Digital games are not just for kids and most people who have downloaded a game for their smartphone, bought a video game for their computer or played a game on Facebook are living proof of this huge global phenomenon. Malta is trying to carve out its slice of the cake that goes into billions of euro and the first steps include a national effort to produce Maltese game software developers.

One of the initiatives taken is a national game development competition, called Gamezing V20.10 that took place over several months last year. The winners of this competition for higher educational institutions in Malta have just been announced. It was organised by Digital Games Production: Malta with the involvement of Malta Enterprise, University of Malta and the Malta Council for Science and Technology and Microsoft Malta.

A total of nine teams competed in the finals, three teams for Microsoft Kodu section and six teams in the senior Microsoft XNA competition.

The competition was divided into phases, where the first phase included a free training programme for the lecturers concerned on such topics as Microsoft Kodu and XNA game development platforms. The second phase required participating institutions to organise a summer camp for the students concerned and the last phase was a competition with the goal of producing an educational game.

The winner of the Microsoft Kodu competition, for basic game development, is JAM from Junior College, made up of Mark Buhagiar and Justine Scicluna with their ‘Adventures in Fundora’.

They were under direct supervision of Roberta Galea, subject co-ordinator of Computing and IT Department, and Riccardo Flask, lecturer in the same department.

The members of the winning team were presented with the Xbox 360 Kinect while the college was presented with a trophy as well as Xbox 360 consoles.

The winner of the Microsoft XNA competition is the CVI Studios team from St. Martin’s Institute of IT with their winning game ‘Bucket Ball’. This team was led by Leon Cassar, Blair Avellino was the designer, Andrew Brincat the developer and Jonathan Aquilina was in charge of the music.

The team Barbagann Game Studio, also from St Martin’s Institute, clinched the runner up prize with their game ‘Battles on the Horizon’. This team is led by Anthony Demanuele, with Clive Ciappara as the main developer, Ryan Sammut the team’s game designer and Duncan Mercieca the artist.

Each student member in the winning team received a Microsoft Kinect as an award and a certificate of participation while the runners up received a Nintendo Wiimote with MotionPlus and a certificate of participation.

Students reading for the BSc (Hons) Computing and Information Systems and the BSc (Hons) Creative Computing represented St Martin’s Institute. The student teams were each under the care of a lecturer from the department of Computing and Information Systems and were coordinated by Neville Attard, Jonathan Barbara and Stephen Rota.

The institute was awarded five X-Box 360 machines with Kinect to add to the equipment available at the entertainment technology centre. The entertainment technology centre is now equipped with six Microsoft X-Box 360 machines apart from the Sony Entertainment PlayStation development servers and kit. This centre will be the core laboratory for the Games Dev Challenge 2011 which will start in July.

St Martin’s Institute of IT has been preparing students for this exciting Computer Games Industry since 2007 with the first students graduating in 2010 after three years reading for the BSc (Hons) Creative Computing conferred by the University of London.

The lecturers coordinating the two winning teams in Gamezing will attend the DiGRA (Digital Games Research Association) conference to be held next September in the Netherlands.

Games Production: Malta was established in 2010 with the aim of providing a focus for academia, industry and enthusiasts to come together to forge the future of the digital games industry in Malta. It is a multi-disciplinary team and its mission is to stimulate the growth of this industry through new teaching and research initiatives, close collaboration with the business sector, and attraction of foreign investment.

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