Sunday, June 16, 2024
FeaturesSpotlight Interviews

Spotlight on… Claire Sharkey

Claire has worked for global brands, managing Marketing and PR across the games industry, founded her own company, Sharkbit, and is now a BAFTA nominee in her role as Head of Marketing and PR with Weather Factory. 

She also runs Pixelnebriation, an event that focuses on inclusion, socialising and career support.

I enjoyed the opportunity to sit down with Claire and talk about her background in Esports and how her life in games began.

Robin: Hi Claire, let’s start out with you introducing yourself to our readers

Claire: Hello there. I’m Claire, a very Irish Catholic, engineer turned marketer. I’ve led brand for global companies across the games industry and try to make myself useful where I can, when it comes to events, talks and the like.

I enjoy short walks to the fridge, stalking fluffy animals and whatever whiskey is put before me!

What’s your role in the video game world? 

I’m Head of Marketing and PR for Weather Factory and founder of Sharkbit. In the simplest sense, my job is to promote the wonderful creations by game devs and devise strategy and campaigns that service the multiple needs of studios and offer communities fun, excitings ways of interacting with brands. 

I also work with or run my own events, like Pixelnebriation, usually aimed at helping to connect people for business purposes but more so to help folk meet new friends in a comfortable environment.

What was your path to get you where you are today? 

I got into the industry without any background or knowledge related to the roles I now have! I wanted to be an Architect, life happened as it does and I got a job as a Marketing Coordinator in the e-gaming industry. I learnt everything as I went on whilst maintaining some freelance writing and PR work for games on the side. Eventually I got into games full time and managed to stay put.

How has the world of Esports changed over the past five years? 

There’s more tournaments now than ever for one. It’s definitely infiltrated main stream media more over the past few years and that’s due to all the hard work put in by those working in every department, be it ops, events, marketing, coaches and players.

Sponsorship has also helped to catapult Esports out of confined hubs. So many huge brands like Coca Cola and Audio are dropping huge spends to get a piece of this chonky cake! Streaming alone has global companies competing to gain rights to hit as many humans as possible during tournaments.  

How have you found being a lesbian in the video games industry?

Personally it’s not been a relevant part of my career, in terms of the roles I’ve had. It helps in areas where insight is needed, though that can be dependant on different situations.

Where it becomes relevant is more so for other people who may feel more comfortable talking to or hearing from someone who happens to be gay.

I have encountered my share of grief, though not always from the most obvious sources. Others have endured a lot worse hardship and bigotry fuelled turmoil. But I believe it’s important for people to know that you can work in an industry that also happens to be related to your favourite hobby and your sexuality simply not be an issue.

What is diversity like specifically in Esports?

Competitively, it could be much better. This answer is going to blunt because Esports in its most basic form is naturally set up to be inclusive to any human.

There’s no reason why more efforts aren’t made to create more female teams, for example, and to have mixed teams in general. The only important element should be if you’re good enough to join a team and the desire to put the work in. That is not a skill owned by age, gender, sexuality, etc and the industry has enough money and resources to have already sorted out diversity issues.

What more could be done to improve equality and diversity in Esports and the industry has a whole?

If you’re a tournament or team organisation, ensure that your brand reinforces inclusion very loudly and then actively follows through on that. Widen your pool when it comes to scouting for the best players. Discussions about inclusion should always occur but after a certain point, if action doesn’t coincide with discussion it stagnates progression.

I think some Esports bodies are scared to push boundaries too far in case they upset pockets of naysayers in their demographic range. But that demographic is no longer predominantly male and definitely not an excuse to not go full throttle on allowing, without shoehorning expansion of diversity.

What would be your advice for a young LGBTQ person looking to get into Esports? 

For becoming a professional player, I would say that you should work on honing your own skills and defining your own brand, regardless of LGBTQ or not. You should be judged on your skills and how you present yourself above all.

In terms of working behind the scenes, Esports jobs are growing all the time, follow the news, keep up with what’s occurring, not just within your game of choice. Build a portfolio of your own gaming clips and join groups you feel you’d be comfortable in.

What’s your earliest memory of video games?

I remember going into my neighbours house and saw what I thought was a cassette player and cassettes with cartoon shows I knew, such as Batman and Scooby Doo. It was amazing to me, that you could play video games on cassettes. My experience up until that was seeing arcade machines in the village chip shop!

What one game defined your childhood?

If I stick to the technical timeline of childhood, I suppose the answer would be Duke Nukem 3D or Super Mario Land on the Gameboy.

My main gaming experience for years consisted of playing demos from my uncle’s PC magazines. One CD had Duke Nukem but it was the whole game. I played it to death and it was the first game I fully completed.

If you’re feeling down, what’s the one game you can rely on to cheer you up?

The last game I played were I was proper laughing while playing, would be Yakuza 0 but my happy place game, where I fully immerse myself and can take focus off life, is Knights of the Old Republic.

What does the future hold for you? 

A remote cabin somewhere, so I can live that hyugge life! But otherwise, this is always a hard question to answer.

Weather Factory have had an amazing first year, Cultist Simulator has been a great hit and we’re still giddy about our BAFTA nominations, after the fact. I’m very grateful to be a part of that and excited for the upcoming games we’re announcing and all the secret plans around that. 

I hope that whatever the future holds, it includes me feeling accomplished in doing the best I can to be of use, from a business point of view and from being someone that others can reach out to for support, even if it’s to lend an ear or a cuppa!

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