Virtual Reality Croydon

By - Wednesday 6th July, 2016

Croydon hasn’t got many claims to video game fame, but there may be more than you expect. Max Shirley boots up

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate.
Screenshot by the Croydon Citizen.

Video games: the ever growing artistic medium in which the player has the ability to interact and experience a world created for them. Croydon: the urban town we all live and work in. Video games and Croydon – two things that take up the majority of my life – at what point do the two worlds cross? With the Steam Summer Sales now in full swing, and E3 having ended two weeks ago, there isn’t a better time to examine Croydon’s role in the video game industry.

E3, the largest video game conference takes place annually in Los Angeles. It is the gamer’s Christmas. Each day we are blessed – sometimes disgusted – with the announcement of brand new titles. Unless, of course, you’re watching the EA conference where you will be disappointed by the endless re-skins of Fifa and Call of Duty. In the lead up to this year’s conference Croydon took centre stage, as we saw the release of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst – Real Life Time Trial‘ onto YouTube. Freerunners leaped across Croydon’s rooftops in order to create a visually stunning homage to the new game: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.

The video is well-produced, containing a myriad of thrilling jumps and adrenaline filled combat. Nearing the end of the video the freerunner attempts to balance whilst making the precarious journey across the glass-roof of the Whitgift Centre – only to eventually fall into the shopping centre – surprising onlookers. Claudiu Voicu, the video’s creator, joked on his blog: “It goes without saying that if you’re new to freerunning you shouldn’t go to Croydon – you’ll probably get stabbed”. He ended with blog with: “So next up… Assassin’s Creed?”. Now, if he’s planning to recreate the clunky parkour mechanics of Ubisoft’s most popular series, props to him!

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate let players explore Croydon’s 19th century rooftops, and some fictional ironworks

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Ubisoft’s release of 2015, saw the well-known game franchise enter a gritty, 19th century, industrialised London. Assassins Jacob and Evie Frye eliminated Croydon’s Templar threat in the form of Rupert Ferris and David Brewster, who owned the Ferris Ironworks in 1868. Gamers got the chance to experience what life was like for the worker in Croydon during the 19th century (spoiler: not pleasant). Ubisoft’s title allowed us to explore Croydon’s rooftops without risking our lives, albeit a very rough journey (there wasn’t a Ferris Ironworks in Croydon in 1868, and nor was Croydon particularly known for its metal industry at this time).

Croydon is also the home to two video game developers. Since 2011 HotGen Ltd has been producing mobile games for both iOS and Android; To-Fu Fury is their flagship product priced at £0.79. This puzzle, platform title was given a 7/10 by PocketGamer. Croydon-based company HotGen Ltd have also worked with the likes of Disney to produce a range of interactive toys, such as the steering wheel for Cars 2 – a racing video game.

Headstrong Games have been developing and publishing titles in Croydon since 2000. They’ve worked with the likes of Sega, Ubisoft and Activision, developing AAA titles such as Pokémon Art Academy on Nintendo 3DS, and House of the Dead: Overkill, 2009′s first-person rail shooter, rated 8.3/10 by popular video game news and reviews website IGN.

Croydon’s claim to video game fame is typically underwhelming. We haven’t yet seen DayC, a zombie survival game based in Croydon, or Call of Duty: Norwood Warfare, but maybe that’s to come? Croydon is home to both developing and publishing companies – how much longer do we have to wait for Grand Theft Auto: Los Croydon? I long for the day where Croydon pops-up as a city-state in Sid Meier’s Civilization and C3 becomes the next global video game conference.

Max Shirley

Max Shirley

Max recently finished Sixth Form at a local independent school and will be starting an English Literature degree in the new academic year. Max is a copy-editor at a Croydon-based start-up. Twitter: @max_shirley_

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  • Ian Marvin

    I’ve never really got into the Assassin’s Creed series (I don’t think my coordination is good enough) but I’ll give Syndicate a go. Having been looking at old maps of Factory Lane for entirely different reasons the game might be closer to historical fact than you give it credit for. I turned up this blog too from a quick search for ‘East Surrey Iron Works.’