CODE partners to bring world-class game development training to Dunedin

Dunedin, 17 September 2020

The New Zealand Centre of Digital Excellence (CODE) has joined forces with Swedish-based FutureGames and the Otago Polytechnic, to develop new, world-class vocational training to supply talent for Dunedin’s burgeoning video games industry.

The partnership is the latest milestone for CODE, a Dunedin-based national hub that is working towards the development of a $1 billion video game industry over the next ten years.

Dunedin City Council’s Enterprise Dunedin Director, John Christie, says, “This is a major opportunity for CODE and New Zealand in general. Until now, tertiary students wanting to get into the gaming industry have had limited options, so we expect the programme will attract students from around the country and, eventually, further afield.

“Through the international relationships we have forged with industry experts, such as FutureGames, the transformation of Dunedin’s digital economy is one step closer. This will position the city as a global player in the video games industry, creating new economic growth and sustainable employment opportunities.”

CODE Establishment Director, Tim Pointing, is thrilled with the initiative, saying, “Game development is one of New Zealand’s fastest growing creative careers. FutureGames is ranked second best game development school in the world, and with their expertise alongside Otago Polytechnic’s strengths in interactive media, this programme will produce graduates that can immediately apply their skills in the local gaming studio environment.”

The first step in its collaboration with Otago Polytechnic initiates a research and engagement programme with the gaming industry in Dunedin and nationally, to identify current gaps and build a fit-for-purpose training course.

Oonagh McGirr, Deputy Chief Executive: Learning and Teaching Services, Otago Polytechnic, says, “This exciting initiative draws on our collective strengths, including the expertise and vision within our Communication Design and Information Technology disciplines.

“In terms of working for the benefit and future of our regional community, creating opportunities in niche industry areas is vitally important.”

As Otago Polytechnic’s CODE representative, Oonagh believes the collaboration aligns well with the recently established New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST-working title), of which Otago Polytechnic is a subsidiary.

Earlier in the year, CODE launched a $700,000 startup and kickstart fund to nurture Dunedin’s video game development ecosystem. The fund attracted 56 Expressions of Interest from existing game developers, which are currently being assessed. Successful projects will lay the foundations for new gaming studios and products in the years ahead, which in turn will create employment pathways for Otago Polytechnic programme graduates.

CODE appoints Establishment Director

Dunedin, 14 July 2020

The Dunedin-based New Zealand Centre of Digital Excellence (CODE) has appointed locally-based industry leader, Tim Ponting, as its Establishment Director.

Mr Ponting, a CODE Working Group and NZGDA Board member, has been appointed to the role for 12 months to lead and support the ongoing development of Dunedin’s video game development ecosystem and initiatives aimed at supporting the industry’s growth in Dunedin and New Zealand.

Dunedin City Mayor, Aaron Hawkins, welcomed Mr Ponting’s appointment and commended the overall progress made to date in establishing CODE in Dunedin, including the recently announced CODE Funding programme for local game developers.

“This is a real boost for Dunedin at a time when we are experiencing, like the rest of the country, some very real economic challenges. CODE’s establishment further strengthens Dunedin’s reputation as a hub for creativity and innovation and I’m confident Mr Ponting will do an excellent job of further progressing CODE’s establishment over the coming year.”

Mr Ponting is a Dunedin resident with over 30 years’ experience nationally and internationally in the video games and interactive entertainment industry, including an extensive background in marketing, communications, branding and business development.

He said he is particularly looking forward to working with local, national and international stakeholders during the establishment phase.

“I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to be able to roll my sleeves up and work alongside stakeholders to continue building on the strong foundations already laid for CODE by Enterprise Dunedin and the CODE Working Group. The industry here is poised to enter a new chapter in its development, and I look forward to CODE fostering a sustainable, thriving ecosystem that supports diversity, creative and technical innovation, educational excellence and positive outcomes for the local economy," Mr Ponting said.

Murray Strong, Chair of the CODE Working Group, said they had been impressed by Mr Ponting’s genuine enthusiasm for supporting development of the local game development industry.

“Tim has a comprehensive understanding of the local and international game development context and an outstanding ability to build networks and positive relationships with multiple, diverse stakeholders. We’re looking forward to working with Tim to continue bringing CODE into being.”

Mr Ponting’s work over the next 12 months will include leading or supporting delivery of specific workstreams and outcomes, progressing development of funding opportunities for local game developers, curriculum development with local tertiary providers and international experts, bringing Māori participation into the centre of CODE’s establishment, and the creation of CODE’s legal entity.

