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Ask the Experts: Video Game Companies In The UK

In the latest entry in GameCareerGuide.com 'Ask The Experts' advice column, editor Jill Duffy answers a question from a reader in the UK, who asks, ‘Do I have to move to America to work in the game industry?’
In the ‘Ask the Experts’ column on sister site GameCareerGuide.com, a reader in the U.K. asks, ‘Do I have to move to America to work in the game industry?’ Gamasutra.com is also running this breaking-in column; to learn more basic information about the game industry and the job opportunities it offers, visit GameCareerGuide.com. Dear Experts, I have one big question that has been on my mind since I was asked what I wanted to do when I got older: Do I have to move to America to work in the game industry? I live in the north east of England and I am about to leave school later this year to go to college then university. I understand that America and Japan are the booming areas. But can you tell me, do the same opportunities exist in the U.K. as in the U.S. and Japan? Of course I don’t mind moving to another country, but I would like to be a bit closer to home. Kind regards, Nearer to The Queen Dear Nearer, The U.K. is home to plenty of game development studios. I bet you’ve even heard many of them and have played some of their games. Midway has Midway Studios Newcastle, up in the north end of the country. Rockstar North is in Edinburgh. Sony Computer Entertainment has its Europe Studio Liverpool. In the midlands, there’s Blitz, Rare Limited (Viva Piñata), as well as Rockstar’s Leeds and Lincoln studios. Down near Brighton, there’s NCSoft Europe and Black Rock Studio, which is owned by Disney. In and around London, some of the big names are Buena Vista Games (another Disney-owned shop), Atari, Eidos Interactive, Electronic Arts, Konami U.K., Microsoft Game Studio Europe (they’re in Reading), Midway (which has more than one studio in the U.K.), Take 2 Interactive, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (another one with multiple U.K. studios), THQ, Ubisoft (Surrey), Lionhead (also in Surrey). And there are many more. Was that a convincing enough list? Additionally, universities in the U.K. have seen an increase in the number of game development-related educational programs being offered. I met a professor recently at a game education summit who teaches game programming at the University of Derby School of Computing. Dr. Andrew Tucson, the head of the department of computing at City University London, has even contributed informational material to this site (see his “Reassuring Parents About Game Degrees”). The University of Abertay-Dundee in Scotland has a well-established game development course. If you want to see a list of schools in the U.K. offering game-related programs, see our Schools page and click on the country header. That will sort the list by country; then scroll down to GB for Great Britain. If you're willing to go a little further afield, there are a good number of game development studios in France and Germany, a few in Belgium, several in the Nordic countries, and many more scattered across Europe. I also know that it's not uncommon in Europe to use English as the primarily language in the office when there are employees from a variety of linguistic backgrounds, opening up even more opportunities for native speakers of English. During the Game Developers Conference this year, I met a developer from Belgium who was telling me he was nervous to give his talk at the show because he was afraid his English wasn't quite strong enough. "We speak English in the office," he said, "but not everyone is fluent, so the practice isn't great." I actually thought his English was very good -- maybe a little choppy, but very clear in meaning. It’s my understanding that, being from the U.K., you wouldn’t have too many difficulties with securing the legal documents necessary to take employment in an E.U. country, though the hiring company would likely assist you with this if it offered you a job. How to Find Hot Beds of Game Development Frequent readers of this site will know that I love to promote GameDevMap.com. It’s a handy little site that shows a map of the world. Click on any city or region and up pops a list of all the game developers, publishers, and IGDA chapters in that area. Development studios are classified by the type of games they make (for example, console, mobile phone, online), demarcated by color. About two weeks ago, a new game development map system launched: Dave Perry’s GameIndustryMap.com. It’s a web site that’s been in beta for a year or two, and it leverages Google’s map technology. Dave Perry’s (of Earthworm Jim fame -- oh, and he’s from Northern Ireland) map has more stuff on it, but not all of it is directly related to game development; for example, it includes video game retail stores. It also takes a long time to load on my computer. If you're looking to work in the game industry, I highly recommend attending at least one major conference, job fair, or other professional game-related event per year. Keep an eye out for some game conferences in England this year, too. The Develop conference in Brighton is probably the closest one to you of much importance. There's also a few conferences in France each year, as well as a good size one in Malmö, Sweden, the Nordic Game conference (May 14 and 15). There are other, smaller events in the U.K., such as Game City Nottingham and Game Career Fair London. As far as I know, there isn't a web map source that names all the conferences, but GameCareerGuide.com does announce them as registration opens in the news section. So there’s no need to leave England if you don’t want to. But if you do want to move abroad, working in the game industry is a great way to do it. The industry is thriving in so many places around the world -- not just the U.S. and Japan. Good luck! [Jill Duffy is editor of GameCareerGuide.com and writes “Ask the Experts,” this biweekly advice column. If you have a question about the video game industry that you’d like to see answered here, email it to theexperts(at)gamecareerguide.com. Please note, GameCareerGuide.com does not endorse nor give advice about the quality of specific educational programs (so don’t ask).]

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