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Measures needed to make Cyprus a games hub
A RECENT study by Chinese and Cypriot universities found that the island’s potential for developing a successful computer gaming industry was hindered by a lack of funding, awareness and infrastructure.
According to a press release by the Cyprus Interaction Lab of the Cyprus University of Technology (TEPAK), Cyprus’ large number of qualified graduates and EU membership make it a good candidate for successfully establishing an electronic games industry.
During the project, several workshops, focus groups and interviews were conducted with key stakeholders to gain a holistic view of the challenges and opportunities available, while researchers also used contacts with China - considered a leader in the industry - to compare and learn from the Chinese experience.
Researchers concluded that there are currently limited attempts by individuals or companies to penetrate the electronic games industry.
Three main areas were identified as key to achieving progress in the games industry in Cyprus: funding, awareness and infrastructure.
Funded by the Cyprus Research Foundation, TEPAK worked in collaboration with the University of Cyprus (UCY) and Chinese Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) to investigate ways to facilitate research into and development of a gaming industry in Cyprus.
According to the study, there are no strong government-based funding opportunities for entrepreneurs to apply for apart from those involving “clear innovation ideas”. However, the latter do not include games development companies as these are classified under software development.
And software development companies do not provide external funding for innovation in games development. The study highlighted that research institutions do have available funds which could be used in collaboration with existing companies, noting that the potential was there for businesses to support such ideas if the return on investment was considered favourable.
The second area that needs to be addressed is raising awareness. Even if there is interest to develop a games industry in Cyprus, the bene?ts, feasibility and abilities of such a market are not apparent, said the study.
“There is a need to raise awareness within the gaming and business community of the potential and actions that can be taken to develop this ?eld,” it said.
A third issue raised was the absence of infrastructure to support individuals or companies who wish to get involved in electronic game research and development in Cyprus.
The lack of knowledge in technical ability was not the main issue, noted the study, which highlighted the need for greater support from the business community and the ability to bring collaborators from different backgrounds together.
Researchers called for a centralised hub to be formed to support all entities related to the games industry, initially in Cyprus, but later to be expanded abroad.
Dr Panayiotis Zaphiris, TEPAK’s Dean of Fine and Applied Arts, who led the research said “universities have a role to play here both by training people who can later develop and sustain game development companies but similarly through courses and research to promote excellence and novelty”, adding that “multidisciplinary approaches to this are necessary”.
To gain momentum and involve as many interested parties as possible, TEPAK has initiated the creation of the Cyprus Computer Games Network, which can be found on Facebook by searching for ‘cyprusgames’.
Also, in a first of its kind, the two state universities, UCY and TEPAK, have collaborated to offer a Masters level course in the Design and Development of Computer Games. The Masters programme has also seen the creation of the Microsoft Computer Games and Entertainment Technologies Lab (http://www.getlab.org).