The CODE establishment programme is currently being facilitated by Dunedin City Council’s economic development unit, Enterprise Dunedin, in collaboration with Dunedin Economic Development Strategy partners and industry representatives.

Dunedin was confirmed as the New Zealand Centre of Digital Excellence in October last year and is being backed by $10 million from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund. Its purpose is to support the development of a $1 billion video game industry in New Zealand over the next decade.

Funding opportunities for local game developers announced

Dunedin, 23 June 2020

Dunedin’s Centre of Digital Excellence (CODE) has announced a new funding programme for Dunedin’s game development community, which is worth $700,000. The money for the funding is being drawn entirely from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

Dunedin was confirmed as New Zealand’s new Centre of Digital Excellence in October last year and will act as a national hub to support the development of a $1 billion video game industry over the next ten years. It was backed by $10 million from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund, from which the funding is being drawn.

Dunedin City Mayor, Aaron Hawkins, says he is delighted with the scope and timing of the funding programme, which opens on Tuesday 23 June for expressions of interest.

“This is a real boost for Dunedin at a time when we are experiencing, like the rest of the country, some very real economic pain and challenges. CODE’s funding programme provides some tangible opportunities to develop the kind of low weight, high value exports that can support a sustainable economic recovery”.

CODE Working Group and New Zealand Game Developers Association Board member, Tim Ponting, says current economic conditions created through the COVID-19 crisis brought the timing for developing and launching the funding programme forward.

“Grants were included in CODE’s business case and scheduled to follow CODE’s establishment period, which is currently in its final stages. However, it made sense to bring them forward given the current economic challenges and the team have worked really hard over the last few weeks to do this. The funding programme is a fantastic opportunity to support the local industry and help stimulate the local economy”.

Mr Ponting said game development, as a ‘weightless export’ and rapidly growing industry both nationally and globally, provided Dunedin with an excellent opportunity to grow existing studios, develop new ones and provide employment to people from a broad range of backgrounds - from coders, artists and designers, to business analysts and marketers.

“This is a really exciting industry to be part of and it’s still growing, in spite of the current challenges. It also provides an opportunity for Dunedin to build on its key strengths around education and health - including the hospital rebuild - through the development of serious games. It’s worth noting that some of the technology used to support alternative ways of working during COVID-19 - such as messaging app Slack - had their origins in the game development industry.”

He said there are three funding types available as part of the programme - KickStart, Start Up and Scale Up.

“The KickStart and Start Up funds open now, while the Scale Up fund will become available later in the year. I strongly encourage anyone who thinks they might be eligible for one of these funds to go to the CODE website and check out the criteria and to get in touch with us if they need further information or support to make an application. We’re here to help every step of the way.”

The funding programme is part of the overall effort to build an ecosystem for game development, with strong local roots growing from schools and tertiary networks, and nurtured with funding and wrap-around mentorship, for new, young or growing companies. Further funding programmes will be available in subsequent years, Mr Ponting said.

The first stage of the application process requires the submission of an expression of interest by 14 July. For more information on the different funds and application process can be found at

CODE Update - April 2020

See the latest news on establishing New Zealand's Centre of Digital Excellence.

CODE News April 2020 (pdf)

Are you interested in the psychology behind successful games?

Dunedin, 19 February 2020

Then don’t miss a free CODE-sponsored public lecture by internationally-renowned user experience (UX) expert Celia Hodent.

Signal ICT Graduate School - Wednesday, 26 February, 6.30-7.30pm

Celia - a consultant, speaker and author - has more than 15 years’ experience in the game development industry, including the role of Director of User Experience at Epic Games, where she developed UX practices and strategies for a range of games – most notably the hugely successful Fortnite.

For more on Celia, check out her website:

Dunedin to once again host global game development experts

Dunedin, 24 January 2020

The Centre of Digital Excellence (CODE) will welcome game development industry experts Tabitha Hayes and Adam Clark to Dunedin next week as part of CODE’s drive to further connect Dunedin with the international game development community.

Visiting Dunedin from 28 January to 5 February, the pair have more than 30 years’ experience working in the international game development industry between them, along with a long-term personal interest in gaming. They are married and currently based in Stockholm, Sweden.

Ms Hayes is Chief Marketing Officer for Star Stable Entertainment in Stockholm. Prior to that she worked at Electronic Arts (EA), a global leader in digital interactive entertainment, for more than 10 years across several senior leadership roles, including Vice President, Global Brand Management and Marketing.

Mr Clark, a former student at Dunedin’s Macandrew Bay School, has worked for EA for more than 12 years, across multiple franchises - including Need for Speed, FIFA, Battlefield and The SIMS. In that time Clark has worked in EA’s Singapore, Vancouver and San Francisco studios. At present, he is the senior producer of Star Wars Battlefront II at the DICE Studio in Stockholm.

