Teemu Haila and Sebastian Sihvola at startup campus Maria01.

Game industry organising and creating new opportunities in Helsinki

The game industry is one of the themes of the Ecosystems of Growth project, which is part of the EU-funded 6Aika project portfolio.

“We would not have been able to establish Helsinki Games Capital without this project.”

Thus comments Teemu Haila, a veteran game industry entrepreneur, about the Ecosystems of Growth project, which is part of the EU-funded 6Aika project portfolio. The three-year project focuses on several major themes, one of which is the game industry.

Helsinki Games Capital, as mentioned by Haila, is one of the major concrete results of the project: not just a community, but also a shared space for the game industry, located in the Maria 01 startup campus.

In Haila’s opinion, a shared centre is important for the industry in terms of networking alone. Having a place where you can discuss ideas, improve them and encourage others benefits everyone.

Haila points out that people in the game industry are passionate about their work, driven by their love of games, and that is important for them to be able to share their passion with others.

“During the pandemic, many initiatives have been in danger of falling through due to corona-induced passivity, but Helsinki Games Capital has put in the work to bring us all together. The centre has had a major positive impact on the general level of activity.”

Professional competence descriptions

The impacts of 6Aika projects have also extended to game industry studies. Project Manager Saija Heinonen from Metropolia University of Applied Sciences says that the project portfolio’s Chips for Game Skills project gave rise to two major initiatives that have already been utilised in practice and garnered positive feedback.

The first is a student game competition that seeks the best student game in Finland.

“The competition is an excellent learning experience for students and bridges the gap between working life and game studies. The winning team is chosen by game industry professionals.”

Due to COVID-19, the competition had to be moved online, but once conditions normalise again, it will be organised as a live event once more.

“The aim is to hold competitions annually. Helsinki Games Capital has assumed responsibility for coordinating the competition, and the Helsinki region’s preliminaries, or Prebits, will be held in its facilities in the games community building of Maria 01.”

The nationwide competition is open to everyone in Finland studying in the game industry.

The second concrete result of the 6Aika project is a map of key competencies in the game industry. As a relatively new professional field, the game industry is still somewhat unorganised. In recognition of this, the map of key competencies helps standardise job titles and skills – or at least pave the way for standardisation.

Divided based on professions, the target skills of the map were drawn up in collaboration with industry professionals. This ensures that they also reflect the competency needs of the industry.

The map provides students with learning paths towards game industry professions and can be used to harmonise the content of study units based on its target skills.

Planning is also underway for a follow-up project aiming to refine the competence descriptions into competence-based open badges that can be applied for and granted to individuals. The idea is for students to be able to apply for the badges at their educational institutions after completing study units and game companies to grant them to their employees upon the completion of competence assessments.

The competence-based badges function similarly to competence-based qualifications: competence is demonstrated in a pre-defined manner and assessed by an assessor. If the assessor deems the demonstration sufficient, the corresponding badge is granted. The requirements for the granting of individual badges are much lower than the ones for competence-based qualifications, however.

“The 6Aika project has also had the notable benefit of consolidating cooperation between educational institutions offering game industry studies.”

The game industry needs to be better utilised

Teemu Haila and Sebastian Sihvola at startup campus Maria01.
Teemu Haila and Sebastian Sihvola at startup campus Maria01.

Special Planning Officer Sebastian Sihvola from the City of Helsinki says that Finnish game studios are some of the best in the world. The Finnish game industry has been developing at a faster pace then its Swedish counterpart for seven years now, for example, but business activities around the game industry are now growing rapidly in Finland’s Nordic neighbour.
In other words, there is plenty of demand for increasing networking between Finnish game entrepreneurs and cooperation with educational institutions.

Sihvola mentions that understanding of how the game industry has managed to do things the right way has been increasing in Finland, with many operators now looking into applying the lessons learned to other business sectors. There is great business potential in utilising the user experience gained in the game industry, for example, in other industries.

“The game industry is a pioneer when it comes to technology, which is another aspect that has long remained underutilised. One of Helsinki Games Capital’s aims is to help other industries, such as the health tech industry, utilise the lessons learned in the game industry.”

Sihvola points out that since the game industry is so diverse and such an important part of the software industry in general, it must be taken good care of, which includes providing it with top-level talent.

“The Finnish game industry has garnered a great deal of interest globally, with many international operators keen to see how it will develop in the future.”

Find out more

 6Aika – Open and Smart Services is the joint strategy for sustainable urban development of the six largest cities in Finland: Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Oulu. Carried out in 2014–2021, the aim of the strategy is to facilitate the creation of new competence, new business operations and new jobs in Finland. The strategy is a part of the implementation of Finland’s structural fund programme for sustainable growth and jobs 2014–2020. Read more at 6aika.fi/en/frontpage/
• The Chips for Game Skills project developed the game industry and game industry education and training with students, educational institutions, education and training providers and business representatives.
• The project started the development of the competence-based open badges system and established the basis for mapping the competencies of professions in the game industry.
• Launched game competitions that provide companies with insight on students’ game concepts and skill levels.
• The Ecosystems of Growth project supported growth-seeking companies in utilising research and product development networks and services. In Helsinki, the project focused particularly on the game industry, health and well-being technology and the maritime industry.
• Created as part of the project, Helsinki Games Capital brings together game industry operators and functions as a competence cluster. Interested in Helsinki Games Capital’s operations? Contact Director Antti Salomaa, antti.salomaa@helsinkigamescapital.fi
• The City of Helsinki has hired game industry experts to support the development and networking of companies. The game industry contact person at NewCo Helsinki is Vesa Raudasoja, vesa.raudasoja@hel.fi

Text: Kirsi Riipinen
Photos: Ilkka Ranta-aho