Stamp of Approval: A Prosopography of the UK Midlands Videogame Industry

Wade, Alex and Whittaker, Adam (2023) Stamp of Approval: A Prosopography of the UK Midlands Videogame Industry. In: Media Materialities. Intellect Books, Bristol. ISBN 9781789388176

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This paper examines the history of videogame hardware and software development in one of the UK’s most famous, but most secretive videogame development houses, Rare. David Harvey’s framework of flexible accumulation is deployed to study modes of production and consumption, distribution and circulation. This allows for arrangement and interrogation of emergent concepts of materiality and immateriality in the early UK videogame industry in the UK Midlands. With the Midlands an historic and contemporary hotspot for videogame development, a rich and untold history of games is unearthed with reference to fraternal ‘chains of approval’ where distribution through family relationships links and practices becomes a key element in the success of Rare and other software developers and publishers such as Elite, US Gold and Codemasters.
The paper achieves this by introducing a wholly original methodology to media studies in the form of prosopography. This is a mode of inquiry that facilitates investigation of the characteristics of specific populations, often historic, where individual biographies are difficult to trace, or are not well-documented. By using a range of sources, including scattered records, testimonies and objects previously unapparent links between phenomena can be revealed. In this chapter, this is achieved through reference to Meades’ historical work on arcades in the UK and especially the Thomas’ family development of coin-op games in the East Midlands during the 1960s, leading to coin-operated videogames being developed and published in the same area in the 1980s, before becoming a zone of home computer development in the 21st century, with a special focus on the world famous Rare. This rich history is informed by interviews with current employees which positions the UK as one of the fountain-springs of UK videogame development reaching far beyond its own origins.
In conclusion, the paper argues locates that the Midlands videogame industry is as part of a tight a wider link in the uneasy relationship between technology and those who produce, consume, circulate and distribute them. While it is arguable that there would be no UK videogame industry without the East Midlands, it is equally arguable that the cultures of the UK industry, in their fraternity and paternity, would not exist without the wider social links found in the political economies of the East Midlands.

Item Type: Book Section
15 December 2023Published
Uncontrolled Keywords: Communication studies, Cultural studies, Material culture, Media studies
Subjects: CAH15 - social sciences > CAH15-01 - sociology, social policy and anthropology > CAH15-01-04 - anthropology
CAH20 - historical, philosophical and religious studies > CAH20-01 - history and archaeology > CAH20-01-04 - heritage studies
CAH24 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01-05 - media studies
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Depositing User: Alex Wade
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2023 13:35
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2023 14:11

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