Accident & Emergency, video games and viking poetry

Matteo Celoro (BA Creative Writing and English, 2020) shares his Birkbeck journey: from working in A&E for the NHS, to launching Noovola, his own PR and creative communications firm for gaming and digital arts.

When Matteo moved to the UK from Italy aged 11, his parents hoped he would become a doctor. “That didn’t turn out too well,” he explains, laughing. “I was never drawn to those subjects, but I think that led me to working for the NHS after finishing school.” Matteo was working as a healthcare assistant on the stroke ward of a London hospital when he applied to study English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck.

During his first year, Matteo would attend evening lectures after a day of helping patients, or commute to the hospital after lectures to start night shifts. “It certainly wasn’t a boring period of my life,” he says. “But I was committed to studying because Birkbeck felt like my way of finding what I actually wanted to do. I always loved reading, writing and being creative, but I didn’t know how to make a career out of that.”

While at Birkbeck, the careers service put him forward for an internship with Dynamo PR, a tech-focused public relations agency: “It made perfect sense. I was writing a novel then, but I couldn’t see it paying my bills anytime soon! PR was the right balance of career and creativity. I threw myself into it because I knew how lucky I was to get the opportunity.”

I threw myself into [the internship] because I knew how lucky I was to get the opportunity.”

At Dynamo PR, Matteo worked on projects for major companies at the cutting edge of technology, including tech start-up Improbable, who received more than $1billion in seed funding to ‘build the Matrix’. “It was insane. They’re building massive scale virtual worlds, which could be used for military training exercises or for online video games to host thousands of players in the same place at the same time. I had to turn these stories into something people would relate to and understand,” says Matteo. “Being a gamer myself, I always gravitated toward the clients working on these kinds of projects.”

After graduating, he was hired by a London-based gaming PR firm. His first project was on the communications for a Viking-themed survival game called Valheim. “I read a lot of Norse mythology to tap-in to the game’s lore and atmosphere. I ended up writing Viking poetry, creating puzzles for social media, and designing a giant Viking scroll to promote the game’s launch. Hats off to the agency and developers for giving me so much leeway to be silly and creative.” The game sold one million copies in its first weekend and Matteo was suddenly submerged in media requests and emails from every continent, at all hours of the day. He mediated interviews with the likes of Forbes, The Washington Post and Imagine Games Network (IGN), as well as orchestrating major influencer coverage of the game on YouTube and on the livestreaming platform Twitch. The game has now sold more than 10 million copies.

“It was hugely rewarding realising the role I had played in the game’s success,” explains Matteo. “But it was exhausting. I had experienced the highs and the lows, so I wanted something in-between.”

In April 2021, he left his job to launch PR and creative communications firm Noovola. Matteo and his co-founder started out by building a client base with small ‘indie’ game developers, like PixelConflict – a team of three friends and developers from Italy.

A selection of gaming magazines covering games developed by Noovola’s clients.

Their success in bringing ‘super-indie’ titles into the limelight, particularly when there are more than 200 new video games being released every week, is earning Noovola an impressive reputation. “It really helps that our team speak several languages, because we have been able to bridge the gap between non-English speaking developers across Europe and their consumers,” Matteo reveals. “It’s been amazing to see Italian games played in the Philippines, and Brazilian games played in South Africa. Particularly in the pandemic, gaming has really brought people together from all over the world. I love being a part of that.”

Now, one year on from their launch, they have five employees based across Europe and have recently been hired to work on multiple high-profile, high-budget games by major publishers.

When talking about the success of Noovola, Matteo emphasises the impact of Birkbeck: “The College not only helped me get my first role in the industry, but it offered a learning environment that did so much to build my confidence as a writer and as a creative.”

“If it wasn’t for Birkbeck and spending my evenings around Bloomsbury, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It enabled me, as it has for so many others, to put my future in my own hands and create something for myself. So the world will always need more Birkbeck!”