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Harriet Hughes, the CMO of Playstack, on the appeal of the games industry and what makes it unique

"This industry never fails to inspire and influence me"
Harriet Hughes, the CMO of Playstack, on the appeal of the games industry and what makes it unique
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 Here at we celebrate diversity of all kinds. Speaking to various inspiring women at our Pocket Gamer Connects events around the world, and being aware that there is still a real need to shout about the subject, we decided to focus on females for December. In this series of features we will interview various women working in gaming, as well as sharing other stories around the subject.

Harriet Hughes has an impressive career spanning over 15 years in marketing. After receiving a diploma from The Chartered Institute of Marketing, Harriet followed her passion for music and attained a marketing role at Universal Music Group. During her career in the music industry, she worked with a wide range of music acts, including U2 and The Sugarbabes.

Within the gaming industry Harriet has worked for illustrious names such as EA, on projects for Nickelodeon as well as the successful Harry Potter gaming franchise. Harriet hopes to make the gaming industry a more diverse and inclusive place. Not only does she want to increase representation in the gaming industry in general, but she also wants to help establish a broader representation within software itself. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your current role?

I’m Harriet Hughes, Chief Marketing Officer at Playstack. Playstack is a London-based games publisher. We publish fun and entertaining titles across all platforms and support developers however we can, enabling them to reach their full potential. My job focuses on overseeing all marketing and PR activity, including the various marketing campaigns for Playstack and our games. I have been at Playstack since the company’s inception in 2016, and throughout the years, have seen the team grow to 70+ employees who are spread across the globe

What first attracted you to the gaming industry?

After graduating from University, I joined Universal Music Group on a graduate trainee programme and from there worked my way up to Product Manager at Island Records. After four years, I took a year out to travel and that just happened to be the year that piracy (illegal downloads) hit the industry very hard. When I returned, it was very much doom and gloom, so I decided to reach out to my network and see what other opportunities existed in entertainment. An ex-colleague from Polydor who was working at EA told me about a job vacancy there. I was lucky enough to get an interview and the rest, as they say, is history. EA had just started making the Harry Potter games so it was a hugely exciting time to join.

What effect do you think the culture within which you grew up has had an influence on your career path?

This industry never fails to inspire and influence me. It’s full of incredibly driven, talented people with more skills than I could ever have imagined. I am in awe of anyone who can programme a game. What inspires me the most is how those working around you overcome player challenges via code and use their programming knowledge to come up with really enjoyable solutions that delight the audience.

Unlike many other career paths, working in games allows you to see an entire process unfolding, from early design docs and prototypes (or even back of an envelope) ideas to the finished game reaching the hands of players - and that’s something that I think is wholly unique to us.

What challenges have you had to face during your career - thinking specifically about being a female in the industry?

While I’ve not personally faced too much negativity, I do have experiences where my gender has affected how I have been spoken to or treated at work Historically, the sectors that relate to computers - be it programming, hardware or software - have been male-dominated industries, and that can breed a certain culture that at times has been overwhelming. The only way to solve this is for the industry to work together to keep diversity (gender and racial) at the top of the agenda.

What advice would you give to companies looking to improve equality within the workplace?

Every company needs to do more to ensure it has a diverse workforce. There are so many brilliant, talented and driven women who are looking to get involved in the industry in one way or another, and we should do everything we can to support them to succeed.

There needs to be more done on a grassroots level, to foster and nurture these individuals and to ensure that they’re ready to work in the industry they feel passionate about. We need more opportunities to make it easier for people to get into games: such as university courses, mentoring programmes and internships.

The games industry is one of the most welcoming, friendly and fun places to work (hey, you are actively encouraged to play games) but it’s getting into it that can be one of the main challenges for a lot of women.

And what advice would you give to other women joining the industry?

Enjoy every minute! Things have definitely improved since I started working in games, and they’re continuing to improve and evolve regularly. There are more opportunities than ever for women’s opinions and voices to be heard, but we do still have some way to go. My advice is to grab every opportunity you can, enjoy it, and appreciate it, as it’s a stupidly fun, rewarding, smart and generally recession-proof industry to work in.

Who inspires you the most (not necessarily from within games)?

Mark Ritson who is a Professor in Marketing and Brand Consultant is the person who inspires me the most professionally. As first and foremost a marketer, I think it’s critical to keep up to date with marketing trends and brand campaigns and think about what I can apply to my role. I took his Mini MBA during lockdown and he’s a guru. He predicted how things would be post-pandemic: the tone of the adverts we’re now seeing on our TVs and the recession.

The industry as a whole is incredibly inspiring and I am surrounded by such creative talent. Some of our games are only made by a team of two and The Entropy Centre, which we published last month, was all from the mind of one man. A solo developer, he did all the programming, all the art, all the level design - if that isn’t inspiring I don’t know what is!

Since you entered the games industry, what is the biggest change you’ve seen and is this for better or worse?

The exponential growth of mobile games has got to be the biggest change I’ve witnessed. I am showing my age now but there weren’t very many games on mobile at all when I first started in the games industry. There are now billions of mobile games and billions of female players too. Mobile has made games more accessible to women, opening the doors for those who may be juggling work, kids and housework. For those who do not have the time in the day to pick up a controller or sit down to play a console or PC game, they can get a huge buzz out of playing something on their mobile.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?

There needs to be more diversity. There are people from every walk of life, from every background, waiting to get their chance in the industry. It’s important that they’re afforded this shot. Diversity and representation are key to not only making our industry feel warm and welcoming but also making more exciting games.

If you could only keep 3 games on your phone for the rest of the time, which would you choose?

Candy Crush (yep I said it, it's stereotypical, but there you go)

Catchee or anything from Laser Dog

Subway Surfer