Page last updated at 14:55 GMT, Monday, 11 August 2008 15:55 UK

Scots gaming history celebrated

Grab from the computer game "Crackdown" (Pic from Realtime Worlds)
Dundee-based companies have been responsible for world-class games

The computer gaming industry in Scotland is being showcased at the Edinburgh Interactive Festival.

The industry, which started 25 years ago with the ZX Spectrum, now employs more than 450 people in Dundee alone.

Two different teams from the city won three British Academy Video Games Awards last year.

The three-day festival, which got under way at Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Sunday, is scheduled to run until Tuesday.

Scotland's gaming industry dates back to the 70s and 80s when Timex and NCR were based in Dundee. Clive Sinclair's ZX80 computer, which preceded the ZX Spectrum, was made by the city's Timex plant.

Head of computing and creative technologies at Abertay University, Prof Lachlan MacKinnon, said this impacted on home computing in the area and helped stimulate young people's interest in computer games.

"It created a community that had experience of using home computers very early on," he said.

We need to keep attracting talent to make the games and we need to get people excited about the industry
Colin Macdonald
Realtime Worlds

"They very quickly got fed up with the games that were available - they were pretty primitive - but there were games available from magazines that could be typed in.

"The internet didn't exist, but you had an exchange of activity among these kids and soon they started writing their own games."

The current success of Scotland's gaming industry was evident when two Dundee-based teams won British Academy Video Games Awards in November last year.

A team of students from the city's Abertay University won a "Ones to Watch" award and Dundee-based company Realtime Worlds won two Baftas for its Xbox 360 title "Crackdown".

Colin Macdonald of Realtime Worlds - which is also responsible for "Lemmings" and "Grand Theft Auto" - said the industry in Scotland could be even bigger and better.

"It needs the media, the players, everyone, just to help push the message that Scotland is a world leader in making games," he said.

"To sustain that reputation we need to keep attracting talent to make the games and we need to get people excited about the industry.

"There's a lot we need to be careful about as the cost of making games is going through the roof."

Government support

Some industry experts want the UK government to do more to help grow the industry. In Canada, where companies enjoy financial support and tax breaks, the industry has blossomed.

Abertay's Prof MacKinnon said: "Canada has surpassed the UK. It was about seventh or eighth in the world in terms of games production. It's now third and we're fourth as a result."

The festival aims to encourage the next generation of game designers through its competition "Dare to be Digital".

Paul Durrant, the competition's director and director of business development at Abertay University said it provided students with a unique insight into the industry and could also help launch careers.

One of the games created in 2005 is to be published on Xbox Live later this year.

The Edinburgh Interactive Festival runs from 10-12 August at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

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