Find out what inspired the competition-winning Subway Surfers design “Hammy-bee”

Bucksey’s one-of-a-kind design is now set to feature in-game for the anniversary update

  • Subway Surfer’s “Craft-a-character” competition saw one lucky winner get their character featured in-game
  • Find out what helped aspiring game designer Sarah Bucksey create her character
  • Subway Surfers is one of the world’s most popular, if not the most, mobile games

For many of us, winning a competition, no matter how small, is a pretty uplifting experience. Some of us dream of winning the lottery, others of just taking home first place at the pub quiz. But try and imagine being an aspiring game design artist, still in university, and finding out that your design is going to be featured in one of the world’s biggest mobile games.

That’s what happened to Sarah Bucksey, a third-year animation student and aspiring game designer from the Arts University Bournemouth. Overnight her design for a character to be featured in hit endless-runner Subway Surfers is set to be adopted for the game’s 12th anniversary, and put in front of over 150 million monthly users.

We got the chance to chat with Sarah and find out a little bit more about what went on behind the scenes.

The competition

We first asked how she’d come to be familiar with Subway Surfers, and how long she’d been playing the game. “It was the first thing I downloaded when I got my first phone. I don’t know how long ago that was, but quite a long time,” she told us, explaining how it had become a cornerstone of her hobby as a gamer.

As for why it took so long for her to finally put herself forward for one of the many competitions that Subway Surfers have run, she said, “It was just the right time. I had the feeling that since I was in the community for so long that I wanted to stop just watching the stuff but do a little bit more this time round – and it’s the 12th anniversary so it’s quite special.”

The Subway Surfers “Craft-a-Character” competition asked aspiring designers and artists to create a character to be featured in the game. The rules were simple, with just the clause that it be themed around the ‘gaming geek’ culture.

An early sketch of the design

As you can probably guess, Bucksey’s was the winning submission. Her character, Hammy-Bee is now set to feature as a playable character in-game for millions of players to enjoy as part of the game’s major anniversary milestone.


With their headset, quirky, laid-back clothing and of course the eye-catching hamburger footwear, Hammy-Bee certainly epitomises the idea of a ‘gaming geek’. This is exactly what Sarah said she wanted to encapsulate with this simple, but effective, design.

Rather than look at putting together a bunch of random elements, Bucksey wanted to create a design that felt true to life. “I’m mostly inspired by people. If I’m drawing then I’m a very character-driven artist, I tend to go to coffee shops and sketch people. I took inspiration from my close friend group, what they wear – pyjamas – and people who go to university wearing them, which I find hilarious. And I took inspiration from the kind of crazy shoes and earrings and outfits I saw people wearing.”

And the design certainly impressed the people at Sybo, with many even expressing that it seemed as if the design could have come from the studio’s own art department. Having previously done a game design course during college, Bucksey found her skill and passion didn’t lie in coding or programming, but in rending the artistic element of video games.

“I would say that I’ve always been a more artistic person, but with games especially they tend to go more stylised, with more colourful and striking features. And it’s just something I’ve always been drawn to. Artistry is where my strengths are.”

The result

And it seems that artistry was well-received because Bucksey was selected, from over 500 submissions, to be the ultimate winner. And as for her reaction, it was a pretty typical one for someone who’s just found out they’re going to have their design in a hit game, “I was excited, I yelled, and then I wanted to tell my friends and family, that was the first thing I did.”
The final version of the design

We asked whether her friends and family understood the significance, or whether it was a little less grandiose because Subway Surfers is sometimes seen as ‘just’ a mobile game. Fortunately, her friends and family were quick to recognise just how massive a chance this was for her.

“With my friends and family, I think they definitely get how big it is because, although my Mum is not into games (she wouldn’t even play Hayday), when I told her about it she said ‘oh my god, even I know [about Subway Surfers]’. But she wouldn’t know Halo, or Call of Duty, or something like that.”

Naturally, this led not only to her design being featured but also to a wave of sudden interest in this up-and-coming young designer. This includes an interview and featuring on her university’s social media pages, as well as numerous chats with media outlets like us.

Moving forward

As for Sarah Bucksey’s ambitions, they remain the same, which is to get into game design. We asked whether or not she’d be shooting for something like Subway Surfers or going into something like AAA gaming, but Buckey was adamant in sticking to her roots, saying “I would say, for sure, mobile gaming or indie games is what I’m drawn to, with mobile games I really like the technical challenge of doing so much with so little.”

As for the opportunities opened up by winning the competition, it prompted a whole wave of interest in Bucksey thanks to her competition-winning design. We asked if she hoped this competition would help push her forward; “Honestly, I really hope so, it’s been very motivating personally to have that recognised by the artists at Sybo, and doing things like [the interview]. The networking has really opened doors for me.”
As for how she felt about having her design in front of more than 150m monthly players, and possibly more (with enough downloads for more than half the planet) all she could say was, “When you put it like that, I hadn’t thought about it, that’s crazy! But, really, really cool.”

You can check out Hammy-Bee, Sarah Bucksey’s character, in the upcoming anniversary update set to arrive in May.

Check out some of the previous updates for Subway Surfers to get an idea of what’s to come.

You can also check out some of our other interviews, like with Reverse: 1999’s music producer, to find out more about the games!