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The Last Word: Bob Makin

Closing this month’s issue of North East Times Magazine, Bob Makin, co-founder and chief executive of Middlesbrough-based games developer Behaviour UK – North (formerly known as SockMonkey Studios) talks about the firm’s future following its recent takeover by Canada’s Behaviour Interactive, Teesside’s status as a digital sector powerhouse and why the area’s flagship regeneration projects are laying the foundations for further success. 

 

Having founded SockMonkey Studios in early 2013, sealing the Behaviour Interactive deal – in the process becoming known as Behaviour UK-North – was quite the way to celebrate your tenth anniversary. How will the business benefit and grow from being part of the Behaviour stable? 

We were already an ambitious management team, but becoming part of Behaviour Interactive means we now have the people power, knowledge and financial back-up to complete what we first set out to do.  

We’ve always wanted to create a ‘superstudio’ in Teesside, and bring household gaming names and IPs to the area, and not only now do we have the opportunity to do that, but we are already making huge strides towards this.  

We’ve already begun hiring, improving our current offering to staff and looking at the future.  Not only are we bringing more jobs to the area, but we’re now part of a global talent pool who can bring their knowledge and ideas to anyone who works within the Behaviour UK – North studio. 

 

Your venture is one of several Teesside-based video game developers that carry international acclaim. Why is the region such a hotbed for digital success?

The UK as a whole has an incredible games industry, which can be tracked back to the ‘bedroom coders’ of the 1980s – a phenomenon of young men, usually brothers, who started making games for fun and accidentally birthed a cottage industry that turned into the biggest entertainment market across the globe. 

For Teesside, this was the Falcus brothers, Darren and Jason, who pretty much started our local industry while still attending Egglescliffe School.  

They had huge success in the 1990s, creating games like NBA Jam and Megaman in Teesside.  

I’ve been lucky enough to work with Darren over much of the past 15 years, and he continues to play a key role as business development director at Behaviour UK – North.   

Pair this with Teesside University, which saw the potential of the games industry and introduced quality game development courses in the 1990s, and you can see why we have a hub in the region.  

The university’s reach is literally global – we’ve talked to, worked with and hired people from massive studios across the world, who are either from Teesside or who studied there. 

 

With its freeport status and flagship redevelopment projects such as the transformation of Redcar steelworks land into manufacturing and engineering space, Teesside is riding a great wave of momentum, which is creating ever more global focus on the area. To what extent do you believe this impetus will help your business continue to flourish?

Any positive focus on Teesside is going to be fantastic for the area.  

Being born and raised here, I’ve seen a dramatic positive change in Teesside, especially in the last few years.  

To be able to play a part in that by bringing one of the biggest independent game developers in the world here is one of my proudest achievements. 

This, in hand with the momentum, should go a long way to bringing more jobs, people and opportunities to the area.  

What we now need to do is get our council and government leaders to build on the great work being done by Teesside businesses, and continue developing the area into a fantastic place to live and work.

We need to increase the attractiveness for families to move here from elsewhere in the UK, and maintain the talented youngsters we have.  

We’re too shy on Teesside (me included!) but we need to break down this taboo and shout from the rooftops about this amazing area and its people.  

 

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@Behaviour