Training the next generation of game developers
By Chong Jinn Xiung July 4, 2017
- With over 200 students the five-year course aims to produce talents and not just graduates
- Input from industry veterans help keep course relevant and up-to-date
THE game development scene in Southeast Asia is set to grow in the next five to 10 years according to KDU University College’s head of school for computing and creative media Tan Chin Ike (pic). In order for that to be a reality, there needs to be a ready talent pool for developers to tap into and sustain.
“Southeast Asia represents around 4% of the global video games market, which is forecast to grow at a staggering Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 30% from 2016 to 2018,” said Tan.
According to estimates, the Malaysian video games market reached US$293 million in 2015, an increase of 30.9% from 2014, making the country the 26th largest games market in the world and the third largest in Southeast Asia.
Creating a sustainable talent pool
With the foresight that the games market would grow to the level that it is today, KDU University College introduced its Bachelor of Game Development course way back in 2012.
“We decided to start a game course in KDU because we felt that we needed to create an industry-relevant course from the ground up with input from the those in the industry and pioneers in the Malaysian game development industry as well,” said Tan.
He goes on to say that the programme is highly specialised and taught by industry specialists. The faculty has dedicated facilities and tools for games. Even developers like the UK’s Codemasters Studio, which has a Malaysian studio, have contributed their feedback and expertise to the course syllabus.
“We ensure that we hire industry-based lecturers and that there is a balance between full-time and part-time staff, who happen to be luminaries in the game industry,” Tan added.
“We have three founders of local games companies teaching here once to twice a week, sharing their knowledge. In a way, this helps keep our course relevant and in tune with what the industry wants.”
He goes on to say that students normally specialise based on their area of interest and expertise. Those who are artistic in nature and like to draw are suited for Game Art while creative individuals with a flair for crafting stories who like to manage projects can try their hand at Game Design.
If they are attuned with Maths and Physics with an eye for coding then they can specialise in Game Technology.
In the early days of the programme, Tan admitted it was tough to attract students as KDU was not known for courses in creative content.
“It took a lot of awareness-building and on-ground activities to build the entire course. From a small group of five students in the first intake, we have grown to over 250 students in less than five years,” he said.
But the biggest hurdle Tan often faces are the parents of students who think that studying about developing games just involves playing games, which is entirely not true.
“It is an over-simplified assumption that most people make. It is akin to saying people in the movie industry watch movies all the time! Of course, playing games is part of what they do, but the reality is that students are too busy on their projects and assignments to spend time playing games,” Tan explained.
A healthy growth path for students and the industry
Unlike most other degree programmes, students have to decide very early on in the course, by the second semester, on their specialisation after learning the basics of each specialisation in the first semester.
Tan goes on to say that students normally study separately by the time they specialise but in KDU’s programme, game development students are encouraged to regularly collaborate with one another.
In fact, it is mandatory that students from different specialisations collaborate on a group project no less than three times throughout the course.
“The philosophy behind it is that we want to simulate what it feels like to develop a game in a typical game studio environment,” explained Tan.
Malaysia is home to more than 50 international studios, local outsourcing studios and independent studios. Just last year Japanese games giant Bandai Namco set up a Malaysian studio that is set to be their hub for visual art production in the region.
Other notable companies include the likes of Passion Republic, Lemonsky Games, Streamline Studios and many others, offering plenty of job opportunities to graduates of the course, Tan said.