even more, however, was her natural ability to lift up everyone else around her. She does this not only with her desire to learn and not pull up the ladder behind her, but with her friendly nature and supportive attitude that inspire trust in her from anyone that works with her.

CONNOR HALFORD

Senior Gameplay Programmer at Failbetter Games

Connor is the quiet hero of Failbetter Games, and is largely responsible for the studio’s new workflow that allows it to better optimise and stabilise development across multiple projects with reusable systems. Alongside often being generous with his time and expertise, he also runs and maintains a development guides and documentation wiki, helping other team members to get up to speed on things painlessly, even if they’re not very technical. Although he is largely considered a programmer by his peers due to his studio output in the last six years, Connor is also talented in other areas like game design and art, which he has used both to support his team and also to release indie projects like Curious Fishing in his free time. In 2017, that game was also one of six Defold GDC Competition Winners.

DOM SHAW

EDI Coordinator at Ukie

Dom is the first-ever equality, diversity and inclusion coordinator for Ukie, the UK video games and interactive entertainment trade association. He manages diversity initiatives like #RaiseTheGame and Into Games, and is also an ambassador for the charity Autistica. Dom is an autistic, dyslexic and LGBTQ+ identifying individual, and understands the importance of championing marginalised voices and increasing representation at all levels within the games industry. He wants to make sure that everyone is on a fair playing field, and will always lend a helping hand whenever possible. At the time of us writing this, he has secured over 200 industry partnerships to develop D&I activities and support, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down any time soon.

GABRIELLE HIBBERD

Head of PR at Embracer Freemode

Gabrielle is a problem solver, and a progressive voice both within her own company and the wider industry. She’s a flexible, organised and thorough talent that regularly makes an impact on the video games space with her hard work, passion and positivity – and she does that alongside being the mother of two children. Gabrielle has recently moved to the Embracer Group, where she’s taken on the extensive role of leading the public relations team at Embracer Freemode. We’re certain that the company’s communications strategies will be much-improved by having her creativity and professionalism on their side.

GEORGIA DAWSON

Account Manager at Indigo Pearl

Georgia has worked in gaming PR for the last six or so years, and in that time has worked on huge campaigns for well-known brands including Pokémon GO, Google Stadia and Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. She’s considered a bit of a star at the Indigo Pearl office, showing cool-headed determination as she puts in the hard work to support the entire team whenever and wherever they might need it. She also regularly represents both her company and its clients at big industry events like EGX, gamescom and London Games Festival, bringing with her a can-do attitude, infectious enthusiasm and a wealth of industry knowledge.

GEORGINA CORNELIUS

Talent Acquisition Manager at Sumo Group

Georgina stands out in her particular field within the games industry, having joined Sumo in the middle of lockdown as a campus coordinator and having received a promotion to talent acquisition manager for the company within less than two years. Despite her role typically being about workshops and in-person visits from game developers at schools and universities, she, through a combined a mix of innovation and hard work, has managed to help teachers and their students to stay in touch with the Sumo Group remotely through the pandemic, one of the most difficult periods for education in recent memory. She is also a regular contributor to Women in Games events and panels and an advocate for diversity in video game development.

GRACE SHIN

Games Programme Manager at BAFTA

Grace has spent lots of time fighting for the games industry on the UK policymaking stage, and even took on the gargantuan task as head of policy and public affairs at Ukie when the government was asking for evidence on loot box mechanics earlier this year, helping it to come to the only reasonable conclusion. She is an exceptionally clever person, and has also taken part in other major discussions about UK games industry policy in recent history, creating positive changes including changing the number of gaming roles on the Shortage Occupation List, helping the industry to roll out the Age Appropriate Design Code alongside the Information Commissioner’s Office, and running an All Party Parliamentary Group for Video Games and Esports. She has recently moved on to BAFTA, and we’re sure she will succeed just as much over there.

JAKE PARROTT

3D Artist at Ripstone

Jake has an immeasurable love for video games, and endeavours to pay his successes forward and share his expertise and opportunities with underrepresented groups whenever possible. He spends his personal time outside of work collaborating with Oldham College, an education provider whose catchment area has the highest rate of child poverty in the country, helping students to improve both their skills and their portfolios. Within Ripstone, he not only takes new hires under his wing, but serves as the company’s internal ambassador for Ukie ‘Raise the Game’ pledge initiative, often advocating for first-generation university applicants and overlooked groups.

JESSICA WELLS

Editor at The Loadout

Jessica launched The Loadout with a team of only two people in 2019, and has since managed to grow the website into one with five writers that receives six million or more page views a month. Described by one of her supporters as a “real leader who would jump in the trenches with you too”, she is absolutely one of the standout young editors within the industry, encouraging creativity and always listening to her team when they have questions or raise concerns. Jessica also regularly encourages new voices, and The Loadout also has a diversity and inclusion fund for freelancers, which it regularly uses to provide work to people from underrepresented backgrounds within the industry.

