On 5th May 1951 the Nim game playable on the NIMROD computer was unveiled. Nim is a mathematical strategy game inspired by games from ancient China. Since then the computer gaming industry is predicted to top over $100 billion by 2017 according to Digi-Capital’s Global Games Industry Review, mostly due to mobile gaming. This value is well over 10 times the entire Maltese economy.
In Malta, worldwide online gambling companies have a strong foothold, but Malta is going far beyond iGambling. Recently, the Institute of Digital Games has been launched, great indie games produced locally are starting to surface (see Issue 7 pg. 30 of Think for an excellent example), and the Government launched a Malta Digital Games Fund. The Islands seem to be a great cauldron for a burgeoning gaming market that can reach the whole world — as always, dependant on the right support from academia, industry, and Government.
To celebrate, THINK magazine is running three features on gaming research. Freelance writer Cassi Camilleri met with the gamED team at the Faculties of ICT and Education (University of Malta). This team is using games as an educational tool. Games can go far beyond entertainment. Student David Chircop wrote a short and sweet history of board games; games are not just digital even today — think about Monopoly or Dungeons and Dragons. David’s history goes much deeper into the subject discussing the American and European style of board games. Ashley Davis, from the Institute of Digital Games at the University of Malta, wrote about Village Voices. Village Voices is a serious game that tries to teach children how to resolve conflicts such as bullying through fun and discussions. The game is the product of the SIREN project, an EU-funded consortium from six different countries that won a Serious Game Award in 2013.
This special issue has a few more gaming tricks. It also includes a 100 word idea to change Malta by Prof. Gordon Calleja who directs the Institute of Digital Games. His idea outlines a crowdfunding website for Malta. Daniel Vella shares his passion for game research, literature, and philosophy as he talks about his career from the University of Malta to a Ph.D. in the IT University of Copenhagen. For a bit of fun, we have also includes two game reviews. The first is an indie game review of TxK — a new arcade shooter for PS Vita — by Costantino Oliva. The second is a board game review of Onirim — a one-player card game — by David Chircop.
The Institute of Digital Games is a great success story for the University. It managed to attract some of the best game researchers from all over the world and external funds that amount to over a million Euro. It has also brought together many different faculties and departments from the University since game research is an amazing interdisciplinary subject including the social sciences, humanities, ICT, biology, and engineering. Game research has many different approaches and can include building games that use devices that detect human emotions, the reason why we cheat, or making learning fun.
Apart from pushing gaming research forward, the Institute is bringing together game companies, Government, and academia. Till now its graduates have always found employment quickly, while game nights and competitions regularly bring people together. A career in games can range from academic research, to journalism, to game developer, to 2D illustration or artwork. Think’s focus just gives a flavour of the rich gaming world that goes far beyond World of Warcraft.