A short stroll from the University of Dundee is Seabraes Gardens.
A short stroll from the University of Dundee is Seabraes Gardens. Here, a few local legends welcome visitors to this tiny oasis overlooking the Seabraes area. These are the Lemmings – tiny bronze guardians to a part of the city that houses much of the computer games industry that they were pioneers of.
Well perhaps not the Lemmings themselves, but certainly their creators DMA Design, who sent the Lemmings out into the world on Amiga in 1991. This was the game that put DMA on the radar of an increasingly busy games industry.
In 1995, DMA began work on a game called Race’n’Chase that within two years shook the gaming world as the behemoth Grand Theft Auto – now on its fifth version.
David Jones from DMA then went on to form Realtime Worlds, with offices in Dundee and Colorado and releasing APB and Crackdown before closing in 2010.
There had been a quiet revolution happening in Dundee in the 1980s, with teenagers learning to program, thanks to the ZX Spectrums being readily available from the local Timex factory where they were built.
This led to a generation of highly skilled computer programmers who were keen to harness what they knew and combine it with storytelling creativity. The University of Dundee and the Dundee Institute of Technology (forerunner to the University of Abertay) offered computing courses to hone these self-taught skills.
Watching the doors of he jute mills close, the city could sense that the doors of the computer games industry were opening and it responded. With dedicated computer gaming courses, academia could feed the industry, and in turn that could provide employment for graduates of the courses and more.
Companies such as Denki, Tag Games, Guerilla Tea, Outplay, and more have flourished by finding their niche in the wider world of gaming with the hunger for gaming on the move satisfied with many mobile applications created in Dundee.
University of Dundee alumni and Honorary Graduate Chris van der Kuyl was one of those bedroom programmers, who has become one of the world’s recognised computer games entrepreneurs and now chairman of 4J Studios that develops Minecraft for a wide range of consoles and platforms.
Before 4J there was Vis Interactive with successful games such as Earthworm Jim, which featured the first games music by city musician Ged Grimes, and State of Emergency.
The success story of Minecraft has gone hand in hand with the wider discussion on the benefits of computer gaming, particularly for children who are attracted to its world of creating and building.
Derek Roberston, a lecturer in the School of Education, Social Work and Community Education the University of Dundee, has taken a special research interest in computer game-based learning and how it can have a positive impact on children’s learning experiences. This has also led to the establishment of Learning and Teaching Scotland’s Consolarium initiative.
The computer games story is part of a much wider digital development for the city. With the rise of social media and improved connectivity, the potential for gaming in the city to connect people across the world has been boosted.
The ingenuity of design across the industry must also have played a part in the decision to award Dundee UNESCO’s first City of Design Status in the UK.
Currently around one-third of the computer games companies in Scotland are based in Dundee, impressive considering the city’s population.
From being the preserve of the bedroom-bound geek, computer gaming has become not only an economic powerhouse for the city, but one that is embraced among the many strands of the flourishing creative community.
Peggy manages Literary Dundee, a University of Dundee initiative that celebrates books, reading and writing. Literary Dundee was included in the List Magazine's Hot 100, their annual celebration of the figures who've contributed most to the cultural landscape during the year. She has worked for the University since 2013 and before that worked with literary organisations such as the Scottish Poetry Library and the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust. Peggy works with books in her spare time too - interviewing authors at events and festivals, talking about books on the radio and other platforms. She sits on the board of the Craigmillar Literacy Trust and Highlight Arts, and when not reading or talking about books, enjoys walks, Scrabble, tweed, singing tunelessly, and cake. Peggy was listed at number 51 in the Courier's Impact 100 2016 (their 'annual review of the people who have done the most — good or bad — to affect life in Courier country') for services to Dundee's cultural life.