LAUREN MOSES

Community Manager at Code Covenn

Lauren broke away from a career in corporate marketing, hoping to make a difference in the world and moving into video game communications. They put a strong focus on empathy and care for others, advocating for mental health awareness and nurturing a safe environment around themselves whenever they can. They often use their free time to be a Safe In Our World ambassador, and regularly help marginalised people with making progress in their career whenever possible. They were also one of the Community Visionaries at the MCV/DEVELOP Awards in 2021.

MILLICENT THOMAS

Influencer Manager at PlayStation

Millicent moved over into the games industry after some time spent in the film industry as a journalist, quickly becoming PlayStation UK’s first ever Influencer Manager after a stint in communications at Ubisoft. She’s a persevering, dedicated, working-class woman in games, and graduated from Bath Spa University alongside working at GamesRadar+, Into Games and PlayStation UK. She did this while caring for an unwell relative, and during the pandemic. We are frankly staggered by her strength. Earlier this year, she also won the MCV/DEVELOP 2022 Women in Games Rising Star Award.

MJ WIDOMSKA

Founder and Director at YRS TRULY

MJ started her now award winning creative marketing agency YRS TRULY at only 23 years old, and has quickly turned it into a successful business that has worked with some of the games industry’s biggest brands, including the likes of Magic the Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, SEGA, ASUS, Private Division and Bandai Namco. Four years on, she’s now in charge of a diverse team of close to ten full-time employees, and she leads them with an ethos of fairness and transparency. Both YRS TRULY and MJ both care deeply about people and the society around them, and honestly it was a shock to us that she wasn’t already put on this list years ago.

NATALIE BAHBOUT

Account Director at Swipe Right PR

Described as the “heart and soul of Swipe Right PR” by one of her supporters, Natalie has worked to quickly progress within the company, and provided public relations services to some of the biggest games and brands in the industry like Valheim, Deep Rock Galactic, Red Bull Gaming, PUBG MOBILE, Coffee Stain and FACEIT on her way up to the top. She also works with several esports teams, and balances all of her responsibilities with a level of professionalism and expertise that has only increased the amount of business brought her way.

NICOLE CONROY

Associate Producer at Ubisoft Leamington

Nicole leads by example, with a very clear sense of right and wrong that gives her a refreshing certainty compared to most other producers. She is both highly competent and a supportive and guiding voice that inspires trust from others. At Ubisoft she is a wellbeing champion, advocating for self-care, and ditching the stigma around mental health issues. She is a positive influence on those around her, bringing change not only at Ubisoft but in the wider community through her role as a Women in Games ambassador, Limit Break mentor, West Midlands union rep, and IWGB Union member.

PAULA LUCAS

Senior Artist at Ant Workshop

Paula came all the way to the UK from New Zealand in 2017, on a quest to both grow as an artist and progress in her career. She has ascended through the ranks here quickly, with hard work and determination not only taking both her artistic and technical skills to an insane level, but thrusting her into a position in leadership. Outside of work, she has also endeavoured to become involved with causes and groups and pay her successes forward, joining mentoring scheme Limit Break, the BAFTA Games Crew and becoming one of the video game ambassadors. She has also volunteered her time at Gaming For Good, BAFTA Young Game Designers, the University of Bolton, CATS Cambridge College Careers Day and Creative Dundee.

SIMRAN WHITHAM

Founder and CEO at FORMAT GG

Simran is only 27, but is the founder of the UK’s biggest games industry nightlife event, FORMAT. What started as a handful of game developers meeting in a bar has evolved into a bit of a games industry expo that has now put the spotlight on over 250 game studios, game industry brands, and community leaders, while still also providing the industry with a much needed good night out. On top of that, he’s still actively involved in game development itself, having launched multiple titles on just about every major platform. He’s currently working at XR Games as a marketing executive, regularly encouraging the general public and press alike to check out the developer’s work on virtual reality entertainment.

POPPY INGHAM

Social & Community Manager at Studio ZA/UM

Poppy goes above and beyond at ZA/UM, not just fulfilling her work duties for the RPG developer but doing it with “incredible enthusiasm and aplomb” according to just one of her many supporters. She’s also a part of ZA/UM’s diversity and inclusion team, and has helped to launch both Japanese and Turkish localisations for Disco Elysium, as well as new accessibility options like dyslexia friendly fonts. Poppy also spends her time volunteering outside of work, having spent time as both a Limit Break mentor and an advisor to Make A Wish Foundation UK, as well as volunteering to be on event panels for FastTrackers and Games Anglia. She was also one of the first cohort of Into Games Champions.

