60 Seconds with… Rare Senior Designer Shelley Preston

Rare has been responsible for some of the best-loved videogames ever made, such as Jetpac, Atic Atac and Banjo-Kazooie. Last year, the 34-year-old British company released the hugely popular Sea of Thieves, a pirate-themed shared-world adventure title. We sat down with one of the company’s senior designers to talk about her role, how she ended up at Rare and her experiences of being a woman in the tech sector.


Shelley PrestonName: Shelley Preston

Role: Senior Designer

Age: 34

Lives: Market Bosworth

Family: Married – her husband Andrew also works at Rare

Pets: A cat called Bella

Hobbies: Video games (currently playing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey) and travelling

Tell us about your current role

I’m part of the design team on Sea of Thieves. I’m part of a team that’s responsible for the vision of the game and the experience that we want to offer to players. Part of that is taking on feedback from people playing the game and working out the best way to implement that. We work alongside other teams to make sure we are prioritising the right things for players and adapting to their needs. That’s a big part of our work on Sea of Thieves; we have a vision for how we want players’ experience to be and we work to bring that to life.

What were your previous roles?

My first role in the industry was at Rare; I was a games tester. I didn’t have any prior experience and at that time the concept of gaming as a career was something I was completely unaware of. I was a gamer and played a lot of games but it never clicked with me that this was something I could make a living from. When that realisation came to me, I became a tester and fell in love with the industry. I knew it was where I wanted to be. I worked really hard as a game tester and was given the opportunity to move into a junior design role, and I’ve been involved in that area ever since.

What are your aims at Rare?

I want to create really positive and memorable experiences for people. I want to work on games that are meaningful and touch people’s lives. That’s something I think we’ve achieved with Sea of Thieves. We’ve heard lots of amazing stories of people who have become friends through playing the game; one couple fell in love and got engaged after meeting each other in Sea of Thieves. Having a positive impact on people’s lives is something that’s very close to my heart, and videogames can do that for individuals and groups.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

In any creative role, you can have an infinite number of ideas but only a finite amount of time or people to help you create it. It’s hard to figure out how to shape what you want to achieve into something achievable in the time you have. While that can be difficult, it’s also one of the best parts of my job, too, because you are turning ideas into reality.

What’s the best part of your job?

When I see people playing a game I have worked on. Before streaming, we would have conducted user research tests or just happen to see people playing our game. Companies would read about what people thought about their game. Now, with the popularity of streaming, we can go to Mixer and watch people play Sea of Thieves for the first time. Seeing the impact it has on people is an incredibly rewarding part of the job.

What are your experiences of being a woman in the tech sector?

My experiences have always been positive. I’ve never had any issues around me being a woman in any of my job roles. Over the years I’ve seen a lot more women in the technology sector, which is great.

Jetpac Refuelled

Jetpac Refuelled, part of Rare Replay

What was your career path to Rare?

I was really academic when I was younger and did well at school, but I didn’t really know what career I wanted to do. At the time, I didn’t realise that you could get a job in the area that you’re passionate about. That’s an important thing to teach; it’s incredible that you can work doing something you love.

I originally decided to be a speech therapist because helping people was a part of me and something I was interested in at that time. I got to university and realised that I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. So, I took a step back and thought about what I really wanted to become. I loved video games and I did some research and discovered that you could be a games tester without much experience.

I saw an advert for the games tester role at Rare on a recruitment website but it didn’t mention the company’s name. It just said it was in the same area, so I hoped it was at Rare, because they were one of my favourite companies. When I got the letter stating that I had an interview and saw the address, it was mind-blowing. I was following my dream and it was coming true.

Why is it important to encourage more women into the tech sector?

Having a diverse set of people creating something is very important, because the end result is always a reflection of the people who have made it. The more diversity you have in a team, the more diverse viewpoints and experiences you will have reflected in that end result.

What are you most proud of?

The general release of Sea of Thieves and the effect it has had on people. We have seen an amazing community spring up around the game. I’m proud of everything the team has achieved.

What inspires you?

The desire to create something that has a meaningful impact on people. With Sea of Thieves, it wasn’t just about creating a game, it was building something where people could go to make friends and enjoy themselves. Videogames have had such a positive experience on my life, and I’ve been inspired by connecting with games.

What is your favourite Microsoft product?

It has to be Teams. We really started using it during the making of Sea of Thieves and found that it was so easy to collaborate. Our teams could see important conversations we were having and share information. It’s been a really great tool.

What was the first bit of technology that you were excited about?

When I was young we had an Amstrad CPC464 and that was my first experience of videogames. I love playing the Dizzy games. I also remember we used to play a Batman game just to watch him tap his foot if you didn’t touch any controls for a few minutes. That blew our minds.