Denmark Street in scruffy Camden, north London, isn't the first place that springs to mind when you think of game development. Lined on both sides by guitar and drum shops, and having hosted recording sessions from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles – the Sex Pistols even lived here for a spell – the road is imbued with the spirit of rock 'n' roll and rebellion, not score multipliers and extra lives. So it's surprising to find Mediatonic, the indie developer behind one of PSP Minis' finest moments so far, Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess, tucked just round the corner.
The studio houses 25 staff and feels somewhat Scandinavian, boasting wooden floors, glass walls and an uncluttered open plan setup. It's hard to believe that this is the same company started just five years ago by creative director, Paul Croft, and managing director, David Bailey, following a drunken conversation in Brunel University's student union bar. Juggling their last year of university and the newly formed company, the pair would dash to an office located just off campus between lectures to create advertising that "people would want to engage with".
Mediatonic creative director and co-founder, Paul Croft
Armed with a detailed knowledge of Flash and web multimedia – fairly uncommon skills at the time – the company soon carved out a niche creating free but official web conversions of hit casual titles like Bejeweled, Bookworm and Diner Dash. The exploding casual games market, along with a successful line in working on company branding, ensured the studio wasn't short of work. Expansion soon followed, and Mediatonic shifted its focus to creating original titles for a diverse list of clients, applying their unique brand of humour and explicit violence to the world of Flash.
"I think we look at things from a different angle to the mainstream industry because of our background in web development, and everything that that brings with it in terms of competing with millions of other games for eyeballs," explains Croft. "I don't know whether that qualifies as 'maverick' behaviour in the game industry, but certainly, we like to take a different angle on things and create games that are a little bit unusual – a little bit quirky, edgy or humorous.
"[We focused on games because] trying to pitch to corporate clients became difficult when they would look at the website and see people being cut up by a chainsaw."
The intervening years have seen the company expanding annually, trading up offices until finally settling last year on the current 25 person contingent and Camden premises. But despite such a rapid ascent, the company has remained ironically anonymous until now. The strong personality evident in 'quirky' web titles like Amateur Surgeon – a take on Trauma Center in which you operate on patients using pizza cutters and staplers – certainly represents Mediatonic's slanted take on games, but it's hard to make a name for yourself when you're publicising other companies' properties.