The Greek Gaming Industry Presses its Start Button

Thu, 12/21/2017 - 11:46

It appears that Greece is transitioning into a status where digital entertainment is considered a viable option for the development of the recovering economy. The introduction of law 4487/2017 is a prominent start. Furthermore, Athens Games Festival 2017 that took place on 28/29 October 2017, provided some useful insight regarding the present and the future of the Greek Gaming Industry.

Recently, a significant step was made to open up funding, but most importantly to provide recognition for the intellectual, cultural, educational and promotional value of computer games. Thus, quoting the Secretary General of Digital Policy of the Hellenic Government "computer games can be valued for more than being digital entertainment". Ergo, this is an official acclaim that the computer gaming industry is a viable source of income in Greece. This is also the true spirit of the 4487/2017 Legislation. The article above, appears factually composed and paints the picture that already exists in the U.S. and Europe, and portrays the achievements accomplished in both revenue and social impact. These can be interpreted as very good news for the local game developers aspiring to obtain a share on the global market.

It is becoming apparent that Greece is very close yet quite far from reaching the goal of having its own number of gaming software houses. The fact that the state has provided some color to the pre-existing monochromatic procedures, is certainly valuable since computer games had been thrown under the bus the past few years. There have been both good and bad case studies throughout the industry and usually games appeal to more than one regions in terms of popularity, consequently expanding the business possibilities. There are four important factors that will affect the establishment and growth of the local games industry, explained below.

  • The local ecosystem: This is still quite thin regarding the Greek reality but there is a growing number of efforts that show the intent to actually venture towards a business idea that can be converted to a viable product. Sadly, becoming a software house requires following a few disciplines such as innovation, business planning, and a clear and concise strategy as to what is going to be built and what purpose should it serve once it becomes a game (inclusive of a fiscal model). We should also keep in mind that computer games are software engineering products and as such they require both talent (1% inspiration) and development methodology (99% perspiration, quoting Benjamin Franklin). As it was demonstrated from Athens Games Festival 2017 there is a growing number of efforts that are indicative of the trend. At this stage, competition is quite important as long as it does not turn into cannibalism; it is not very healthy for a starting economy to operate under the dog eat dog doctrine alone, whilst mutual support with community engagement activities can provide exposure and content. Furthermore, diversity could lead to fresh projects as we can easily escape from the thousands of platform games that exist already; there are numerous genres that can lead to a cost efficient and engaging product. On the other hand, clustering and mutual support of the ecosystem can work wonders: pickup the best practices from those that have already entered the dungeon and lived to tell the tale.
  • The current Greek and European legislation: There have been numerous attempts to promote, regulate and push forward the games industry, especially in Europe. France for instance, walks the extra mile and regulates esports supporting their local economy along the way. This should also produce a decent amount of healthy ventures that conform to specifications. It has to be noted that legislation does not necessarily limit creativity or productivity, as long as it serves as a platform for the ecosystem development. Consequently, Greece is right in the beginning of that "learning curve" and I have to admit that the current legislation was quite a bold move on the right direction, aiding towards the empowerment of the Greek game developers. It needs some TLC, though via community engagement, education, reasonable influence coming from people that are genuine success stories themselves.
  • The contemporary culture towards games and gaming: The contemporary culture in Greece is actually fragmented due to age gap, lack of proper education and influencers. The absence of attention to the growing number of gamers, and the impact of this social phenomenon on the Greek family created a controversy among parents, educators and gamers themselves. Although computer games date as far back to the early 80's, parents are still not ready to deal with fact that their children play computer games and that, in turn, impacts their lifestyle. Due to my personal experience as a gamer (circa 1987), an academic and a father, there are a lot of ways parents and children can communicate and convey information in both directions to provide mutual understanding and direction. This should be aided in many ways from all involved bodies of the gaming industry promoting family activities based on games while raising awareness about proper management of the ultimate currency a gamer has: his or her precious time. The sense of leaving a legacy behind is sometimes the best moneymaker, as trends can be forgotten easily.
  • Education: One of the most overlooked aspects of growing communities is to cultivate their concepts via education. Marketing enhances sales and product awareness but seldom enhances or exposes people to certain cultures. The gaming culture has been wrongfully accused of being acidic, extremist towards violence and opportunistic. A lot of people promote this for their own personal gains and they harm themselves along with many other people. Furthermore, the development of an acidic behaviour is rarely tolerated and modern educational practices teach patience, understanding, interaction, independent thinking and reasoning to the students, as this transpires to their gaming alternate persona. Physical, mental or verbal violence thrives exactly when people do not socialize or effectively communicate, all the while slowly becoming detached to the requirements of social life. Another alarming phenomenon is 'fanboyism' (severe case of brand association) that also demonstrates the lack of independent thinking. Gaming concepts can also be a learning tool along with gamification and I have to admit that I have been regarded one of the 'cool guys' of my department as I can relate to the gaming notion and terminology while teaching. What is more, some minor adjustments made to the curriculum (the utilization of RIOT API to web engineering courses) aided significantly towards student engagement. At the risk of being biased, the provision of a BSc in Computer Games Programming, offered by New York College and the University of Bolton (UK) has been one of these steps that took a lot of time, and a lot of effort to come through as what it is: the provision of skills, scientific background and culture on the area of games programming in Greece. Games are quite scientific in their nature since they require the application and deployment of various computer science and software engineering techniques, an understanding of mechanics, physics and higher mathematics (including vectors and trigonometry), data analysis, probabilities and random number theory among others. These study programmes intend to bring the science to the software product and change the perception of what video games are all about.

Are you still not convinced that this is not the right time for the games industry to thrive in Greece? Please take a look at a Greek map and contemplate on what this country can accommodate given the right mindset and circumstances. Then, take a look at the rest of the world and realize that software is a global product that can be quite appealing for recovering economies while conveying the appropriate investment messages abroad. This also means that all the respective parties should think in terms of legacy and what this effort can bring to young people and the society in general, as some of the "influencers" are mostly worried about their bank accounts and some airtime. However, as the Greek society progresses it can be observed that the current 'meta' will be displaced in favor of healthy development that is Education-driven and a bright light for the future.