Untold Stories: Chantal Beaumont, Graphic Designer at Sumo Digital
In this series, we will be telling the ‘untold stories’ of the games sector and shining a light on the many women who helped contribute to the UK games industry the past thirty years. We’re joined by Chantal Beaumont who has worked in the industry for over 20 years and is currently positioned at Sumo Digital.
30 Years of Play: Tell us who you are, what you do and a little bit about your career in the industry.
Chantal Beaumont: My name is Chantal Beaumont, more often known as Chan. I’m a Graphic Designer on Sumo Digital’s Concept Team where I help visualise early game concepts, taking written and verbal ideas and making them into something that people can see. These images form part of the pitch process and early game prototypes.
I started my career working on manuals (remember those?), packaging and marketing materials at Gremlin Graphics in Sheffield in about 1997. I left when Infogrames bought Gremlin in 1999, moving to ZOO Digital where I did a bit more game packaging as well as a few interactive DVD quizzes and websites. In 2003 Darren Mills, co-founder and head of Sumo Digital’s Sheffield studio, asked me to interview for a job doing UI for Outrun 2 on XBOX. I’ve been here since, digging into as many things as I possibly can.
30YOP: How did you start working in the sector?
Chantal: It was my dream job! I trained as a Graphic Designer, did some work in my hometown of Hull and then interviewed for a job posting at Gremlin in Sheffield. I never in a million years expected to get it, but I did. As for moving into UI design, I did a few front-end mock-ups for a game that Infogrames was working on and this eventually led to me being offered the job at Sumo and expanding my skillset to become involved in development.
30YOP: What was the British games industry like in the early days of the sector?
Chantal: It was all I’d dreamt of! Most of the staff were young, Gremlin was in the middle of the city, I made lots of friends and went out regularly with them. We created some pretty cool games, like the Actua Sports series, and worked with the Designers Republic on a couple of titles, which I though was as cool as it could get. The teams were far smaller back in the days of the PS1 and the dev time was much shorter.
30YOP: What was it like to work early in the industry as a woman?
Chantal: We had a studio with around 300 staff, out of which I remember there only being three women working in development. It never occurred to me to analyse it that much because I’d grown up with cool parents who encouraged me to do whatever I wanted, and when I got to Gremlin I was made to feel part of the team. We all got along brilliantly, so I have nothing but good memories about my early career.
30YOP: Were there any big challenges that you faced in the early days of your career?
Chantal: It was challenging to move fully into UI, as it was a big sideways step. Back then, UI was handled by junior artists, but I think a Graphic Designer’s skillset is stronger for this kind of thing than an artist. UI is taken a lot more seriously these days and it’s improved massively.
30YOP: How did your role in the games industry change and what drove it?
Chantal: I’ve done bits of everything since starting at Sumo, I’ve done UI on a fair few titles and keep a close eye over the Graphic Design elements of the company, making brochures, t-shirts, murals, concept docs etc. Over the years I feel like I’ve gained the respect of my peers by working hard and treating everyone the same. People expect me to be in a managerial role after this amount of time, but it’s never been something I wanted, and Sumo has supported me in that. They’ve actually created a job that ‘fits’ me, so I’m really lucky.
30YOP: Have you got a memorable anecdote that shows what the industry was like?
Chantal: I remember my first week at Gremlin finding out that each lunchtime there was a network game of Quake 2; the first time I played Pat Phelan (Gremlin’s and eventually Sumo’s audio manager) came into our room to find out who ‘BettyFishcake’ was because I was a pretty sweet player, I’d launched a few rockets in his face and I had a girl’s name. It was unusual in those days.
30YOP: If you could change one thing about the sector, what would it be?
Chantal: I’d big-up the north of England, I love it here, it’s my home. People sometimes have a certain set of attitudes towards it, not realising that we have some of the best talent in the world.
30YOP: What would be your one piece of advice for someone starting out in the industry?
Chantal: These days you can learn so much online: how to draw, how to model, how to code, how to design a map, how to create a set of icons. Once you find something that you love (alongside a love of Video Games) do it every day. Be as good as you can be. Read and watch videos, break down your favourite games. Keep a keen eye on how things change in the industry, stay on top of new technologies in your field and stay keen to learn new things.
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You can find out more about Sumo Digital: https://www.sumo-digital.com/