THE video gaming industry is one of the fastest growing in the world today. Last year, it made more than RM423 billion worldwide.
There is huge potential in the gaming industry in the country. In 2016, local gaming studios had a part in developing popular games such as Uncharted 4, Terminator Salvation and Mortal Kombat X.
The Malaysian studio Passion Republic has collaborated with international game developer Naughty Dog to develop the final instalment of the video game Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It is a testament to Malaysia as a creative hub with the right talent to thrive in the industry.
This joint effort has led to partnerships with big names in the international arena. Since then many Malaysian studios have been creating headlines with their games such as King League 20 (Kurechii), No Straight Road and Nightstream.
With the growth of the industry, Malaysians are also jumping on the virtual world’s bandwagon to kick-start their careers such as producer, designer, artist, animator, digital media developer, and multimedia and animation tool developer.
Higher Ed looks at the nurturing of successful game developers with a focus on Game Art, Game Design and Game Technology (Programming) and how a degree in these disciplines can contribute to the growing market.
A champion of the gaming industry since 2000, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is optimistic of the nation becoming one of this region’s leading game hubs.
Take for example Multimedia University (MMU) game development graduate Hariz Mustafa, who has successfully published his virtual reality game, namely Deplau, on Steam Store, a digital distribution platform for video games developed by Valve Corporation.
During his final-year project, he experimented with gestures controls for First Person Shooter, a type of computer game in which the player aims and shoots at targets.
During his internship, he helped in developing a game prototype for Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 which led him to venture into virtual reality development.
With the industry on the rise, academicians urged policy makers such as government agencies and companies related to the gaming industry to develop an integrated ecosystem for Malaysian casual gamers and professional eSports players with the aim to create a winning combination for the industry and the economy.
Malaysia is on track to be the gaming industry hub as more international studios are entrusting local gaming studios with developing their intellectual property (IP).
Lecturer Damian Elias Surin at the Faculty of Multimedia Creativity in Limkokwing University of Creative Technology said: “This encourages young developers to venture into game development. With game studios aggressively expanding in both size and project content in recent years, university and industry partnership is vital in providing a balanced ecosystem in the gaming industry.”
The Youth and Sports Ministry is pushing for more development in eSports and the gaming industry in the country.
MMU lecturer Albert Quek said the gaming industry is unique as it is a melting pot of talents with backgrounds in art, and technical and design.
He added that the government has recognised the gaming industry as one of the important for talent development. Government agencies such as MDEC understand the importance of building an ecosystem in the industry for nurturing talents from eSport gamers to game developers.
Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) Department of Game Studies head Kevin Tan Han Keong said the huge growth creates healthy competition, exchange of ideas and ample job opportunities.
Democratisation means game developers are no longer constantly reinventing or creating game engines.
“Instead they use established robust world class game engines such as Unity and Unreal, while focusing on creating quality game content,” added Tan.
Associate Professor Wong Bee Suan, academic director at Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU), said the booming gaming industry in Malaysia will translate into more investments and more jobs will be created.
For example, multinational company Streamline has been in the country since 2010 and it has worked on Final Fantasy XV and Street Fighter V with Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology students.
LEVERAGING ON THE INDUSTRY
“Students from different backgrounds can leverage on the gaming industry by working together to create games,” said Quek.
“A game consists of visuals and sound, in addition to programming and game rules. Students of game technology with knowledge in programming can work with their peers versed in game art to create games.
“Students trained with good fundamentals in game education can get exposure to best practices in the industry.”
These graduates can explore careers in information technology (IT)-related fields, for example application programming.
There is consistent growth in the user base for digital games in Southeast Asia, Tan added, especially in the online and mobile games market.
With demand for new games in this region, comes the need for games which meet local tastes, localisation services and local content.
“Graduates in the fields of gaming can expect strong demand for their skill sets, whether they be programming, art or game design.”
The country has a healthy game development scene with many homegrown companies and talents that create original IP as well as outsourcing from international and established game studios such as Capcom, Naughty Dog and Blizzard.
“Game studios are looking for new ideas and ways of solving problems. A graduate who enjoys being challenged and tapping into the unique multicultural Malaysian roots can offer new perspectives to the industry.
“Therefore, jobs are aplenty for graduates with the right skill sets and talents.”
Graduates can look forward to potential careers in multimedia, animation, interactive software development, 3D modelling, graphic design, web programming and web page design.
“In the age of Industry 4.0, employers are not only looking for recruits but also creative and innovative individuals who can problem-solve, contribute and offer solutions.”
