PLAYING video games, or gaming, is often viewed in a negative light. This is because many associate excessive gaming to addiction. It doesn’t help that some parents believe this will lead to failing at school.
But recent developments such as local electronic sports (eSports) outfit Team Fnatic winning fourth place at the International Dota 2 tournament in Seattle, United States last August puts gaming in a rather different light. Their prowess at the multiplayer online video game played in teams of five saw Team Fnatic bagging a prize money of US$1.4 million (RM5.9 million).
Gaming clearly pays off as many professional gamers from around the globe can attest to but it takes skill, teamwork, dedication, and lots of practice and time to get to that level.
However, there is more to gaming than progressing from being a casual gamer to the more lucrative world of professional gaming. The industry comprises an entire ecosystem from game developer, player and esports event organiser and this translates into a huge business.
According to Multimedia Development Corp (MDeC), the gaming market in Malaysia is expected to grow 20 per cent to RM868.7 million by this year, and in the region itself to grow 30 per cent by next year — the fastest growth of any geographical region.
Hence, according to MDeC’s Creative Content and Technologies Division director Hasnul Hadi Samsuddin, there is a focused push to have Malaysia become the regional game hub for Southeast Asia.
“My team and I have been working on many different platforms — really building a game economy, an ecosystem. It’s not just about people who play games, it’s also about building careers around the industry,” he said.
Efforts to do this began in 2014 when MDeC began initiatives to set up the Southeast Asia Game Initiative working with associations around the region — those in the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia.
“We brought all the different games associations to discuss and to actually chart the path to see how we can take advantage of what is said to be the phenomenal growth in the gaming industry in Southeast Asia,” said Hasnul Hadi.
With the fast growth in Southeast Asia, international games publishers like Riot Games find that it is a critical region for the company to be in and develop the network of professionals in the field of gaming in the future.
Headquartered in Santa Monica, California in the US, Riot Games is the developer and publisher of League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena video game which was released in 2009 and now has more than 100 million play every month.
Benjamin Pommeraud, general manager of Riot Games Singapore and Malaysia, said its presence in Southeast Asia is to promote, develop and make vibrant the gaming environment in this part of the world
“A few years back, gaming was about boxed products — mostly targeting millenials. Today, gaming is everywhere — on mobile, on PC, on console. 50 per cent of gamers are actually female and a brand-new phase of gaming is developing.
“On many aspects, gaming is becoming less niche — which is meaningful for university students — because, before, if you were to enter the gaming industry, typically you have to study game design. Today, if you study finance, business administration, major in sports business, for example; you can find a job in gaming,” he said.
And conversely, said Pommeraud, all these fields that are needed in gaming can be applicable to all the other industries.
“So, this is a strategic industry. Telling all students that they’re all going to be professional players would be lying to them. But what is true is that the gaming industry — what my job entails and my colleagues do at Riot Games — is basically creating products, creating events, partnering people to bring as many content to as many people. It is an exciting and innovative career,” he said.
Gurpardeep Singh, who is vice-president, operations, of APIIT Education Group, which runs the Asia Pacific University (APU), agrees.
“We’ve been running a games development degree programme for the last 10 years. And that has focused a lot on what happens in the background. Not what we see in the front when playing games but the engine. Throughout the programme, our students become some of the best programmers in the world who can go to any programming setting.
“But we realised that we have to shift more to the frontline. The game is made to be played and it is played by players that play them well. The games must be continuously reviewed and enhanced and this can only come from feedback from the players. And that’s where we took the conscious step to establish the first esports academy in Malaysia to train aspiring professional game players and prepare them for competitive gaming,” he shared.
APIIT Education Group and Esports Malaysia earlier this year opened the APU eSports Malaysia Academy which extends the education provider’s involvement into the next step on the gaming industry value chain.
Gurpardeep said games and education can co-exist as gaming develops transferable skills that industry is crying out for.
“Employers say graduates lack communication and critical thinking skills, and teamwork. What we notice in the games events, these are the very skills that are being developed among students. And no matter what degree they do — whether it’s finance, computing, finance, engineering — these activities will enhance their soft skills and their employability regardless if they decide to get into the gaming industry as a career or not,” he said.
