Award-Winning Indie Studio Littleloud Closes Its Doors

Littleloud successfully married education and entertainment to produce some truly interesting games over its 13-year lifespan.

News by Pete Davison, .

You might not be familiar with the independent British game developer and animation studio Littleloud, but the company was responsible for some memorable experiences over the years.

In a post dated yesterday, the studio's creative director Darren Garrett announced that its next production would be its last, and that thereafter members of the team would be letting the Littleloud project go to explore other creative opportunities. This is sad to see -- at least if you're familiar with the team's work.

Many of you may well be asking "who or what is Littleloud?" though. It's perhaps not a household name in indie development or the games industry at large in the same way as other, more high-profile developers -- particularly outside their native UK -- but it's been responsible for some interesting, thought-provoking experiences over its 13-year history.

The studio was often approached by broadcasters and other companies who were keen to explore pertinent social issues in an interactive fashion. One such example was UK broadcaster Channel 4, who has made use of the interactive entertainment medium a number of times over the years to help educate young people on a variety of topics.

Sweatshop was a well-regarded "serious game" that raised awareness of an issue without being overly preachy -- and while simultaneously managing to be a good game, too.

Littleloud's best-known contribution to Channel 4's ongoing efforts to help make children and teens more socially aware was probably Sweatshop, a darkly comedic yet poignant game that cast players in the role of a clothing factory's middle management. The game followed the story of Boy, a child worker in the factory, and Boss, the factory's owner, and explored the clothing industry's struggle to balance the needs of demanding clients with worker welfare. The project was a collaboration between Littleloud, Channel 4 and British charity Labour [sic] Behind The Label, with the latter ensuring that the game was factually accurate despite its light-hearted visual style, and that after each level the player was presented with a fact that related the events of the game to real-world happenings.

Sweatshop wasn't the only time Littleloud collaborated with Channel 4, though. Fans of old-school '90s-style full-motion video (FMV) adventures will be delighted to discover that the company worked with the broadcaster on not one but two different video-based adventure games, including the BAFTA-winning Georgian noir mystery Bow Street Runner, and the futuristic drama The Curfew. The former provided a historically accurate take on being part of London's formative police force; the latter, penned in collaboration with comic book author Kieron Gillen, provided a convincingly dystopian look at what happens when our civil liberties are eroded by a far-right government while at the same time asking some tough questions about modern-day privacy and online security issues.

As well as Channel 4, Littleloud worked with a variety of other broadcasters, movie studios and organizations over the years, with its productions ranging from silly but amusing software toys to full-fledged games designed to tie in with movies and TV shows. Alongside games, the studio also worked on animations and short films to tie in with various properties, and occasionally even found time to produce its own original work.

The Curfew's full-motion video called to mind the best '90s CD-ROM adventure games -- only playable for free on the Web.

Littleloud's games regularly succeeded in achieving that difficult balance between education and entertainment. Their production values were excellent, their historical and sociological content was always well-researched and interesting to explore, and most importantly, the games were fun and engaging to play. Many of them were all the more remarkable for being available to play completely free online -- a side-effect of the studio's frequent partnerships with established broadcasters and charities in many cases.

It's sad to see such a highly creative and prolific studio close its doors, but judging from Garrett's final post, it sounds like the right time for the studio to call it a day, particularly after the loss of one of their key staff members to illness in June. Hopefully their work will remain online in one form or another for a while yet, as if you haven't experienced it it's well worth exploring. You can check it all out -- at least for now -- via the studio's Work page.

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