Category: 2018 Game Dev Heroes

Game Dev Heroes 2018 Highlights & Winners

Putting together the first ever Game Dev Heroes awards event was a daunting task. There are so many people doing great work behind the scenes of the games industry that there’s always so much more that can be done to recognise them & show our appreciation. Our little part in showing that appreciation took place last month in Brighton, packing out the room with over a hundred talented people from across all areas of game development.

Here’s some of our collated highlights from Game Dev Heroes 2018

Anna Hollinrake
Art & Animation Winner

Our first Game Dev Hero of evening is Anna Hollinrake of Dream Reality Interactive, picking up the award for the art category!

Anna Hollinrake - Art & Animation Winner - Game Dev Heroes 2018

Recognised both for her professional work & as an advocate for mental health awareness and industry inclusion, Anna is an excellent role model for artists in the games industry.
“Again and again, Anna has pushed the limits of visual story telling for her professional and personal work… Anna always adds her own personal flair and unique taste to everything she touches.”

Meg Jayanth

We’re very proud to say that our next hero is Meg Jayanth, one of the most notable writers in games & the award-winning lead behind Inkle’s 80 Days. Meg’s writing is frequently cited as inspirational & influential to many, showcasing the high levels that can be achieved with story-based and narrative led games.

Lesleyann White
QA Winner

Being able to include an award category for QA was something we were passionate about from the start, and we’re delighted to see Lesleyann recognised as a Game Dev Hero in the field, with the award presented by Jamie Clarke from Games Jobs Direct.

Lesleyann White - QA Winner - Game Dev Heroes

Praised heavily across both professional and personal qualities, Lesleyann’s described as bringing “an amazing level of thoroughness and quality” and “a fantastic colleague and an incredibly caring and considerate individual”.

Sam Hughes
Sound Winner

Sam’s become a recognised name across game audio, largely in his extensive work to bring awareness & give platforms to the work and voices of other people. It seems only fitting that Sam himself is our Game Dev Hero for Sound, recognising the value that his contributions and advocacy have brought both to the game audio sector and the industry at large.

Sam’s currently interning with Remedy Entertainment in Finland, but happily we had Alyx Jones, Head Writer for The Sound Architect accepting the award on Sam’s behalf.

Jessica Gaskell
Production Winner

Jess is our Game Dev Hero Producer, with a hugely positive reception for her extensive work behind the scenes at Sumo Digital!

A pivotal member of the development team at Sumo that truly understands the value of individuals both as professionals and as people, Jess is cited both as “The best boss I have ever had” & “a catalyst for success, a production powerhouse, and long overdue for the recognition she deserves.”

– – –
John Campbell
Programming Winner

With an excellent intro that almost created the first Game Dev Villain, Nick Dixon from Launchpad Falmouth presented the award to John of Triangular Pixels who, in perfect Game Dev Heroes style, is described as “always busy behind the scenes creating excellent gameplay that whole studios get the credit for”

John’s known for being a positive force across development, always actively working to help improve experiences both for the studio and the players, as well as helping out others by sharing his knowledge and experience.

Haley Uyrus
Marketing & Community Winner

Picking up a second award of the night for the Failbetter Games team was Haley, our Game Dev Hero for marketing!

Haley Uyrus - Marketing & Community Award Winner - Game Dev Heroes 2018

With excellent work as Failbetter’s marketing manager, Haley is also a strong advocate & promoter for more awareness of the value that marketing brings to games. Between talks, articles and great advice, Haley’s guidance can be invaluable both to fledgling studios and for those looking for role models in games marketing.

Thad Frogley
Management Winner

Congratulations to Boss Alien’s Thad, our Management Game Dev Hero, presented by Ian Goodall of Aardvark Swift!

Thad Frogley - Management Winner - Game Dev Heroes 2018

Thad’s an excellent role model for improving the inclusion, mentoring and empowerment of teams & individuals, with particular note to those just starting out on their careers in games. It’s no surprise that “Colleagues from previous studios across his career now have whole careers of their own founded on Thad’s belief in their potential”.

Bill Donegan
Unsung Hero

Bill’s R&D work for SpecialEffect over the past 11 years has resulted in genuinely life-changing experiences for so many people. With recent projects including both the EyeMine software and work on the XBox Adaptive Controller, he’s helped empower and enable disabled gamers across the world. A true Unsung Hero, “Bill’s imagination, creativity and drive have been at the heart of SpecialEffect’s technical achievements”.

Helen Andrzejowska
Diversity Champion

Presented by Ed Perkins from Square Enix, our Diversity Champion is Helen Andrzejowska, founder of Ocean Spark Studios, a studio with the aim of increasing the amount of women working within the industry.

Helen Andrzejowska - Diversity Champion - Game Dev Heroes 2018

Mike Simpson
Outstanding Contribution

With 17 years at the head of Creative Assembly, Mike’s been a driving force behind both the studio and the Total War franchise. You can read all about Mike’s work and the Outstanding Contribution award here.

