What do you do now and who do you work for?
I’m the Global Communications Manager for Codemasters, working on the F1 and DiRT games franchises.
Tell us how you become a games PR in the first place.
It wasn’t something I planned. I’d always wanted to be a sports journalist and joined a local newspaper group after university. However a couple of years of working seven day weeks, with long hours, for crap money took its toll so I bowed out and joined a local PR agency. It wasn’t supposed to be long term just something to pay the bills while I decided what I wanted to do with my life. Turns out that I quite enjoyed it and after a few years I put in a speculative application for a PR role at a small games publisher up in Sheffield called ZOO Digital Publishing. I ended up spending the best part of three years ‘oop north before joining Codies, specifically to work on F1, in January 2009.
What’s the best or most memorable campaign, event or meeting involving games journalists you’ve had since then?
There are a few to be honest. Working in F1 is amazing so I’ve done some pretty cool things, most notably filming with Lewis Hamilton, Jake Humphrey and Nic Hamilton for a BBC F1 feature.
However, I think the best event specifically involving games journalists, would have to be our DiRT 3 Gymkhana Uncovered event at Battersea Power Station back in April. We had Ken Block and Mikko Hirvonen performing live Gymkhana and gave a game presentation with a Q&A session with Ken and Kris Meeke on stage in front of around 450 people. It was an amazing thing to be a part of and something we’re all very proud to put our names to.
And the worst one?
Probably Battersea again. We were setting up for the best part of 12 hours the day before and nothing worked. Consoles crashed, the PC blue screened and half the branding was missing. To finish up we did a run through of the presentation right at the end of the day which was terrible. An absolute car crash.
We were supposed to be at the MCV Awards collecting an award for Sales Triumph but instead I was frantically running around Battersea swearing.
It all turned out okay, apart from a huge power cut halfway through the presentation which left me filling to a big crowd and talking about UI design for far longer than I was comfortable.
How has the games industry changed since you started out?
From my perspective I would say that the growth in social media has been the biggest change. We are now able to communicate directly to our consumers through Facebook and Twitter. It’s now much easier for them to get in contact with us and ask specific questions about our games.
F1 is the prime example of this. Both myself and Steve Hood (F1 2010/2011 Chief Game Designer) have personal Twitter accounts with over 4,000 followers, which is crazy. My wife doesn’t even care about anything I have to say so I’m amazed that so many people follow me (its @AndyGray_ by the way).
Is this for the better or worse?
That has definitely been for the better but it’s a pretty big commitment if you are going to do it properly. I probably dick about a little bit too much at times which annoys one or two.
Who has had the most influence on your career so far?
There are a few people. It sounds corny but I have a lot to thank my wife and my family for. My parents are self employed so a lot of their work ethic has stuck with me and my wife actually found me my first job in games.
Games industry-wise: Rich Eddy(my boss) and Ade Lawton (fellow PR Manager at Codies) are both awesome and helped me a lot when I made the move from a small publisher to Codemasters.
What is the best bit of advice about the games industry/PR anyone’s ever given you ?
A few weeks ago a family friend said to me, “Isn’t PR a piece of piss?” And do you know what, the core principles certainly are. It’s not rocket science. It boils down to a few simple things: being honest, being friendly and knowing your product. Those were the first things I learnt when I entered PR back in 2005 and they’ve stuck with me ever since.
How do you find working with games journalists and how has it changed since you started out?
It’s great. We’re all in the industry because we love games and I am especially lucky as I work on racing titles so get to deal with games journalists who also love their motorsport. It makes my life an awful lot easier and in all honesty I probably spend more time talking to people about sport than about games.
Online media is becoming more and more important so one of the main changes is making sure that you’ve always got something of interest to film as this helps make the features more rounded rather than just a straight to camera interview.
What advice would you give to games journalists starting out/wanting to get into industry?
Attend events and stick around for a beer afterwards wherever possible. The more people you get to know the easier your job will become. It’s always good to be able to put a face to a name.
What is your dream PR job/campaign?
Hmmm tough one. I love working on F1 and I am in no rush to go anywhere else, however if I was pushed then I’d love to work for one of the big F1 teams or maybe even the mighty Spurs.
A few quick questions. What’s your favourite…*
Platform: Depends on the type of game. PS3 for football and racing (better wheel support) and 360 for everything else.
Game: If we are talking about hours spent playing then back in the day it was PES and now it’s FIFA.
Developer: I can’t decide betweenCodemasters Birmingham and Codemasters Racing Studio Ah okay, I think Rocksteady has done unbelievable things with the Batman licence.
Games writer: I have a few. To name them would be professional suicide.
Gaming site (not your own): Ha Ha see above
Games magazine (not your own): Make that a hat-trick of cop outs
Non-gaming magazine/website: I used to love Football 365 before the redesign but the site I use most is YouTube if only to watch old Partridge clips.
Who’s your games industry hero? Probably David Rutter from EA. The way he has resurrected FIFA to overtake PES in terms of quality and gameplay has to be admired. Plus Spurs were amazing in FIFA 11 and long may that continue!
*Please note that these are Andy’s personal choices and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Codemasters!