From next week, first-year economics students at Pioneer Junior College will learn the subject through a new, specially designed computer game.

In SpacEcon, players will build a new colony by collecting minerals and using them as currency.

Mrs Tan-Kek Lee Yong, principal of Pioneer JC, yesterday told The Straits Times: "Economics is totally new to them, and this approach will introduce concepts to them in a natural way."

The game was designed by a group of tertiary students who took part in the Game Innovation Programme, organised by the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) Game Lab.

In the 14-week internship, which started in May, 32 students from various institutions were grouped to produce applications for five "clients", including Pioneer JC.

Their works - some of which may be commercialised - were showcased yesterday at SUTD.

"Gaming is one of the fastest-growing sub-sectors in our local media industry," said Media Development Authority's (MDA) industry assistant CEO, Mr Yeo Chun Cheng. He added that the sector, which has more than 200 companies, generated $630 million in operating receipts in 2011.

With the Game Lab, which is supported by the MDA, SUTD president Thomas L. Magnanti hopes the university will "play a significant role in developing Singapore's game industry".

Over the next five years, it aims to train 500 interns for the industry. From next year, second-year students can also take modules on game development.

SUTD undergraduate Delia Phua, 20, who took part in the programme, said: "I'm what you can consider a hardcore gamer. Because I spend so much time on games, I can't see myself doing anything else."

Her team's effort for client Daylight Studios - Android game Reign of Heroes: Lightbringers - was well-received. Said the studio's assistant producer, Mr Faizan Abid: "The gameplay is good, but we still need more content before we're ready for commercialisation. We look forward toworking with them again."