On a typical day at Razer’s Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore, a counter-terrorist team is preparing to ambush a terrorist faction. Across a dust-streaked landscape, the terrorists lie in wait. Suddenly, a spray of bullets bursts forth from an AK-47, and within seconds the terrorists are slumped on the ground, defeated. A rousing cheer is heard from the winning team.
The Razer employees have just concluded another successful round of Counter-Strike 1.6, a first-person shooter game. Their office has a full LAN gaming setup, perfect for mid-day shootouts when the team takes a much needed break from their work.
Such forms of entertainment are just what employees need to stay creative and motivated. As a company that makes peripherals such as hyper-sensitive mouses and specialised keyboards for computer games, it is only natural that games are a key part of Razer’s identity.
The global gaming industry is an economy that is currently worth approximately US$46.5 billion (S$59.6 billion) annually. In Singapore, more than 60 games-related companies are already leveraging on the country’s economic and regional strengths to create original and creative content for the market.
However, cultivating the right talent pool for a successful domestic gaming industry is still a challenge, despite a high level of funding and support from the Government.
Many people do not believe that gaming can provide them with a career or a “real” business. Society tends to dismiss games as frivolous, or a waste of one’s time. But as a community, we need to embrace creativity and innovation by starting to question norms and treating play seriously. This is true of all creative industries, not just gaming.
Razer’s co-founder and CEO Tan Min-Liang, who was born in Singapore and is now based in the United States, can attest to this. A hardcore gamer, Mr Tan has proven that taking passion in gaming to the next level and defying conventions is a risk worth taking.
Play hard to work hard
In 1998, Razer started from a small office in California with just two employees. Today, Razer has over 200 employees globally. This success is probably due to the Generation X-meets-Generation Y management style that the company advocates.
“Play” is instrumental to Razer’s culture, because its managers believe people need to live and breathe creativity in order to be creative. For example, the company pays special attention to ensure a relaxing and conducive environment for staff, allowing them to work and have fun at the same time.
The Singapore office has a private R&R area that provides employees with daily lunches, a recreation corner with video games, a table-tennis table and vending machines for snacks. Razer also provides employees with scooters to get around its 30,000 sq ft office, because it is efficient but mostly because it is fun. These benefits are all part of the US$750,000 that the company annually spends on staff welfare.
While some may worry that encouraging play in the workplace decreases productivity, Razer’s management hold the opposite view. The company trusts its employees to work hard and continue to deliver exceptional work.
It is understood that the games are put on hold when there is an urgent project calling. Employees are willing to put in the extra hours and effort into their jobs, because they appreciate the trust management has in them.
Like Razer, many companies are constantly on the lookout for avid and enthusiastic professionals looking to start a career in the entertainment industry.
In order to encourage and nurture the passion these young, creative individuals have towards gaming and development, companies need to blur the boundaries between work and play.
Singaporean employers need to encourage creativity and support individuals who are able to think for themselves, and think out of the box. Only by doing so will Singapore be able to reinvent itself constantly and be one step ahead of the herd.