The gaming industry is not limited to developing games, as there is a wide spectrum of the ecosystem from developing games and games art to playing games.
“You can be a game commentator, who provides commentary during live video game events as well. There are huge opportunities students can leverage on. I see this rapid growth as exciting and encouraging, potentially it will create many jobs.”
Damian said: “Games artist and designers are in most demand but the industry opens up future pathways for high skills-driven graduates to respond and adapt readily to emerging gaming trends and technologies. They will emerge as high-flying graduates with high income careers.”
ROLE OF UNIVERSITIES
The local video games industry is always on the lookout for fresh talents to work with on projects and the best way to nurture gaming talents is through education.
In Malaysia, nine universities and colleges offer gaming courses from game development to eSports. There are Management & Science University, KDU University College and Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris besides APU, Limkokwing University, MMU and UTAR, which offer game courses at the degree level.
Others include Clazroom College and Selayang Community College, which offer diploma courses, and the Academy of eSports.
The Game Development programme at MMU exposes students to methodology through to pre-production, production and post-production, equipping students with the basics to design games.
“This is to prepare students to be ready for the industry. During their final year, they are involved in an innovative game project that uses game technologies.
“We have also appointed Wan Hazmer Wan Abd Halim, a well-known public figure in the industry with a portfolio as an ex-game designer of Final Fantasy 15, as industry adviser.
“He will review the university’s game syllabus and how we can improve the programme,” said Quek.
To ensure quality in the delivery of programmes, UTAR appoints professors from established foreign universities, who help moderate the courses and ensure the exam questions are in line with international standards.
“The university also appoints industry advisers from the Malaysian games industry to consult on the curriculum, industry trends and matters related to students’ development in the field of games studies.
“Students are exposed to the industry with frequent games studio visits. Industry experts visit the campus to critique students’ works and students enter competitions to flex their creativity.”
Tan said with this holistic education does not only prepare students for a career in games development but it also serves as a foundation for lifelong learning and to embark on related fields of interest.
In the initial stages of introducing the Computer Games Development degree programme 15 years ago at APU, Wong said it was a challenge to convince parents to enrol their children as they have yet to see the potential of the industry compared to the more popular and well-received IT programmes.
The university took the initiative to create awareness by participating in exhibitions and actively arranged talks and games workshops at schools.
With the growth of the industry and job opportunities, gaming courses are now well-recognised as career pathways.
APU is the first institution here to set up an eSports Academy together with eSports Malaysia. The academy focuses on training pro-gamers. Classes are offered during weekends for beginner, intermediate and expert levels, which run three months.
With a wide array of relevant games programmes and mentors from the industry, Limkokwing University provides students with prospects to develop and hone relevant skills within its creative environment.
An important feature is practical problem-solving with multi-disciplinary teams using current and emerging technologies.
“The programme simulates practices in the gaming industry and students develop more specialised skills in their areas of interest.
“From their first day on campus, students have access to the industry through a series of industry talks by experts to provide them with the necessary skills to design their future,” said Damian.
“It extends beyond games as with the right education, one will be able to become the jack of all trades in this domain, allowing one to become a core essential in any multimedia-related field.
“University and industry collaboration is one of the methods the university employs to motivate students to improve their knowledge and skills.
“This exposes them to some of the latest technologies and implementations in the industry.”
GAMES-RELATED COURSES OFFERED BY MALAYSIAN UNIVERSITIES
Bachelor of Computer Science (Honours) in Games Development
UNIVERSITIES: Multimedia University, Asia Pacific University and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman
SUBJECTS: Programming Fundamentals, Game Design Fundamentals, Computer Graphic Fundamentals, Game Algorithms, Basic Animation for Games, Mobile Game Development, Games Engines, Imaging and Special Effects
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Games Art Development/Diploma in Games Art
UNIVERSITY: Limkokwing University of Creative Technology
SUBJECTS: Design Principles, Animation Studies, Digital Imaging, Games Production, Cinematography for Games, Life Drawing, Analytical Drawing & Colour Theory, History of Art, Photographic Studies
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Game Design
UNIVERSITIES: Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman and Limkokwing University of Creative Technology
SUBJECTS: Fundamentals of Games Design, Games Design Project, Fundamentals of Drawing, History of Game Art & Genre Studies, Programming for Games, Digital Video & Audio Production, Mobile Game Designing
Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Games Technology
UNIVERSITY: Limkokwing University of Creative Technology
SUBJECTS: C++ Programming, Interactive Multimedia, Object-Oriented Game Implementation, Computer Game Design, Software Project Management, Operating System, Virtual Reality