The game industry in Sweden has received a lot of attention the last couple of years. In particular, a number of game developing companies like Mojang (Minecraft) and King (Candy Crush) have been celebrated for their spectacular financial success. The Swedish achievements might also be extra notable because they coincided with a period in which the industry was going through considerable transformations. Many high profile and historically well-renowned game studios like Psygnosis, Irrational Games, Xbox Entertainment Studios, LucasArts, THQ Studios, SOE Studios and 2K Australia have been discontinued or transformed in the last couple of years.
However most reports and stories written about the Swedish game industry are stuck in what Huhtamo calls the “chronicle era” (Huhtamo 2005). Most of the historical narratives are descriptive, sensationalist and focus exclusively on a few successful companies or individuals. Most historical accounts are written by enthusiasts and journalists who lack a critical distance and fail to frame the development within a broader historical context. This follows the general pattern within game history (Guins 2014).
This article will take a more critical and analytical approach. It will explore the social and economic context of the Swedish industry in its formative period − the early years, the 1990s and 2000s. This period have to some extent been discussed in Sandqvist (2012). However, this article aims to study this period and the social composition of the industry through a new, unique material. A mixed methodological approach will be applied, but the article will primarily study quantitative data.
The quantitative data consists of a longitudinal database with data about every individual that has worked at a Swedish game developing company between 1997 and 2010. The data is provided by the government statistical agency Statistics Sweden. Researchers are allowed to use anonymous data originally collected by a number of government agencies (scb.se). Some of the variables that will be analysed include: age, sex, birth place, education, civil status and salary. The qualitative data consists of interviews with eleven game developers active at game companies that started in the 1990s. Some interviewees were affiliated with successful companies, while others worked for companies that went bankrupt during the early 2000s.
In general, the Swedish case reflects the development in a small democracy with well-developed economy but outside of the larger core markets (UNDP 2013). The case creates opportunities for especially two new perspectives relating to local circumstances: the small states perspective and well-fare politics in relation to the game industry. The geographic features will be related to small state theory (Krantz 2006). The political context will be related to Nordic welfare state politics e.g. the dual breadwinner model and media policies (Ellingsæter 1998, Schön 2010, Kulturdepartementet 2012).