Dunedin City Council’s Enterprise Dunedin Economic Development Programme Manager, Fraser Liggett, who is leading the establishment of CODE in Dunedin, says the couple’s visit is another early coup for CODE, which last October hosted representatives from Japanese game development company, JP GAMES.

“We’re really fortunate to be able to bring in these international game industry experts to Dunedin so early in CODE’s establishment period. It’s fantastic that both Tabitha and Adam are willing to come and share their experience and knowledge with the CODE team and with Dunedin’s established and aspiring game developers.”

Mr Liggett says Ms Hayes and Mr Clark’s visit to Dunedin will include meeting with the CODE establishment team and working group – comprising local education, training and industry representatives – attending the University of Otago Summer School to speak with game development students, and attending an industry meet-up at the SIGNAL ICT Graduate School.

“Adam is from New Zealand, has family connections in Dunedin and also briefly lived here some years ago, which adds another special dimension to their visit.”

Ms Hayes says both she and Mr Clark were looking forward to returning to Dunedin and having the chance to share their knowledge and learn about what was happening in the local industry.

“CODE is such an exciting opportunity for Dunedin. The game development industry is growing at a phenomenal rate internationally and there are a wealth of opportunities for anyone. You don’t have to make games to be in the gaming industry. There are so many different roles and career opportunities. My advice to anyone is to be curious, open to the possibilities and build relationships,” Ms Hayes says.

For more information please contact:

Fraser Liggett,Economic Development Programme Manager, Dunedin City Council, mob: +64 (3) 474 3332, email:

Join the Global Game Jam

SIGNAL ICT Grad School, Dunedin, 31 January to 2 February 2020

Keen to use your creative or digital skills and help design an online game in just 48 hours?

Global Game Jam is the world’s largest game creation event taking place in hundreds of physical locations across the globe. It’s a 48-hour development hackathon for newbies, professionals and everyone in between.

CODE is proud to support SIGNAL ICT Dunedin in hosting this year's Global Game Jam - and you’re invited.

You don’t need to be a coder to take part. Writers, artists, animators, musicians, designers and more are all welcome!

Find out more and get involved

Grants will send three Dunedin game developers to San Francisco in 2020

Dunedin, 23 December 2019

The Dunedin-based New Zealand Centre of Digital Excellence (CODE), in partnership with the New Zealand Game Developers Association (NZGDA), has awarded three $5000 travel grants to Dunedin-based game developers to attend the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California in March 2020.

The CODE grants, included as part of the NZGDA’s annual scholarship programme, were awarded to Seth Corbett-Davies, Aditia Hasib and Georgia Blake.

The Game Developers Conference is the game industry's premier professional event, bringing the game development community together to exchange ideas, solve problems, and shape the future of the industry. With over 25,000 attendees the conference attracts high calibre creatives and investors including programmers, artists, producers, game designers, audio professionals, and business leaders.

CODE Working Group and NZGDA Board member, Tim Ponting, says attending the conference is an exciting opportunity for the three Dunedin-based game developers.

“Seth, Aditia and Georgia will each gain substantial professional development in San Francisco which they can share with the Dunedin game development community on their return. This will not only benefit them directly as developers, it will also benefit the wider Dunedin game development industry and economy. The CODE Working Group is especially pleased to be able to support this so early in CODE’s establishment period.”

Grant recipient, Aditia Hasib, a Community Manager at Dunedin-based game development company Runaway, says she is particularly looking forward to attending talks and panels at the conference relating to community management, marketing, narrative design, and free-to-play mobile games.

“I’m also looking forward to connecting with other community managers to gain insight into the way they approach areas of interest related to community management - for example, how they approach growing a community, dealing with difficult community members or strategies they implement.”

Ms Hasib said attending the conference would provide her with skills directly beneficial to the Dunedin and New Zealand games industry.

“Any skills acquired will be incorporated into my work at Runaway, and these will also be beneficial to the wider community within the Dunedin and New Zealand games industry, as I can share them at game development meetups. I can also help grow the industry by providing talks on the knowledge gained at the conference to students interested in the games industry.”

NZ Game Developers Association Chairperson, Cassandra Gray, says 24 people from Dunedin applied for the CODE grants, which were particularly focused on supporting Dunedin people who are from underrepresented groups in the industry - including Māori, women, youth, and age diverse people.

“We’re really excited for Seth, Aditia and Georgia. The conference is a great event for the industry, and we know from experience that people who attend add real value to the local and national industry when they return.”

