Baboons by the road

One of the wildlife differences between the UK and South Africa

I’m currently on holiday in South Africa, a place with a huge diversity of cultures, but very familiar in many ways. School uniforms seem to be more suited to the British climate from where they originate than the African one, McDonald’s is as ubiquitous as elsewhere. But still there always a South African twist, sometimes charming, sometimes concerning, for example, our car locks all doors when you start the engine, a response to cases of car-jacking that are common across the country.

Worldwide, culture is heavily affected by geography. Music, dance, theatre are all unique to the country, state or province they originate from and even film has local variations even if the lumbering giant of Hollywood gets most of the press. How do we compare in the games industry? Well, not good to be honest, but that’s perhaps not surprising in an ‘art’-form that is a mere 50 years old.

Of course, there are cultural variations in the games industry, Japan has the JRPG; Korean MMOs; the US could be characterised by the blockbusters, like the movies; Britain, perhaps maintains the bedroom coder image, or the small team creating big games; and there are European stereotypes too, the French and German industries definitely have a ‘style’.

However, compared to film, theatre and music the diversity is orders of magnitude smaller, mainly because the creators of games come from a far smaller selection of regions. Japan, Korea, US, and Europe produce the vast majority of video games currently, the industry is growing in China, India and other places, but hopefully as digital distribution grows, as computers and networks become ubiquitous, the industry will spread to the corners of the world, and the diversity of output that the other arts enjoy will be unlocked for gamers.

So just like South Africa – to me a recognisable culture, made unique and fascinating by the local tweaks – games will diversify as they spread, taking on a myriad of local styles. Imagine how different Call of Duty would be created by developers from the Democratic Republic of Congo – a country with a terrifying recent history of war – rather than twenty-somethings from California. Or GTA from developers in Rio de Janeiro, a city with very different crime problems to Edinburgh. The gaming world will only get more fascinating.