Game on for Scotland’s video game tourists

The worlds of fantasy and reality rarely mix well but in Scotland a combination of the two is creating a new tourist boom.

The increasing popularity of video games, in part due to the explosion in advanced technology of smart phones, and the success of new platforms is helping to create a new tourist phenomenon.

Grand Theft Auto features several Scottish locations

Grand Theft Auto features several Scottish locations

VisitScotland has identified an emerging trend – the “consoliday” (console-holiday) – people choosing to experience in real life the landscapes they see virtually before them within the games, or wanting to visit the country in which the game was conceived.

In addition to special events, such as thousands of Minecraft fans flocking to Dundee to catch a glimpse of Stampy the Cat, and with popular tour operators such as STA already offering special ‘gaming adventure tours’, the national tourism organisation is hoping ‘consolidays’ could be as popular as ‘set-jetting’, where people visit a destination after seeing it in a film.

Scotland already features in a number of internationally popular games such as Grand Theft Auto, which has depictions of the Forth Bridges and other destinations; Call of Duty: Ghosts, featuring Dunnottar Castle at Stonehaven; Tomb Raider III in which Loch Ness plays a major part; Project Gotham Racing 2, starring Edinburgh; and the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series among many others.

Dunottar Castle

Photograph by: Maciej LewandowskiDunottar Castle

In addition to being inspired by the landscapes on screen, gaming fans also travel miles to Scotland to see where their favourite games were created in cities such as Dundee and Edinburgh.

Dundee is known as the birthplace of the Scottish games industry with some of the world’s biggest titles developed within the city including Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto. The city currently plays host to numerous design studios and Abertay University is famous for its world-leading video game development courses.

There are now more than 100 games development companies working in Scotland and the sector contributes more than £99 million to the UK’s GDP.

According to the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) the global video game industry is worth more than $74 billion and over 70 per cent of the UK population now play video games in one form or another.

In Scotland, companies like Blazing Griffen (featured in iScot issue 5) and Rockstar North in Edinburgh – developer of the successful Grand Theft Auto series – are regarded as international superstars. Fans from around the world make the trip to Scotland’s capital city to get their photo taken outside Rockstar’s head office which has recently moved to Holyrood Road.

Grand Theft Auto V, which reputedly cost $266 million to develop, is the fastest-selling video game of all-time having sold more than $1billion worth of games in the first three days after it was launched.However, Rockstar isn’t the only highly success story. There are more than Scotland, which has been named as the third best country in Europe for video game development, is considered a world leader in the industry.

BlazingGriffin-Logo copy

As such, game development and design will play a significant role in Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016 with events over the year including Dare ProtoPlay – Scotland’s largest video games festival – celebrating innovation, creativity and talent in the industry.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland said: “Scotland’s video games industry is a thriving, internationally acclaimed sector which punches well above its weight and is a major contributor to our country’s economy.

“We are delighted that the new ‘consoliday’ trend has potential, with gamers from home and abroad heading to Scotland to discover the landscapes they’ve seen virtually, and also experience where the inspiration for many world famous games began.”