One of the first game studios in Yorkshire started out selling not computer games but computers themselves. Gremlin Interactive was established in 1984 when computer shop owners Ian Stewart and Kevin Norburn decided to try their hand at publishing software for the Spectrums and Commodores on their shelves. By 1990s they had become one the most recognizable names in the UK games industry on account of their Actua series of sports games, spearheaded by Actua Soccer, the first fully 3D football game released for home consoles.
Despite giving EA Sports a run for their money in the UK market, Gremlin’s time came to an end in the early 2000s following a short period operating as Infogrammes Studios. The core of the team stuck together however and formed Sumo Digital, now one of the biggest UK studios.
Another Yorkshire-based household name also has a lineage in retail. In 1987, a nationwide computer shop chain originating in Wakefield called Microbyte founded its own games publishing label under the name 17-Bit Software. One of its first signings was an unlikely collaboration brokered by a Microbyte employee between two Swedish programmers and a UK-based artist who called themselves Team 7. After the success of their debut game Miami Chase, both developer and publisher agreed to a merger in 1990, consolidating their names to become the Team17 we know today.
Team17’s story is of course inextricable from the story of Worms, their long running, wildly successful slapstick strategy series that now boasts more than 20 entries. As well as continuing to work on Worms games, Team17 publishes and helps develop several games a year, with recent examples including the Yooka-Laylee and Overcooked games.
In Leeds, a studio specialising in handheld games called Mobius Entertainment suddenly found themselves working on one of the biggest game franchises of all time after being bought by Take 2 in 2004. Following their well-received port of the Rockstar Games-published Max Payne for the Game Boy Advance, Mobius were brought inhouse to become Rockstar Leeds and bring Grand Theft Auto to the PlayStation Portable. Nowadays they collaborate on all major Rockstar titles, and were part of the team that developed Red Dead Redemption 2 and GTA 5.
You only need to look at the Sheffield Gaming Quarter to understand just how strong a presence videogames have in Yorkshire. Just round the corner from Sheffield Cathedral, you’ll find a cluster of game-related enterprises, including a dedicated eSports bar, a gaming cafe and the National Videogame Museum, which has called Sheffield home since 2018.
Or you could just look at the sheer amount of companies in the area. Sticking with Sheffield there’s of course Sumo Digital, but the city is also home to Gang Beasts creator Bone Loaf as well as mobile sports game developer Distinctive Games. There’s also PitStop Productions, an international audio services company who’ve worked on Grid and Pillars of Eternity, and Joipolli, a multi-media company that’s designed game-adjacent apps for the likes of Channel 4 and the National History Museum.
Then there’s Leeds, home to Rockstar Leeds as well as a studio founded by an ex-Rockstar employee, Red Kite Games. Part of the Sumo Group, Red Kite have worked on a number of AAA titles and were recipients of a gamesindustry.biz Best Places to Work Award in 2020.
Also in Leeds are Rebellion North, the successor company to Cricket Captain developers and Team17 collaborators TickTock Games. Fellow Lioners Cooperative Innovations are VR specialists with a number of award-winning industry vets on staff, while Fat Kraken are an experienced co-development team offering assistance in everything from programming to level design and art. Dubit, meanwhile, are a design company making immersive entertainment for children, with clients including Cartoon Network, National Geographic and The Lego Group.
In York itself are long-running and beloved adventure game studio Revolution Studios and well as indie newcomers Labrador Studios, while a little further east in Hull are BetaJester, who have produced a number of immersive AR and VR projects.
Finally there’s Wakefield, home to Team17 and also Dreaming Methods, a creative studio using videogame technologies to produce boundary pushing works of digital literature.
Simply put, there’s no shortage of games jobs going in Yorkshire.
People from Yorkshire are notoriously proud of their home county, and can you blame them? With lush moors, a coastline postcards were made for, numerous significant historical landmarks, plenty of quaint villages and two great University cities, it certainly has a lot to offer.
Whether Yorkshire genuinely is the best county in the country is of course a matter of opinion, but it is technically the biggest. One advantage of having all that landscape is that Yorkshire is one of the best places in the UK to see the night sky, so much so that the county hosts its own Dark Skies Festival with designated viewing spots in each of its many national parks.
Another is the sheer amount of places to explore. Yorkshire offers hundreds of potential walking routes compiled by the tourism board under the banner Walkshire that will take you along cliffs, around Abbeys, through botanical gardens and even between supposedly haunted pubs – and there are accessible routes too.
Then of course there’s York itself – with its minster, medieval city walls and streets, castle (Clifford’s tower), viking centre and tourable cold war bunker, York offers a unique insight into European history.
The largest city in Yorkshire is Leeds, and it has all the kinds of things you expected from a sizeable modern city: renowned museums and galleries (Royal Armouries Museum, The Henry Moore Institute), a beloved public park (Roundhay Park), a destination brewery (North Brewing Co), a listed building that’s been converted to house independent shops and eateries (The Corn Exchange), and big media shindigs (Leeds International Film Festival,
Thought Bubble Comic Art Festival). If you’re looking for a good all rounder, you can’t go wrong with Leeds.
Sheffield, meanwhile, is the place to be for outdoor lovers and thespians. Known as the outdoor city, 60% percent of Sheffield is green space and a third of the city is located within the Peak District National Park. It also lays claim to the largest concentration of theatres outside of London in Tudor Square, where you’ll find the Lyceum, the Crucible, Studio Theatre, Montgomery Theatre and Library Theatre. Both sides come together at Sheffield Amphitheatre, an newly built openair theatre that offers a stunning view of the city from above all year round.
There’s a good reason why games folk in Yorkshire will not shut up about Game Republic. The industry-lead network is the largest outside of London and has been running for nearly twenty years, helping local programmers, artists and designers into games jobs and connecting videogame companies in Yorkshire with each other and with the wider world. Game Republic has been helping to run the Yorkshire Games Festival since 2016 and also host year-round get togethers through their spin off organization GaMaYo.
In Hull there’s the fantastically named Humber Bundle, a meetup group hosting regular pub nights, while Bradford-based devs can head along to the somewhat less well nominally-endowed Badonkadonk for a more westerly “chillaxed 2 hour get together”.
Article by Andrew Gordon