PLAYING kids' games has paid off for a former Lake Illawarra High student when his London company won a prestigious BAFTA award.
Ross McCaughey is lead illustrator for Moshi Monsters, part of UK entertainment firm Mind Candy.
A part-game, part-social network with more than 80 million users, Moshi Monsters was recently awarded a BAFTA (the British film industry's equivalent to the Oscars) in the children's interactive division.
"We had no expectation of winning," he said.
"We lost in previous years we've been nominated so it was incredibly exciting."
Studying at Lake Illawarra High then taking graphic design at TAFE, Mr McCaughey lived in Windang until he moved to London three years ago.
Given scarce opportunities at home, the move seemed the right idea.
"I was looking for London studios who might want an illustrator, and found Moshi Monsters," he said.
"I did a few Skype interviews and got the job.
"A few weeks later, I landed and was drawing monsters."
Beginning with an online game where children raise virtual pet monsters to guide through puzzles and challenges, Moshi Monsters expanded into an empire of music, books, magazines, Nintendo games and McDonald's Happy Meal toys.
Mr McCaughey's illustrations appear on trading cards, game designs and stories within the in-game universe.
"It's been fun to work with this team and get my own spin on their world," Mr McCaughey said.
"Designing new characters is the best.
"They're monsters, they can be anything we want to turn them into.
"I recently got to draw a pineapple-headed scientist called Pinestein."
Australian audiences will get a better look at Moshi Monsters with a big-budget movie hitting the cinemas in February.