For more than 20 years Scotland has been at the forefront of video game innovation, home to some of the best-selling games of all time including Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto. In 2022 the global games market size exceeded $200 billion.
Opportunities to study in Scotland match its industry ambitions with Abertay University ranked number one in Europe for video games education. Six more universities in Scotland offer games-related degrees, including the Glasgow School of Art qualification in games and virtual reality. 11 colleges across the country offer games qualifications at HNC (Higher National Certificate) and HND (Higher National Diploma) level.
With an extensive talent pipeline, several new start-ups and investment by multinational companies, Scotland’s games industry grew by 26% between April 2020 and December 2021 – beating the rest of the UK.
When the late Sir Clive Sinclair chose Dundee to assemble his first home computer, the ZX Spectrum, little did he know that he was about to give birth to a new generation of computer-literate Scots who would go on to reimagine the way the world works, rests, and plays.
Now, with a new, £60 million, 4,000-seat Esports arena planned for the city’s waterfront, Dundee is upping its game.
Moving to the next level
Local games development legend Chris van der Kuyl has been a name in the industry since Dundee began to make its mark in the global gaming industry.
The Dundee-based entrepreneur studied computer science. A trip to Silicon Valley early on in his career made him think that there was no reason he couldn’t start his own business in Scotland, and that “lit the blue touch paper” to begin.
From early success with State of Emergency, in 2005, along with school friend Paddy Burns, he co-founded games development business 4J Studios. The name highlights Dundee’s “jute, jam and journalism” motto, with joysticks representing the fourth ‘J’.
4J is best known for developing Minecraft for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo games consoles. The studio is part of a globally recognised Scottish gaming scene, which is also home to companies like Dundee-born Grand Theft Auto designers Rockstar North.
Van der Kuyl says more people are coming to Scotland to develop games, meaning there's more competition for talent.
He adds that the games industry is now “by a significant factor, the largest entertainment industry in the world... in the next decade, it's going to exponentially grow again, so Scotland will have its part in that, for sure.”
Raising its game
Abertay University launched the world’s first computer games degrees in 1997.
It’s also supporting the development of the new 5G Innovation Hub in Dundee through a collaboration with the University’s Emergent Technology Centre.
That announcement followed the news that Abertay will be part of the 4,000-seat Esports arena project planned for Dundee. The University plans to develop a new range of degree courses related to the global Esports job market.
Collaboration is key to success
Dundee and Angus College has teamed up with the competitive gaming body Esports Scotland. The college is another of the education partners for the waterfront Esports arena.
The collaboration promises to generate opportunities for students and school pupils. Tournaments, industry talks, summer boot camps, new educational courses, work placements, and job opportunities are in store for Scotland's students. Esports Scotland will also have its own Esports training facility within the College.
The arena will be Europe’s first truly digital-enabled arena space and a flagship project for Dundee alongside the Eden project and V&A Scotland.
The Northern Lights Arena Europe - or NLAE as it will be known - will be home to some of the world’s top gamers. When it is delivered, the arena will become one of the world’s leading digital online gaming hubs.
Scotland’s games ecosystem
In October 2022 the country hosted Scottish Games Week. The first-ever week-long, Scotland-wide series of events focused on videogames.
Created and organised by the Scottish Games Network, the event helped position the sector as a critical part of Scotland’s digital future.
Brian Baglow, director of the Scottish Games Network, said: “Scotland is home to an incredible games ecosystem. We have over three hundred developers and creators across the country. Eleven colleges and seven universities in Scotland are producing graduates with game design, development, and production skills.”
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