SOLA KASALI

Football Partnerships Manager, FIFA Brand at Electronic Arts

Sola puts in a lot of work to make sure that football is accurately represented in EA’s FIFA video game series, making sure that deals are in place to properly portray footballers and their partner brands, as well as producing a wealth of content to keep football fans around the world invested and interested in the game each year. With Sola’s help, the FIFA brand is doing better than ever, not just in sales but in its creativity and scope. She has also taken on the important task of championing new role models from underrepresented backgrounds in the world’s favourite sport, and won the Channel 4 Diversity in Advertising award for her work with Hamza Choudhury and the Midnight Ramadan League.

SOPHIE ARTEMIGI

Indie Game Developer

Sophie is known for developing narratively driven indie games with subject matters often avoided by the games industry, some of which may even be considered taboo. Her latest game Hook Up deals with the subject of a sex-positive 20-something who is app dating, and handles its interactive storytelling in a mature, responsible way rarely seen in visual novels. She has of course been met with some push back, and with calls for censorship from the usual sorts, but has persevered in the face of this adversity to create truly interesting and unique works of art that are likely to stand the test of time. We hope she makes lots more.

STUART PENTELOW

Associate Programmer at d3t

Stuart is a programmer at d3t, and is a positive voice of encouragement and advancement, regularly talking to school students to help grow their interest in the games industry. He grew up in a small town and as such feels a strong need to let children that might find themselves in the same situation as he was know that working in games is an achievable career despite where they may live. He also donates his free time to Abertay University and their Professional Project module each year, having constructed an open-ended game brief for students to work on and making sure that at the end of his mentorship that they own their own IP rights.

TARA NAZ

Producer at Electric Noir Studios

Tara is a quick learner, a diligent worker, and has fought for diversity, equality and mental health awareness during her years within the video games industry. She regularly visits schools to encourage their students into the industry, and offers mentorship to anyone that would like it. Since joining Electric Noir, she has made moves to increase team morale with a free lunchtime social, and often encourages her fellow employees to set personal goals and attend team bonding activities like Show and Tell. Tara was also nominated for Rising Star at the Women In Games Awards 2022, and is a Safe In Our World ambassador.

TOM DENT

Senior Community Manager at Media Molecule

Tom is a unique figure in the games industry, with Media Molecule’s fandom thinking of him more like a ‘friend’ than a community manager thanks to his approachable tone, his sense of humour and his passion for the studio’s releases. When not working in the fast-paced world of communications and audience engagement, he spends his time as an ambassador for Safe in our World, raising mental health awareness in games and encouraging a good work-life balance within his studio. Oh, and he’s also the guy behind “DreamsCom”, which is regularly one of the best (and criminally underrated) games industry experiences each year, despite being entirely digital and remote. If you have a PlayStation, make sure you go to the next one!

Honourable Mentions

  • Adam Clarke, Campaign Manager at Gameifyouare
  • Byony-Hope Green, Content Manager at British Esports
  • Chris Sayers, VFX Artist at Mediatonic / Epic Games
  • Dominique Buttiens, Principal Artist at The Chinese Room
  • Ellie Greenfield, PR & Communications Senior Executive at Sumo Group
  • Flo Burchill, Assistant Producer & Social Media Manager at Snap Finger Click
  • Holly Reddaway, Voice and Performance Director
  • James Law, Managing Editor at Gfinity
  • Jess Campbell, Art Director at Bellular Studios
  • Jessica Timms, Senior Publicist at UberStrategist, Inc.
  • Jimmy Bowers, Community Manager at nDreams
  • Joe Kent, Head of Creative at Hotdrop
  • Katie Handscombe, Head of Sales at Blaze Entertainment
  • Katie Millar, Volunteer Lead at Into Games
  • Lauren Pugh, Junior Programmer at 10:10 Games
  • Leia Schall, Greenlight Administrator at Secret Mode
  • Luke Bennett, Account Manager at Indigo Pearl
  • Maisie Ashrafi, Senior Brand Marketing Manager at EXCEL ESPORTS
  • Nicolas Pirot, Senior Technical Artist at Rocksteady Studios Ltd
  • Philippa Moore, Animation Programmer at Frontier Developments
  • Rachel Macpherson, PR Manager at Neonhive
  • Rhiannon Bevan, News Editor at TheGamer
  • Roddy Burns, Head of Partnerships at By Gamers For Gamers
  • Sara Machado, Senior Recruiter at Sumo Digital
  • Taya Beleanina, Digital Producer at Etch Play
  • Toby Draper, Associate Producer at Auroch Digital

 

About Vince Pavey

Vince is a writer from the North-East of England who has worked on comics for The Beano and Doctor Who. He likes to play video games and eat good food. Sometimes he does both at the same time, but he probably shouldn’t.

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