Breaking into the games industry can be tough. Without some sort of insider knowledge, it’s hard to know exactly where to even start. That being said, as the games industry only gets larger, there exists a whole career of helping young adults get their start in gaming. Ng Yiing Y’ng is a lecturer at UOW Malaysia KDU University College, who is part of the School’s Bachelor of Game Development (Hons) course. She has a keen interest in game research and is currently pursuing her PhD studies in video games.
On top of that, she’s also a designer and artist. You might have seen her around the local convention circuit, where she sells her art and comic. She’s also an avid gamer (a particularly huge fan of Final Fantasy VII & Dota2), and she enjoys board games as well as tabletop RPGs like D&D.
All About The User Experience
As a lecturer with a passion for video games, Y’ng has a wealth of knowledge on the topics of game art and game design. While everyone has their big ideas for their next great game, she says it’s important to think about how that game is going to be played, as well.
“It’s all about the User Experience (UX). I believe UX design affects the success of video games.” she says. “When you develop a game, you need to think about people who will be playing your game, and what kind of experience do you want to give to them”.
Y’ng shares with us a more practical example of this:
“For example, ‘Mountain climbing’. You can’t design a game where it’s just simply a person climbing a mountain. Like what will this person experience when they climb a mountain? How does he survive the cold temperature and the weather? Where does he need to go when it gets dark at night? What kind of accident he might encounter while climbing?“. She further explains, “When you have the players get immersed into this kind of experience, they’ll enter this flow (zone) state which will result in a satisfying and rewarding gaming experience“.
It’s not just gameplay, either. According to Y’ng, even the narrative and environment should be built with this philosophy in mind. That is to say, it should be centered around user experience. “Everything: Story and environment, has to be centered on user experience”.
Skills Of The Industry
This can sound daunting to the average person, so Y’ng was kind enough to talk about some skills for people who want to get their start in the games industry.
“Passion is a must-have. Because game development is a challenging and tough journey,” she says. “Even when students work on their game projects, they realize it’s not as easy as they think it is“.
Of course, it’s not enough to simply shout ‘I’m passionate!’ every time you’re faced with a problem. Y’ng says passion can only get you so far, and that you need to also be a team player.
“Developing a game usually involves several roles which are rarely done by one person. You have to work not just with the game artists, but also with game programmers, game designers, sound designers, project managers etc. A strong team that works well together have a good chance to develop a successful game,” she says. “So the second thing you need is Teamwork. If you want to do it solo, you can, but it’s a lot harder than working as a team”.
She mentions Stardew Valley, a game famously made by only one person. While an impressive feat, not everyone has the privilege to be able to go a few years without a steady job. According to Y’ng, it was also only possible because Stardew Valley’s creator, Eric Barone, has a multi-discipline skillset. He was the sole designer, programmer, artist & composer for the game.
Of course, you wouldn’t be able to make it in the industry without some good ol’ elbow grease. Y’ng notes that this doesn’t mean you’ll need to become an automaton, but you’ll still need to be able to deliver when push comes to shove.
“You’ve got to work hard. If you want to have fun, do have fun. But you’ve also got to work for it” she says.
Future of Gamification
Of course, being part of the industry also means having some predictions for where its heading next. We spoke to Y’ng about this, and she thinks there’s going to be lots of potential in future for games.
“I think we will see a lot of gamification in the future” she says. “I mean, if you notice, Shopee has multiple in-app games for users to earn Shopee coins. These coins can then be used for discounts when you purchase something in Shopee. So this creates a new and engaging shopping experience for its customer”.
Education, too, is on the way to being gamified. “We’re looking for ways to gamify our classroom,” Y’ng elaborates. “Imagine the classroom is conducted like a game where you have to participate in classroom activities to earn points. These activities are like game missions. So with the amount of points you earn, you can purchase fictional items from the lecturer that will give you an advantage in the module. For example, if you earn 50 points, you can buy ‘The Fire Death Potion’ which will grant you 3 extra days to submit your assignment” she laughs.
“So I think there’s a lot of potential in gamification”, she notes.
Hearing Out Those Who Need It
Of course, not everyone’s experiences in the industry are the same. As a woman in the video game industry, Y’ng is no stranger to the challenges faced by anyone who’s not a cisgender man. That’s where Women in Games Hangout (WiGout) Malaysia comes in. WiGout is a community hangout based in Kuala Lumpur and Y’ng is one of its co-founders.
“We want to create a safe space for women and underrepresented folks in the game industry” she says, acknowledging that it’s more than women in danger of being excluded.
While it lacks any kind of prosecuting power, Y’ng says the community exists to allow vulnerable groups to speak their minds. In essence, it’s about hearing them out.
“We want to create a place where if you face any trouble at your workplace, women or anyone, you can come to us. Speak to us, and we will find a way to hear you out, and see if we can solve anything” she says.
Y’ng says it’s important to support the women, especially in the face of a male-dominated industry. “More and more girls are entering the game development course but they also feel suppressed at times”, she says. “Unlike today, it was tougher back then where female students tend to be quiet during team discussion especially for their game projects. Even if they are facing problems with their male team members, they would rather stay silent about it,” she adds.
“WiGout is a platform to share your troubles. You can also share ideas on what activities we can do. It’s a hangout place after all, for people to feel safe. Most importantly is you get to know people in the community. And if there is anything you need to talk about, you know who you can approach. We are here for you”.
From our talk with Y’ng, it’s pretty clear that there’s a lot more to getting into the games industry than just technical skill. It’s a demanding field, yes, but also rewarding if you can remember why you got in in the first place.
Meanwhile, it’s also clear that for some people, even that is not enough to get into the industry. Various vulnerable groups face unique issues, and being able to reach out to other people can be good for them.
A huge thanks to Ng Yiing Y’ng for speaking with us. As a lecturer, her guidance and industry insight has been invaluable to this article. You can check out the UoW Malaysia KDU and WiGout at their respective social media channels, or follow Y’ng on her twitter.