Europe's biggest player in the videogames industry
London has always been at the forefront of the entertainment industry, and with the growing popularity of videogames over the last few decades, it is hardly surprising that the capital’s contribution to the thriving industry has continued to increase. Now famous London-based games companies like Sports Interactive Ltd, Hello Games and Rocksteady have rocked the world with breakthrough titles and series such as Football Manager, No Man’s Sky and the Batman: Arkham series. The city plays host to some five hundred plus games companies, a greater number than any other UK city and all the more respectable when considering that the nation is considered to have the largest games development sector in Europe. From small-time indies to gaming giants like EA and Rockstar studios, everyone wants a place in Europe’s gaming capital.
The growth of the industry has had an exciting knock-on effect for gamers as games-themed events are beginning to snake their way into venues. Perhaps the most notable is the yearly London Games Festival which celebrated its third year running in April. The ten day festival that takes place in a host of different locations across the city, aims to rival US giant ‘Electronic Entertainment Expo’ (better known as E3). The event allows London’s games companies an opportunity to network ‘IRL’ and also gives players the chance to celebrate their favourite games as well as hear about what might be in store in the future.
Games-themed events aren’t merely confined to convention style festivals though as developers, events companies and musicians alike are going out of their way to create all manner of entertainment spectacles for hardcore fans. Riot games, known for the immensely popular MOBA League of Legends, have hosted multiple live championship e-sports events in London’s Wembley arena which each achieved sell-out levels of success. Other videogames have been running for quite some time at this this point and consequently have an older fan base with different tastes. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the legendary Japanese games series Final Fantasy an orchestral concert was held, in which the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed music from the games in London’s own Royal Albert Hall.
Clearly London is a prominent rising star in the video games industry but what about its appearances within the games themselves? For decades American cities have been the defacto setting and Europe’s capitals have taken a back seat somewhat. Despite having its own levels in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and the Project Gotham Racing series, London has rarely had its own immersive game in which it can really be explored and experienced. Released this past June for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, role-playing action game Vampyr allows the player to revisit First World War London in incredibly graphic detail. The developers explored London and consulted history books and documentaries in order to garner as great an understanding of the city as possible prior to designing the game. The visual results are most certainly reflective of their efforts.
The video games industry has come a long way from Pong and Space Invaders and London has really become an integral part of the movement in the 21st century. A few decades ago you might not expect to see videogames in a London museum but this month the capital’s celebrated Victoria and Albert museum sees the opening of an exhibition titled: ‘Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt’. Such an occurrence is no longer a phenomenon, yet the regularity of videogames based events, concerts and exhibitions in London clearly demonstrates that gaming is an essential part of the city’s culture.