Women In Games Awards: Meet The Finalists – Rising Star category

There are just four weeks to go until we celebrate the Top 30 Women in Games and the winners of the six special categories are announced.

The Women in Games Awards take place on May 19th at the Hamyard Hotel, London. Tickets cost just 49 and are available by simply clicking here. The awards, held in conjunction with the Women in Games (WIGJ) body and sponsored by Facebook, will shine the spotlight on the most influential and inspirational women in the UK games industry.

Here we take a look at those in the running for the Rising Star award:

Jodie Azhar – Lead Technical Artist, Creative Assembly

Azhar started work as Junior Animator in 2009 aged 21 and caught the eye previously in Top 100 Women in Games 2013 and in ‘30 under 30′ of that year. Her smart work and technical ability continues to be recognised and she is now Lead Technical Artist at Creative Assembly, overseeing the artist’s technical needs on all Total War projects. In 2015 Azhar became a STEM Ambassador to inspire girls who might not yet have considered the interest and viability of working in games and other technical roles. She has volunteered at the local Coder Dojo at weekends, helping teach secondary schoolchildren python programming, and regularly helps host the careers advice section for Creative Assembly at Universities and elsewhere.

Sophie Densham – Community & Communications Officer, UKIE

Densham was the first ever intern at the SpecialEffect gaming charity in 2014 (for nine months) and, according to the team there, showed great commitment and passion to learn in her many tasks, which ranged from being the key organiser of the UK’s largest charity gaming marathon weekend (GAMEBLAST) through to showing maturity when dealing with the young people with disabilities SpecialEffect helps, and communicating with people across the games industry. Densham moved to London and took on the role of community and communications officer at UKIE and has developed professionally the organisation.

Amy-Marie Graves – Community Executive, Square Enix

Graves began her games industry career at Curve Digital where she enjoyed stints as marketing assistant and junior PR and community manager. She moved to Square Enix earlier this year where she is a community executive for the Square Enix Collective, dealing with Square Enix’s indie scene. She is also part of We See In Pixels podcast, a blog for reviews.

Kate Gray – Video Producer, Gamespot

After periods at Future’s Official Nintendo Magazine and OXM publications by way of a stint at Microsoft’s Xbox On YouTube channel, Gray now produces excellent videos for GameSpot, such as their highly viewed video series for Fallout, alongside David Jewitt. She also co-runs Toku Podcast alongside freelance journalist Holly Nielsen.

Jessica Hughes – National Account Manager, Warner Bros

Prior to joining Warner Bros, Hughes worked at Play.com, Spirit and Anchor Bay, working on titles such as Bounty Killer. Now at WB as a national account manager, Hughes works on the Home Entertainment titles across both Film and Games.

Dorottya Kollo – UI Artist/Designer, Splash Damage

Kollo joined Splash Damage for Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and took over UI art and design for that project. Usually a larger team would handle those areas, but Kollo was able to grab the project and run with it. As the game’s usability guardian, she owned the UI design for new (for Gears of War 1) features like matchmaking, a party system, and a comic book viewer, translating them into intuitive and understandable interactions for players. She also crafted many of the hundreds of assets used throughout the front-end of the game, which included a variety of things like map topdowns and wallpaper-sized achievement art.

Waiyin Lau – Technical Artist, Splash Damage

Lau’s first job was at Guerrilla Cambridge in 2014 where she was a junior technical artist, working on the Sony Morpheus game RIGs. During her last year at university, Lau was part of two different teams that won best playable game and best game trailer at Hertfordshire’s end of year Animation Expos. Right after graduating, she took on the role of producer and technical director in the BFX competition, her team winning seven awards including best film and rigging for their short animation. Noticed by the 2015 Next Gen Aspiring Women’s mentorship as a candidate with high potential, Lau is described as a ‘born fixer’.

Becky Lavender – Engineer, Playtonic Games

Before graduating from Derby university in 2015, Lavender spent a year at Peter Molyneux’s 22Cans studio and since graduating has become a key member of the Playtonic Games team, joining the company in August 2015.Since joining she’s been tackling many of Yooka-Laylee’s core gameplay features and has increased the speed of the design pipeline many times over with the scripting solution she has integrated in to the project and built upon, with bespoke features crucial to the quality of the project.She’s described by her colleagues as fearless and has showed up the veteran coders in many ways, particularly her helpful and friendly documentation on work completed”.

Jill McKnight – National Account Manager, Warner Bros

McKnight started in the Warner Bros sales team in 2012 working as the grocery account executive across Home Video and Games. Within a year she was promoted to national account manager for Morrison’s and Blinkbox and then went on to work on WB’s Sainsbury’s Home Video and Games business. McKnight is now working with Tesco across the company’s Home Video and Games titles, including LEGO Dimensions.

Karen Stanley – Environment Artist, Sony London Studios

Stanley joined the environment art team at Sony London studios straight from Hertfordshire University and has been pivotal in defining the look of triple-A VR experiences. Her work has won awards online and she is showcased across the internet for her beautiful game art. The cutting edge of art asset creation and visualisation software (Marmoset and Allegorithmics Substance Designer) use her work to sell themselves and to set the standard for the industry to follow. She has a dedicated presence online and broadcasts her tutorials to new artists on Twitch, and is a well known and active Polycount member. She has given talks at Hertfordshire University and is an active member of BAFTA Crew, helping and encouraging new people into the games industry.Despite being only 22 and with less than two years in the industry, Karen has helped develop new pipelines in a studio and has made a significant contribution to high profile PlayStation VR demos that have beenreceived with critical acclaim.

A limited number of sponsorship opportunities are available for the Women in Games Awards 2016. Contact Lesley McDiarmid or Conor Tallon to find out more.

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