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Vancouver’s Video Game Industry

Vancouver’s Video Game Industry

While Vancouver may be known as “Hollywood North”, the go to place to film outside of Hollywood, California, is also a hearth for the cultural industry of Video Games.

The vast majority of high tech startups have been founded in basements, and Vancouver’s video game industry is no exception. In 1982 a duo of Vancouver area high school students, Don Mattrick and Jeff Sember, cobbled together a game known as Evolution on their Apple II. The two then created a company called Distinct Software Inc, and licensed the rights to publish the game to Sydney Development which was one of Canada’s first major software companies. The game was so successful that it caught the eye of American developer Electronic Arts, who acquired the company and their product in 1991.

While the video game Evolution holds historical distinction, it isn’t really a household name in the video game world. Towards the end of the 90s, however, this will change as video games become more popular as the software industry explodes. During the last year of this decade, and the beginning of the 2000s, Vancouver evolves into the technopole that it is today.

In 1999, while at Simon Fraser University in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, Computer Science student Minh Le created the game Counter Strike, a modification for the popular game Half-Life. Quickly the game skyrocketed in popularity and caught the eye of Valve Corporation, the Seattle based developers of Half Life. Valve eventually bought the rights to Counter Strike and hired Le on as a developer. Counter Strike kept rising in popularity, and became the world’s most popular online game, a title it held until the release of World of Warcraft. Because of the impact and popularity of the game, the online video game magazine Game Spy ranked Le as number 14 in their “Top 100 Game Developers of all time”.

During the dot-com boom and the early years of the 2000s a number of video game developers opened up shop in Vancouver. Giants such as Electronic Arts, Nintendo, and Rockstar Games opened up shop in the city. Some notable titles that have been developed in the city are Madden NFL 2007, the Need for Speed series, The Sims 3, Skate, and Max Payne 3.

Currently, the video game industry employs around 5,000 people in the Metro Vancouver area. A number of smaller video game firms, like Rockstar Vancouver and Propaganda Games, have offices in the downtown core of Vancouver, while bigger companies like EA Games and Nintendo have large campuses in the suburbs of the city.