Games on your mobile device can cure boredom and brighten up that long bus journey. But can they help with something as serious as nation-building?
Singaporeans will soon find out, with a new mobile game to bond Singaporeans in lieu of SG50, the nation’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2015. The Media Development Authority (MDA) will be providing a grant for the development of a mobile game to “foster deeper emotional ties among Singaporeans” and “promote the Singapore identity”.
“The government is putting forth various initiatives to celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday. The gaming sector is a very vibrant industry, so we didn’t want to leave games out,” commented Mr Joachim Ng, Director for Industry Relations at the MDA.
He was speaking at the Game Development and IP Dialogue Session, held on 11 July at the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) Centre. The session drew industry players, gaming enthusiasts and students exploring career options.
A participant takes a quick shot of the requirements for the SG50 proposal
Mobile Games: The Way Forward
Elysion Games, a local gaming studio, expressed interest in submitting a proposal for the new mobile game. “Now, more people are open to playing mobile games, even the elderly. Everyone has a mobile phone, so I see it as a good medium to reach a lot more people,” said Sandra Chan, a game designer from the studio.
Tan Heng Chee, a Game Design and Technology student from Nanyang Polytechnic, agreed that social gaming would be a good direction to take. “If it’s a fun app, everyone will want to download it. If it has a nation-building aspect, even better. And it’s up to people to play it, so it’s not like they’re being forced,” he said.
Some participants however, felt that the developers should tread cautiously when weaving the nation-building aspect into games, which are typically meant for entertainment. “For such games, people are not supposed to know that they are being taught something. They shouldn’t feel like they are sitting in a classroom,” said Ian Tan, the Creative Director of Witching Hour Studios.
Others felt that the challenge lies in making the game original, with a unique appeal to the local audience. Noting that he had never come across a game app specific to Singapore’s context, Paul Naylor, Director of LandShark Games, commented, “Hopefully (the new game) doesn’t just come out ‘canned’ – with ideas that already exist in other games and are just re-tinned.”
The session also feature some local games that have made it big in international markets
A Step Forward For The Local Industry
Nevertheless, many lauded the initiative as a stepping-stone towards the growth of the local gaming industry. “Singaporeans might not understand game creation, they think that it’s very easy. But this gives us a chance to showcase the process and gain their support, “ said Dexter Wong, a fresh graduate in Game Design and Technology from Nanyang Polytechnic.
Gwen Goh, a fellow participant, also noted that the networking session itself was a good opportunity for the industry to become “less hierarchical and more collaborative”, which would attract more to the industry. “The mindset of practicality is changing,” she added on how more young Singaporeans are venturing into game development.
Participants got up close and personal with the creative geniuses behind our local games
The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) Game Lab confirmed this trend. Last year, the Lab’s Game Innovation Programme, a 14-week game development internship for tertiary students, was oversubscribed by more than five-fold the number of vacancies There is, however, still room for improvement in terms of the gender ratio.
“Game development is still male-dominated, and we are hoping to see more females in programmer and game developer roles as we move forward,” said Tan Chee Ming, Business Development Strategist at SUTD Game Lab.