An interview with Sally Blake, award-winning video game producer and advocate for women in games

26 February 2024

A woman playing a video game
Sally Blake 1
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Category: Interviews, Industry insights

Sally Blake is a bright light in the world of games. Having risen through the ranks at leading video game publisher Ubisoft and earning her stripes as an executive producer on VR games, she now leads her own studio Silent Games, and is set to release an ambitious RPG over the coming months. 

Equally passionate about supporting the next generation of game developers, Sally has won numerous awards for her mentorship and advocacy for women in games and has recently joined Falmouth’s Indie Game Development MA (Online) community as an online tutor. We chatted to her about her passion for games, her role as a CEO and what it means to advocate for women in the games industry.  

When did you first realise you wanted to be part of the game design industry? 

I was very young when I first realised I wanted to be part of the game design industry. My mum had a Sega Mega Drive, so we used to play games together, like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and when my two little brothers came along we used to play games together, too. Then in 1998 – when I was seven years old – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out, and that game was such an inspiration to me, and made me think ‘oh, this is what I want to do!’.  

So, I started writing stories for games, designing characters and posting them online, and also started tailoring my schoolwork towards relevant subjects, like graphic design, art and computer tech. And even though my teachers at the time tried to discourage me - because back then game development wasn’t an established career - I was very stubborn, and luckily my parents were supportive of my ambitions.  

It’s always nice to go to the award ceremonies and see women in the industry being nominated for their achievements.

What makes you so passionate about games? 

I see games in the same way as any piece of media that can inspire you, much like books, films and TV. Certain games have an immersive quality, too, which can have a positive impact on people; when I worked on some of the big games for Ubisoft, we got lots of comments from players telling us how our games helped to take their minds off things they were struggling with, that it was something they could come home and do to relax – some people even sent us presents to the studio to thank us! Building relationships with players and understanding the positive impact games can make is really important to me; the power of games hasn’t always been recognised, but I’m glad to see that is changing. 

You previously led the ‘Women Making Games’ group, are a Women in Games ambassador and have won multiple awards for the impact you are making representing and supporting women in games. How does it feel to be recognised for your contributions in such an important aspect of the industry?  

Supporting women in the games industry is something that I've been involved in for a long time, and something I was aware of very early in my career. Being nominated for lots of awards in this area is incredible; the fact that people have taken the time to write something about me and submit it, and that they have been impacted enough by what I've done to take on the time-consuming task of writing a nomination, is lovely. It’s always nice to go to the award ceremonies, too, and see women in the industry being nominated for their achievements – that was very inspirational to me in the early days. 

You are the CEO of your own game studio, Silent Games. What was it like to get this off the ground, and what’s next for your company? 

I worked at Ubisoft for around seven years prior to setting up Silent Games, and it was during my time there that I met my co-founder. He had a cool idea for a game, and as I’d got the production and business experience, plus the fact the games industry was growing, we decided to give it a go. This was in 2019, and so when the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, we were able to get some investment – it actually made the games industry grow even more because everybody had to stay inside! 

So, that's how we got the company off the ground, and a lot of our staff either come from Ubisoft or other companies that we have worked with – people tend to come and work for us and then want to stay, which is great! We'll soon be releasing a game which has been in development for the last couple of years; it's a sci-fi fantasy RPG, and we're really excited about it. The team have been working incredibly hard on it; we're a small but passionate team, and the game is very ambitious, but it’s looking really good now. We’ve had a few player tests where players have really enjoyed it, so that's very exciting for us. 

Having achieved so much already in your career, is there one achievement that has meant the most to you? 

There's a couple of things – I couldn't pick just one! The first has to be seeing my name in the credits of the first game I ever worked on. Getting my first job at a big global company like Ubisoft was a big achievement in of itself, and then I got to work on Just Dance which was a really fun project, getting to dance every day while testing it – so seeing my name in those credits was amazing.  

My second highlight was getting the initial funding for the studio; knowing that there was belief in what we were doing, and people willing to invest in it, was a nice justification. 

Thirdly is winning the Women in Games Business Impact Award in 2023 – I'd actually been nominated for that award four times before finally winning it! I took my mum to the awards ceremony last year, with the caveat that I didn’t think I’d win, so when I did win, it was lovely to have her in the audience; it is such a nice memory because my family have been so supportive of me throughout my journey.  

The course is a fantastic forum for sharing skills and to teach people about the industry and all its intricacies.  

What do you most enjoy about your role as online tutor on Falmouth’s online master’s in Indie Game Development?

I did a lot of mentoring before with my Women in Games organisation and with other organisations, and so joining Falmouth’s course as an online tutor has been amazing so far. Everyone is super welcoming, and so passionate about games, and the calibre of questions I’ve been asked by students is really high; they're very engaged and we've had some great discussions about game development. 

With the course being indie game development specifically, it covers a broad range of disciplines – from programming to design and narrative development – so it's nice to see students from different backgrounds working together and helping each other. It’s a fantastic forum for sharing skills and to teach people about the industry and all its intricacies.  

What piece of advice do you wish you had been given when you were first starting out on your career in the games industry? 

This question came up in one of the course webinars the other day, and I think it's something that's applicable to any industry: making mistakes is part of the journey and is in fact an integral part of the learning experience. In the past when we've hired junior developers at Silent Games, I have noticed their reluctance about admitting they didn't know a certain piece of terminology, or how to use a certain piece of software. And thinking about my own journey, I realised that I would have learned things a lot more quickly if I had felt comfortable with making mistakes.  

It’s understandably hard to do in the beginning, because you want to make a good impression, but the game development community are extremely welcoming and very open to helping each other. So, it’s something I always encourage students to do, and especially with the Indie Game Development course being so multidisciplinary, it’s very likely someone else will have the answer you’re looking for if you ask for help.  

Finally, what game are you playing and loving at the moment, and why?  

I'm currently playing Baldur's Gate 3, which is being played by pretty much the whole game industry right now! The studio which produced it, Larian Studios, have inspired me for a long time, and I've even tried to replicate some of their philosophies into how we work at Silent Games. So, it's been nice to see their work over the years culminating in Baldur's Gate 3; it is such a well-rounded gaming experience, both narratively and visually.  

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