Sophia George is a games designer from Norfolk who came to the attention of BAFTA in 2012, when she won the BAFTA One to Watch Award, alongside her team that created the game Tick Tock Toys. The game has since been released on the iTunes App Store in 40 countries and has reached no. 2 in the kids free apps chart.
The success continued for Sophia in 2013, as she was named a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit, acknowledging her as one of the top British prospects in the video game industry. The award offered Sophia the chance to develop her skills, with advice and guidance from industry experts.
“It feels fantastic to be named a Breakthrough Brit!” Sophia said.
“This is a great opportunity for me to learn more about the industry and improve my craft.”
Aged just 23, Sophia now works as the first ever Game Designer in Residence at The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), which is dedicated to art and design. During her six-month residency, she will be creating games concepts based on the galleries, as well as running public events and workshops.
The position allows Sophia to view games as an art form, whilst giving her the opportunity to engage the public with games design and challenge assumptions about the industry.
YGD caught up with Sophia to see how she is progressing in her role at V&A, and to ask how other aspiring game designers might follow in her footsteps…
- How did you get into gaming? Was it something you loved from a young age?
I've been interested in games as long as I can remember. I would play a lot of games with my older brother and sister on our Amiga 500. But I became more serious about games - and wanting to make games - when I got a Pokemon Red for Christmas in 1999.
- What subjects did you take at school? In hindsight is there something you wish you'd studied?
At school, I was mostly interested in art and languages, so I studied French, German, applied art, graphic design and history, as well as the mandatory subjects.
When I got to college to do my A-Levels, I studied graphic design, textiles, photography and media, while also studying for a GCSE in Japanese. I definitely regret not taking fine art and art history - I think they would come in handy for my current role at V&A!
- You took a Games Art and Design course at university - were there many girls in your classes?
On my course there were about 10 girls out of 40 students, but a few dropped out for various reasons.
- What was the best and worst thing about your degree?
The best thing was the amount of skills we learnt on the course. I was afraid it would be all digital but we got to experiment with more traditional skills such as 2D animation and life drawing. The worst thing was probably the fact that there weren’t many girls!
- Can you talk us through how you created your first game, Tick Tock Toys?
We originally developed Tick Tock Toys for the 2011 Dare to be Digital competition, so we had about three months to make a prototype. We then developed it into a full game in 2012/2013 for a further four months – although it feels like it took years!
As we were a small team, I had to take on a few roles during development. I worked on the concept, game design, character design, 3D modelling, rigging, animation, textures, UI and general management of the team. Seven people worked on Tick Tock Toys overall - with people dropping in and out. I think with this project, the easiest (and most enjoyable) part was coming up with the game mechanics, while the hardest part was generally running a business.
- You're now a Games Designer in Residence at the V&A - how did you get the job and what's a typical day like there?
I applied for the position on the V&A's website, which consisted of a written application. I was then called back for an interview and 20 minute presentation – a very daunting experience! What I do here varies on a day to day basis. Sometimes I will have open studios and events and other times it’s just me working in my studio or exploring the galleries. I'm currently working on games inspired by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement.
- What's next for you?
I still want to keep making my own games, as I've had a lot of ideas for concepts over the past few years that I want to explore. I'm curious about collaborating with other people on games too.
- What's your one piece of practical advice for young people who are looking to get into the industry?
I think that young people can get a head start in the industry by making games as soon as possible! There are some accessible (and free) game-making tools out there, so it’s never been easier to get some game-making experience.