Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Midlands: The heart of the UK gaming industry

When one thinks of the Midlands, the gaming industry does not instantly spring to mind. Famed more for its outstanding natural beauty and cultural importance than its innovative contributions to the tech collective, it is nonetheless responsible for some of the most well-known names around.

Tomb Raider is just one example. Lara Croft herself – arguably the most recognisable woman in the gaming sphere – is a Midlands girl born and bred, but she’s not the only prominent character to have been spawned here.

A surprising contribution 

It’s fair to say that the gaming industry has gone from strength to strength in the last decade and, as this handy graphic indicates, it shows no signs of slowing down. From video games to the online slots available at sites like https://games.paddypower.com/c/slots, we as a nation spend an incredible amount of time lost in these fantastical worlds, where we can play as everyone from Viking raiders through to intrepid explorers and sailors of the high seas.

One of the companies responsible for these creations is Leicestershire-based Rare. The renowned developer is not only a local outfit, but accountable for the creation of some of the most well-known titles of the last few decades, from cult classic Conker’s Bad Fur Day through to the ever-popular Banjo-Kazoozie.

According to the company’s Executive Producer, Louise O’Connor: “The Midlands is literally the heart of game development in the UK. It’s a growing base for indie and mobile developers… [and] has become a thriving hub of creativity.”

Pioneering achievements 

Interestingly, it turns out that these are no empty boasts by patriotic Midlanders. Dr Alex Wade, who specialises in the history of British gaming, backs up Ms O’Connor’s claims, attributing a number of pioneering achievements to the region.

The Tomb Raider series is just one example. Created by Core Design in Derby, the game gave us one of the most famous protagonists in the world of gaming, whose exploits would go on to inspire films and sequels galore. Growing into an arguable pop culture phenomenon, Tomb Raider is today one of the highest grossing video gaming franchises of all time.

Rare, too, has given the world many masterpieces, including both GoldenEye 007 and Donkey Kong Country. Indeed, the latter, which is the ultimate example of an exquisitely rendered game, was based upon the movements of the monkeys at the local zoo, Twycross.

In addition, the first Western firm to sign a Japanese arcade game was located in the region too. Elite Systems, the company responsible, began its commercial existence located above a Walsall-based fish and chip shop. Although success would later help them relocate to slightly more impressive premises, their Midlands’ identity has always remained at the very heart of their business ethos.

A sterling contribution

 

Source: Pixabay

Given the volume of recognisable names included in this article, it may come as little surprise to see the accompanying statistics: that 13 percent of all UK games begin their life in the East and West Midlands. Not only this, but the companies responsible have enjoyed a greater longevity than those located anywhere else.

Isn’t it time we started shouting this impressive aspect of our modern-day heritage for all to hear? We’re Midlands and we’re proud, and we really hope these talented developers and tech specialists are too.

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