The very last thing I had the great honor to do as a Razer employee was to talk to students and career hopefuls at the recent NTU Career Fair. What I found most incredible about the career fair was how many young adults there were genuinely and sincerely passionate about video games but never thought they could make a career of it in Singapore – till meeting us Razer folk that day.
Flashback to six, seven years ago – I thought the only career path for me from a Mass Communications degree was in public relations at a bank or at a PR agency (because I had the gift of the gab). I had even done a couple of internships to prove it (one at Citibank, and one at Edelman). And yet despite preparing for a sensible career in the future, on the eve my final year thesis was due, I went out and bought Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 on launch day, completed the single player campaign in one sitting on the hardest difficulty and still managed to submit my thesis on time.
I received the highest distinction for my thesis (thanks Tom). It was on Left 4 Dead.
My point is this, despite my conservative Asian upbringing that had groomed me to act sensibly, study hard, think about my future and how I could start making a living, deep down all I ever wanted to do was play video games.
It was only upon graduating, when job offers in public relations and corporate affairs started pouring in, that I discovered the job opening for the position of a Copywriter at Razer. And after getting the offer from Razer, I deliberated between three job offers – two “sensible” ones, and Razer – I took the leap of faith into the video games industry and never looked back.
And now six years on, I’ve come full circle. On my very last day at Razer, I visited a university to talk to soon-to-be-graduating students and told them that there are now legitimate career options in video games open to them. Options that I wasn’t aware of, or weren’t available to me, as a career hopeful back in 2010 upon graduation. Furthermore, if they truly wanted to make a difference for video games in Singapore, you don’t just need to be a programmer to enter this world! You could be in HR, Finance, PR, Community, Marketing – video game companies need such expertise too.
The Singapore video games industry today is wildly different to what it was back in 2010 when I first joined it. From only a handful of companies then, with Razer being a pioneer and currently a leading player, there’s now an incredible number of options for career hopefuls to explore. Here’s a handy Wiki link to demonstrate just that.
Now keep in mind I’m not talking about the video games community! Because that’s been big in Singapore forever. And there are countless individuals and groups who have done great work, and still are doing loads to keep the love of video games and esports alive here. Those people, we must raise up, shine a light on them, and keep supporting to do more. But to be offered a legitimate paid career in video games in Singapore – THAT’S A BIG DEAL.
The people I’ve met at the Career Fair could relate — we’d have our parents nagging at us to stop playing video games and to study more. My mum would even confiscate my PC during major exam periods because they thought I had a problem (it wasn’t a problem, it was a love). Today, my parents see the value in my video games career and how I’ve got an incredible opportunity to contribute to one of the most innovative, and fasting-growing tech sectors here ever. It helps that some of the most passionate in the region are helping put gaming at the top of mainstream local consciousness. Singaporeans and Malaysians securing global recognition in the gaming community, netting a huge chunk of major prize pools, and developers setting up shop here, along with the birth of indie game start-ups.
The world of video games is growing ever larger, and I want these young hopefuls to have every right and reason to be excited about their chances to be a part of this, and contribute meaningfully.
The most commonly asked question I received at the fair was this: “What is Razer (or any video games company) looking for, in a new hire?”
And my answer was not “Play video games.”
My answer is to “show up and be ready to grind every single day.” As much as a career in video games is fun, it’s also a lot of hard work. There’s no clear way forward, no structured road to success. Audiences are fickle, the hot new thing today may not be hot tomorrow. There’s still a lot to be done, to innovate, to raise the bar, to remain competitive, and most importantly, to change the perception of gaming in Singapore. And it needs motivated individuals to make that happen.
But I added to my answer, “it helps if you’re passionate about video games, because it is only then that you can make a difference.”
And while the number of opportunities in video games in Singapore grows, it’s still a relatively small, niche job sector and so competition for available positions remain hotter than Yeezy Boosts 350 V2s. That’s why the young ‘uns need to understand, yes, it’s far more possible to join this world now than ever before, but you still need to prove that you’re the person worth hiring. Over the sea of others who want the job as badly as you do. Only those with their heart in the right place will stand out from the intense competition, and truly make a difference.
I’m cognizant that my experiences are my own, and that there was a synchronicity of many factors that led to me being in the position that I am, and not everyone may have the same opportunities that I have – but just knowing that I am incredibly blessed being where I am, I want to give back and help others.
I’m getting the ball rolling by first letting everyone know that I’m here, and I’m open for a chat – especially if you’re looking to break into the industry for the first time. My network is humble in comparison to many others locally, my work experience still growing, but I’ve got friends who also want to help strengthen the talent pool for the video games industry here. I also want to share as many different experiences and paths in to video games, so that we have a massive archive of information to help make more dreams a reality.
To quickly summarize, here’s some of my own advice about how to break into the industry – keep in mind, this is just a slice of the iceberg, based on my own experiences and of those closest to me:
· Be in the know – care about the video games industry in every way possible.
· Be involved, volunteer – write a blog, write for other sites, run an esports event with friends, start a Twitch/Youtube thing, participate in local game communities.
· Apply yourself – figure out how your specific skillsets can be applied to the business of video games, make that specificity known on your CV/resume/portfolio
· Ask – reach out to people in the business (like me). You’ll be surprised how many are happy to share what they know, over coffee.
· Persevere – cold email the hell out of as many places as you can. Get an internship (even if unpaid).
I left the NTU Career Fair excited for all the graduating students that I had a chance to talk to. I hope to have ignited the glint in your eyes to be set on joining the local video games industry. For me personally, meeting you was the best reminder that the world of video games is best when everyone in it helps each other. And that there’s still a lot more work to be done – work I’m going to get to right this second.
See you on the other side, gamer.