Mike Simpson - Outstanding Contribution - Game Dev Heroes 2018

Visit our Facebook gallery for more images from the event (and tag yourself up if you were there!)

A huge thanks to our partners and supporters, without whom we wouldn’t have been able to do it – Aardvark Swift, Games Jobs Direct, Mimram Media, Square Enix, Launchpad Falmouth & Analog

Thank you to all of the Game Dev Heroes who came along to make it a memorable evening – we look forward to seeing you again soon!

The Winners of Game Dev Heroes Awards Revealed

The unsung heroes of the UK’s games development community have been named at an awards ceremony during the Develop Brighton event.

Designed to recognise the talent and hard work of individuals within the game development sector, the Game Dev Heroes are the brainchild of industry veteran Alex Boucher & Aardvark Swift Recruitment, who also hosted the intimate awards ceremony at Mesmerist, Brighton.

The winners were chosen by a judging panel comprising senior figures from across the industry, namely:

Adam Campbell – Azoomee
Ben Sewell – Launchpad
Caroline Hinds – Creative England
Dana Ramnarine – Rhum
Ed Perkins – Square Enix
Eithne Metcalfe-Bliss – SEGA
Emma Purvey – Outplay
Emma Smith – Creative Assembly
Emma Turner – Outplay Entertainment
Harinder Sangha – SEGA Hardlight
Ian Goodall – Aardvark Swift
Jamie Clarke – Games Jobs Direct
Kish Hirani – Terra Virtual
Lisa Carter – Mimram Media
Marie-Claire Isaaman – Women in Games
Marina Jonsdottir – Wargaming
Nick Dixon – Falmouth Launchpad
Nick Duncombe – Playground Games
Rosemary Buahin – Curve Digital
Simon Iwaniszak – Red Kite Games
Tamsin O’Luanaigh – nDreams
Thad Frogley – Boss Alien
Yvonne Dawes – Frontier Developments

Here we reveal the winners – and some commentary from those who nominated them…
The full winners profiles are available here!

Art & Animation
Anna Hollinrake, Senior Artist, Dream Reality Interactive

“Incredible visual artist and all around good egg. I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”

“Again and again, Anna has pushed the limits of visual story telling for her professional and personal work. Working on projects like Lola and the Giant, Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion and newly announced Arca’s Path, Anna always adds her own personal flair and unique taste to everything she touches.”

“Anna not only has large strength in her work but she also is a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and creating healthy work spaces in games.”


Meg Jayanth, Freelance Writer & Narrative Designer

“Meg has helped to completely change the way people view narrative design, opening up a whole new understanding of what can be achieved through great writing in games.”

“Meg is the award-winning lead writer for 80 Days, a game with writing so good it made a Telegraph list of best novels. With projects including Sunless Sea and the highly anticipated Sable, Meg is inspiring a whole generation of writers and narrative designers, showing what can be achievable in games.”

“Meg’s work has had a significant impact in writing for games & has been influential in paving the way for a new wave of great narrative-based games.”


Lesleyann White, Quality Analyst & Support, Failbetter Games

“She’s the definition of hero… She deserves all the recognition in the world for doing her job so well you’d think we have no bugs or problems at all! Hero, hero, hero!!”

“As Failbetter’s first dedicated in-house QA person, Lesleyann immediately created a space for herself and her work that brought an amazing level of thoroughness and quality, streamlining the production structure and creating more effective new processes wherever problems are found.

“Described as a fantastic colleague and an incredibly caring and considerate individual, she’s always ready to do the extra bit to make coming to work a complete joy, inspiring colleagues to keep working to make this industry a welcoming place. Lesleyann has even stepped up with her organisational and team building skills, reviving the studio’s game night and becoming famous for her game-themed fruit platter creations!”


Sam Hughes, Founder The Sound Architect & Intern at Remedy Entertainment

“Sam [and the team] have massively helped to raise the profile and understanding of games audio in recent years. Sam’s a great ambassador and his work is genuinely appreciated.”

“Sam doesn’t need a great deal of introduction to anyone involved in audio, with his work behind The Sound Architect blog and podcast series already being very familiar across the game audio world. He puts a huge amount of time and effort into his work and is always looking to create more inclusive space for people marginalised by the industry.”

“Sam will often attend events and set up interviews on his own time and funding, all while studying for a PhD at York University and now also working as an intern sound designer at Remedy in Finland.”


Jessica Gaskell, Producer, Sumo Digital

“Her professionalism and attitude towards work inspire me to do my best every day and I can honestly say she is the best boss I have ever had.”

“Although Jess isn’t responsible for creating any of the content that goes into the game or the direction, she’s pivotal in ensuring that all the component pieces get done and come together as a whole. She has in-depth knowledge of her projects, all the component parts, the associated roles and how everything interacts.”

