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Computer games are 'future of education in Bahrain'.

COMPUTER games have been billed as the future of education in Bahrain.

That is the view of MentalUp, a company that provides electronic learning tools designed to complement the traditional curriculum.

The firm is a UK-based start-up that has now established a presence in Bahrain, as the country actively seeks to attract new operators in the technology sector.

"The gamification of learning is the future and it will allow students to move from the traditional type of education to another era of education," said MentalUp Bahrain operations manager Nedhal Abdulla.

"We think this will be more productive and effective for the mentality of the children and for their future, in terms of problem solving, teamwork, leadership and all the necessary skills that are required.

"We are trying to approach schools, institutions, summer camps and anywhere that is dealing with children."

MentalUp is an online game platform for children that aims to support mental development, as well as improve attention, memory, problem-solving, logic, visual and verbal skills.

"MentalUp also has the feature of monitoring and analysing the progress of the child to see how they improved in the different five pillars of the game, as well as how they stand compared to their peers from the same age group," added Mr Abdulla.

The role of gaming in fostering innovation was the focus of a monthly meeting organised by Unreal Bahrain on Saturday.

Unreal Bahrain was initially formed for users of the Unreal Engine, a platform used to make video games, but has evolved into a movement that aims to make Bahrain a regional hub for game development.

Such meetings have been welcomed by Bahrain Internet Society board member Yousif Al Khaja, who said computer games had been unfairly blamed for fostering violence in children and teenagers.

"There's a lot of bad Press that claims gaming causes mental illness and violence, but we want to prove this isn't true," he said.

"There's a very small fraction which causes incidents - and mostly they aren't directly connected to games."

Bahrain has sought to position itself as a hub for tech innovation in the region.

This includes a focus on developing the FinTech (financial technology) sector, as well as plans to launch a first satellite into space next year, the launch of 5G telecom networks and a pilot project involving Artificial Intelligence (AI) in government procurement.

It is already home to the Middle East's Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure.

The gaming industry is also part of that strategy, with Chinese tech developer WonderNews Technology announcing the launch of its regional headquarters in Bahrain in April.

The company is focused on creating mobile apps, games and other digital platforms for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

"There is a thriving gaming community in Bahrain," said Mr Al Khaja.

"With the proper support and focus Bahrain has the potential to grow more than other countries in the region because we have qualified people, the proper environment and all the technology available - we can flourish and succeed in the industry.

"If we have the proper support, everything is possible."

He added the gaming industry had the potential to create a variety of job opportunities, not only for developers but also musicians, artists, storytellers, programmers and scenarists, among others.

Those sentiments were echoed by 23-year-old Bahraini programmer and game developer Abdullah Al Jalahma.

"A lot of people believe gaming is just entertainment, but there are various things that can be utilised - such as games for children that help showcase a mathematical or emotional impact," he added.

"There are also a lot of games that are just fun to watch.

"Ninety per cent of game development is the art style - the look and feel of the game itself, such as cooking games.

"There are plane simulators and medical simulators, which help people in those fields, but essentially are marketed as games."

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Sep 11, 2019
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