To rev up passion in gaming among university and college students and educate them on potential careers in the industry, Riot Games has recently introduced a new initiative to Malaysia: the Riot Games Student Ambassador Program — a first of such programme in the world for the company.
The one-year programme aims to help participants develop transferable career critical skills and jump-start their future careers, regardless of their chosen discipline.
“The video game industry is innovative and competitive. We know the importance of studying hard to perform in today’s world. It is part of Riot’s culture to propel innovation, nurture talent and to create a positive perception for the gaming industry. This is what we are willing to do with our ambassador programme,” said Pommeraud.
The Riot Games Student Ambassador Program runs until March next year. For its first batch, Riot has selected 28 students from 28 universities and colleges throughout Malaysia.
“We were impressed by the hundreds of online applications we received from students around the country. There are so many talents out there who are both good students, charismatic and passionate about gaming,” expressed Pommeraud.
The main criteria for the ambassadors is that they are full-time students who are avid gamers yet well rounded and have the grades and extracurriculars to rival their game rank. Ambassadors are also expected to be able conduct multiple concurrent projects — including academic ones — while staying under tight deadlines.
“The students will work to engage, grow and nurture a thriving gaming community at their respective campuses. For this they would have to brainstorm, organise and execute campaigns and other initiatives on campus. From organising intra-campus tournaments and community events to hosting workshops and hackathons, they will be the main driver behind these value-adding projects.
“Gaming sometimes suffer from a poor image so we’ll work together on this and show that gaming and academic excellence can go hand in hand. The students will help build relationships with key university and faculty members and other student groups to improve the perception of gaming on campus,” said Pommeraud.
At the end of the programme, student-ambassadors will receive certificates, testimonials and notably partial scholarships, with top ambassadors receiving an all-expense paid trip to watch the Finals of the League of Legends World Championship next year.
During the one-year programme, student-ambassadors will lead campus campaigns and initiatives that will develop their leadership, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, events management and budgeting skills.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia law student, Muhammad Nur Sadiqin Mohd Khusni, 22, and INTI International College business administration degree programme student Wong Mei Jen, 23, are looking forward to their ambassadorship.
With a GPA (grade point average) of 3.4, Muhammad Nur Sadiqin’s exposure to console gaming started when he was 12 when he was given a PlayStation by his father.
“I have organised Dota tournaments on campus and have also started playing League of Legends. Being part of this programme is an opportunity not be missed. I am keen to work in the legal aspect of gaming,” he said.
Wong, who has a 3.5 GPA, had an earlier start at gaming — at five years old in a family gaming atmosphere.
“Gaming is a big deal. I am now involved in more competitive gaming and I have always been interested in Riot Games. I hope I will be part of the industry either in production or marketing,” she said.
Hasnul Hadi said MDeC views the ambassadorship as encouraging.
“We believe the programme by Riot Games will provide valuable experiences and learning to empower young Malaysian talents to meet industry demands.”
Riot Games Student Ambassador Program participating Universities and Colleges
• KDU College
• Limkokwing Institute Of Creative
• University Technology Malaysia (Johor)
• Petronas University of Technology
• MARA Polytechnic College
• Multimedia University
• Swinburne University of Technology
• INTI International College Penang
• University Tunku Abdul Rahman
• Taylors University
• Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)
• Asia Pacific University
• Universiti Teknologi MARA (Sarawak)
• University of Malaya
• Universiti Tenaga National (Pahang)
• Universiti Putra Malaysia
• Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
• SEGI University (Kuala Lumpur)
• University of Kuala Lumpur
• Sunway University
• Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka
• SEGI University (Penang)
• Universiti Sains Malaysia
• Tunku Abdul Rahman University College
• UCSI University
• Universiti Teknologi MARA (Shah Alam)
• University of Nottingham
• INTI International College Kuala Lumpur
Different career paths in the gaming industry Game Design
• Product Management
• Business development
• Information technology
• Quality assurance
• Player support
• Research and development