“With an unparalleled work ethic and a sense of selflessness, Jess is described as a catalyst for success, a production powerhouse, and long overdue for the recognition she deserves.”

“On top of that she is a key person in fostering the team’s friendly culture, recognising the value of individuals in their skills but also as people, and her respect towards mental health and health related issue are a breath of fresh air.”


John Campbell, Technical Director, Triangular Pixels

“[John] is incredible… He is by far the best games developer I have ever worked with and I’m so proud of him.”

“John is always busy behind the scenes creating excellent gameplay that whole studios get the credit for, but John just wants to create games people will love and enjoy. He always wants to make everyone else’s lives better by spending that extra effort to not only make players experience better – but also that of his coworkers with the tools and systems he came up with.”

“He is always helping other developers out on online groups, always sharing his knowledge, and isn’t afraid to be technical in his developer talks. He is always researching new methods and techniques which he could adapt to games development, and thinking out of the box to make some really innovative solutions.”


Marketing & Community
Haley Uyrus, Marketing Manager, Failbetter Games

“Haley works non-stop to create amazing marketing campaigns for Failbetter’s games, been part of the 30under30, and is an all round lovely person who makes anyone feel welcome in the industry.

“I saw Haley do a talk about her marketing for Failbetter Games at Develop Conference last year and how she gives all her marketing and community a distinct voice to fit with the world of their games. Seeing this in action through their highly successful Kickstarter [campaign] made me reach out to her and I found her to be very open and helpful, giving me pointers on how to maximise the marketing for my own game on a limited budget. She is exactly the sort of person the games industry should be holding up as an example.”

“Haley was a key figure in designing the Kickstarter for Sunless Skies, a Kickstarter which reached its £100,000 goal in four hours and went on to raise £360,000 in total. She also stepped up to the plate when the company Marketing Director was absent for maternity leave, keeping the community updated regarding the progress of Sunless Skies, as well as the Fallen London reworks that happened during the same time – it was series of major updates and overhauls to the seven year running browser game, and she ensured all updates were well-communicated (and well-hyped!) to the playerbase.”


Thad Frogley, Technical Director, Boss Alien

“Thad’s contribution to the culture of his studio, the industry’s outreach towards young people of all backgrounds, and the careers of all those who’ve had the pleasure of working with him can’t be overstated.”

“Thad’s management style, focused on mentorship and empowerment, gives everyone on his team a fantastic start in the industry.”

“Thad fights hard to ensure talented graduates or interns that may have struggled to find a personality fit at other studios are given a chance to thrive on his team. Colleagues from previous studios across his career now have whole careers of their own founded on Thad’s belief in their potential, going on to become invaluable team members as a result of Thad’s mentorship.”


Unsung Hero
Bill Donegan, Project Manager, SpecialEffect

“[Bill] is a true unsung hero… whose work has transformed the lives of disabled gamers from all over the world through his R&D work at SpecialEffect.”

“Bill’s imagination, creativity and drive have been at the heart of SpecialEffect’s technical achievements ever since the charity began in 2007. As well as playing a crucial role in the team’s success in creating access solutions for hundreds of severely disabled individuals in the U.K., he has also helped create solutions that have had a global impact, too.”

“He was Project Lead in creating SpecialEffect’s open-source ‘EyeMine’ software, a gaze-controlled interface to Minecraft launched earlier this year. Bill also played a key role in the success of recently launched and globally acclaimed XBox Adaptive Controller, co-ordinating SpecialEffect’s contribution, alongside that of other charity partners, to both its design and development.”


Diversity Champion
Helen Andrzejowska, Director, Ocean Spark Studios

“Helen constantly goes above and beyond to inspire and enthuse girls to consider a career in games.”

“Helen founded Ocean Spark Studios with the aim of increasing the amount of women working within the industry, as she truly believes a balanced workforce is a better workforce. Although the studio is only small, she constantly perseveres to try and make a difference with educational & informative visits across schools & colleges.”

“Helen (and co-director Ellie Brown) regularly host workshops to introduce more girls & young people to games as a career, inspiring them to join a creative and wonderful industry, while also advocating the merits of student startup and indie studios.”


Outstanding Contribution
Mike Simpson, Creative Director, Creative Assembly

“For the last 17 years Mike has been the creative force behind Total War, now the most successful PC games franchise of all time, helping to take Creative Assembly from five to 500 employees as it grew from indie developer to publisher-owned super-studio. Mike has a vast knowledge of the industry, which he uses to support BAFTA, sitting on their Committee.”

Alex Boucher, organiser of the Game Dev Heroes awards said: “A huge congratulations to all the winners and, indeed, the finalists. We’re delighted with how the Game Dev Heroes awards have been received and look forward to taking the event forward in 2019 and beyond.

“And, of course, a big thank you to our sponsors Aardvark Swift, Games Jobs Direct, Square Enix, Launchpad, Mimram Media and Analog.”

To find out more about the Game Dev Heroes Awards, contact