Otago Daily Times feature about MoU with JP GAMES

30 November 2019

MoU with Japanese video games publisher to strengthen international linkages

Dunedin, 26 November 2019

On Thursday 28 November, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed between successful Japan-based video games publisher, JP GAMES, and the recently announced New Zealand of Centre of Digital Excellence (CODE), which is being established in Dunedin.

Dunedin’s economic development unit, Enterprise Dunedin, is leading the establishment of CODE in partnership with industry and city stakeholders, and will sign the MoU on behalf of CODE and the Grow Dunedin Partnership (comprising Ngāi Tahu, the University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic, Otago Chamber of Commerce and Otago Southland Employers Association).

CODE Working Group Chair, Murray Strong, says the MoU will provide a basis for developing links between JP GAMES and CODE in computer game development, and for investigating and progressing, by mutual agreement, areas of cooperation or projects.

Mr Strong says, “CODE’s objectives include creating sector networks and providing a programme of national and international mentors. Creating a national and international ecosystem which supports Dunedin and New Zealand game developers is critical to helping grow a $1 billion industry, which is the Government’s vision for CODE.

“The MoU with JP GAMES not only aligns with CODE’s objectives, but with the Dunedin Economic Development Strategy themes of Alliances for Innovation and Linkages Beyond Our Borders.

“It’s an important step in building international linkages for CODE to further reinforce Dunedin and New Zealand’s role within the international game development community. The MoU will provide significant value in terms of generating and sharing new ideas, opportunities and investment.

JP GAMES was launched this year by Hajime Tabata, a Japanese game director and previous Luminous Productions chief operating officer and head of studio. Prior to that, he was head of game development company Square Enix's Business Division 2 and the director of Final Fantasy XV.

JP GAMES developers are currently developing The Pegasus Dream Tour, a fantasy sports role-playing game that is the first officially licensed Paralympics video game.

Mr Tabata says JP GAMES is honoured to take part in the official signing of the MoU with CODE.

“Not only do we share the common goals of pushing the boundaries of games and technology, but we also feel an affinity with CODE in that we both started up this year.

“We at JP GAMES are interested in activities that involve taking on new challenges, so we hope our collaboration with CODE presents us both with stimulating challenges to conquer.”

Mr Tabata said he was particularly interested in finding a creative way to make the two physically distant locales of Tokyo and Dunedin one and the same.

The MoU will be signed at an official ceremony at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery with invited representatives from the game development industry, Dunedin’s tertiary and other education providers, Dunedin businesses and other CODE stakeholders in attendance.

Mr Strong said the MoU will be signed on Mr Tabata’s behalf by JP GAMES’ Global Account Manager, Ken Kawashima, with Creative Director, Hiromitsu Sasaki, also in attendance.

“Mr Kawashima and Mr Sasaki will both spend a few days in Dunedin meeting local industry and tertiary education representatives, while also enjoying the opportunity to view and photograph some of Dunedin’s unique landscapes. As a Creative Director, Mr Sasaki is especially keen on the role of landscapes in video game production and we’re looking forward to showing him what Dunedin has to offer,” Mr Strong adds.

For more information please contact:

Fraser Liggett, Economic Development Programme Manager, Dunedin City Council, +64 (3) 474 3332,

See FAQs about the MoU and JP GAMES

Check this out Dunedin game developers!

NZGDA GDC 2020 Scholarship Programme - CODE Dunedin-based Developer Scholarships

(14 November 2019)

Are you a Dunedin-based game developer looking at going to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, CA in March 2020?

The New Zealand Game Developers Association is again offering travel grants to anyone in games - from students to indies, to studio employees – with a particular focus on people who can bring some kind of benefit to the NZ games industry by attending GDC.

This year, CODE is excited to have partnered up with the NZGDA to offer 3 travel grants of $5000 each – especially for Dunedin-based applicants.

For more information on eligibility and making a grant application, click here.

Applications close midnight on Friday 30 November

CODE's set up phase

Right now, CODE’s infrastructure is in a set-up phase. Until the second quarter of 2020, the focus will be on putting in place the people, tools and networks needed to ensure CODE successfully delivers on its vision for the next ten years.

Once this phase is complete, CODE’s focus will be on:

  • aligning talent to industry needs – i.e. working to attract and retain talent, and develop tertiary education programmes that provide skills needed by industry
  • lifting industry scale and perception – via mentors, speakers and investors, competitions, scale-up and start-up funds, communications and branding
  • encouraging games for health – exploring innovative solutions in partnership with the Southern District Health Board and the University of Otago.