Game Republic

Bobby Thandi interview

This profile forms part of a series of interviews produced as part of Game Republic’s 20th Anniversary celebrations supported by our Official Partners Barclays, Escape Technology and Red Kite Games.

Bobby Thandi is the founder and CEO of XR Games; a multi award-winning virtual reality (VR) game development studio based in Leeds. The studio works collaboratively with film studios and AAA IP publishers to create 3D virtual experiences for players to navigate, explore, and have fun in. Bobby has been a regular attendee and speaker at Game Republic and major industry events, has been at the forefront of innovation and is passionate about encouraging and nurturing new talent in the industry. Alongside working with fellow companies, Bobby has taken time to share the needs of the games industry with regional and national leaders so that Yorkshire and the North, and the whole of the UK can build growth and success for future years.

What is great about working in the games industry?

 When I think about games, I remember moments of joy – whether playing a single player game or sharing the experience with a friend. One of my fondest memories as a kid was playing Bubble Bobble 2 with my childhood friend Steve – we had an absolute blast! Every element of it was meticulously crafted – from the narrative to the mechanics, visuals to the audio – with the aim of engaging the player on every level. The game itself was only half the fun for me – playing cooperatively with my friend, sharing the joy of winning, or throwing a playful punch in the ribs if they messed up felt like something special.

Speaking of special, In May I took a day off work to enjoy Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. I’ve been absolutely blown away by the level of polish, the intuitive gameplay, and the freedom of creativity! It’s a masterpiece. For me, working in the games industry is creating art to inspire joy in others.

For me, working in the games industry is creating art to inspire joy in others.

What words of advice do you have for people starting out in the games sector?

It’s a passion industry, and for most people, it’s been something that they have held a real affection for from an early age. Over three billion people play video games around the world and a lot of those people want to get into the games industry, meaning that there is intense competition for every single role.

When you’re starting out in the industry, I would ensure that whichever discipline you choose to do – whether it’s programming, art, animation, QA or production, you do a university course based within that respective field. While you’re studying, utilise your free time effectively; work on your own game or create collaboratively with friends and get as much work experience as possible. This means that when you get an interview with a game studio – ahead of your talent and education – they want to see what your portfolio looks like. Invest your time into making yours stand out amongst the crowd.

What work have you been doing in the region to support the games industry?

We want to cast a wide net of support for those wanting to pursue a career in the gaming industry and we appreciate that people learn differently; whether that’s the more traditional route of higher education through university graduate opportunities, or also those taking a more practical approach via internships and apprenticeships programmes. In 2022 we launched ‘XR Futures’, which is our early-careers talent initiative to support those wanting to join the industry. We’ve made it our mission to help the next generation of VR game developers and we want to be part of their journey.

We have also recently opened up a New Zealand studio and partnered with the University of Canterbury in Christchurch – beginning discussions about how they can engage with the University’s Digital Screen Campus and Game Development programme to help foster the next generation of talent.

Our intention is to begin rolling this out in the UK in the near future, so watch this space!

Developing a game is a challenging task that can take years to complete, and there are a lot of highs and lows throughout the whole process. But once you get your game launched, hold a wrap party and share the positive reviews with the team, it’s a galvanising moment.

What has been a highlight of your career so far for the industry?

The day Zombieland: Headshot Fever came out on the Quest is definitely one of many career highlights so far. Developing a game is a challenging task that can take years to complete, and there are a lot of highs and lows throughout the whole process. But once you get your game launched, hold a wrap party and share the positive reviews with the team, it’s a galvanising moment. Even with extensive user testing, creating a game is based on a lot of assumptions about what you think will make a great game – it’s always satisfying when critics and players share a positive sentiment.

Bobby Thandi snowboarding on the slopes
Bobby Thandi occasionally replaces his VR goggles with snowboarding goggles

What influence do you think your company and companies like yours can have on the sector and region?

Within the gaming sector, we are still a relatively small studio; even with the partnerships we have garnered with film studios and AAA publishers. We’ve experienced an exciting period of growth, but it’s a constant balancing act of controlling that growth without it having an impact on the quality of our games. Maintaining or exceeding our own internal quality goals is paramount – and one I believe that’s contributed to getting the opportunities we have.

We have been recognised and worked closely with the council and the Mayor of West Yorkshire in providing advice and expertise within the game industry. On a more national level, we worked on a campaign with the UK government, ‘Made in the UK, sold to the world!’, where 13 UK businesses were chosen to champion local export success stories and promote opportunities in international markets.

What do you think of the role of Game Republic?

 The Yorkshire gaming community is incredibly supportive and we’re always pushing each other to achieve great things. Game Republic has been crucial in cultivating this community, connecting, supporting and encouraging studios both old and new. This support network is another reason why the Yorkshire games community is so healthy.

Why is the region a good place to do business?

Yorkshire has been home to the world’s biggest gaming studios and publishers like Rockstar Games, Sumo Digital and Team 17. The number of gaming studios in the area has been steadily increasing over the past few years, as investment into Yorkshire gaming businesses grows. This marked growth of both funding opportunities and the number of studios shows the wider community that the Yorkshire games scene is thriving.

What projects are coming up?

 Working with the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and advising on the course curriculum is absolutely key for us. It means we are having a real impact in both shaping young peoples’ careers, while ensuring the next generation of game developers come equipped with the skills and expertise that us and other developers will need in the future.

We’re thrilled to support students in this way; helping them focus on key areas of expertise, reducing the need for extra training requirements down the line, and reinforcing us as an authoritative voice and change maker in the gaming industry.