PLAYING games is a serious business.
The global games development industry is expected to hit US$44 billion (S$61 billion) next year.
Closer to home, the industry has had generous funding from the Singapore Government, which is planning to develop the nation as an interactive digital media hub.
Top industry players such as Ubisoft, LucasArts and gaming college DigiPen Institute of Technology have also been invited to set up an arm in Singapore.
DigiPen offers degrees in animation, game design, interactive simulation and computer engineering.
This is good news for aspiring game developers, but a vibrant industry does not automatically open up career opportunities to anyone.
Take 29-year-old Joanna Lee for instance, who applied for the Continuing Education and Training (CET) Programme at DigiPen, an intensive course that teaches the skills to make a mid-career switch to the gaming industry.
Ms Lee has a degree in electrical engineering and has worked as a programmer for three years. She wanted to make her skills more marketable, especially because she was gunning for a post at a top gaming company.
Currently in the midst of the CET Programme, she is trained to think with a broader perspective and to look beyond the nitty-gritty of creating a game.
An aspiring game designer like Ms Lee has to learn how to replicate an entire gaming experience because today’s games have morphed from pixellated shapes to realistic visuals that seem to transport the gamer to another world.
What you can be
Apart from being a game designer, there is great demand for other career opportunities. Here are just four out of many:
Props and environmental modeller
With their keen and artistic eye for intricate detail, modellers are responsible for crafting characters and props out of physical materials such as clay.
These sculptures look incredibly lifelike and, at times, they are no bigger than the size of a thumb.
Pictures speak a thousand words — and if you enjoy storytelling and visual imagination, this might be the perfect job for you.
Storyboard artists are extremely visual, and their task is to conceptualise storylines that have to be backed up with eloquent graphics that they sketch to accompany the story.
Testers have the most enviable job of many avid gamers — they test games.
Although this sounds like an easy job, it is very challenging and requires an analytical mind that can select good games that will appeal to consumers.
Testers also have to detect potential bugs in the system that could hamper gameplay.
These professionals are the modern-day gaming equivalent of a music composer.
Audio programmers have to produce various types of sounds using modern technology, and figure out how to piece them together in a cohesive tapestry that has the ability to influence the mood of the game.
Where you can work
Equipping yourself with game design skills does not limit you to just working with a game developing company.
You can also choose to work in-house for a company to strengthen its corporate branding through digital animation, or create animation for movies.
Even if you currently have a secure job, you should be prepared for the challenges ahead.
Working in the gaming industry is competitive and arduous, and production deadlines are extremely hectic.
Yet, the joy of seeing your project come alive on screen — or the sight of gamers immersed in the magical world you have created — is one of the greatest rewards a game developer will experience.