Playing arcade games is all in a day's work

The Interactive and Digital Media sector, nurtured by the Economic Development Board, is a hub in Asia for the creation and commercialisation of media content for the world. It holds exciting opportunities as demand grows. In the fifth of a seven-part series, Arti Mulchand profiles three people working in the sector.

When Mr Nigel Ang tells you he dreamt of developing arcade games as a child, he means it quite literally.

"I used to dream about alternative game levels, and my characters had other skills and weapons. I really wanted to make games," the 34-year-old recalls. His aspirations were played out on his PlayStation console, and on games like Gundam and Ridge Racer.

Fast forward 20 years, and he works for the very Japanese company that created those games, as well as arcade staples like Pac Man and console games like Tales.

Playing games is how a normal day at the office in Singapore's Mediapolis in Buona Vista begins.

"Playing is how we check our work, and ensure that the mechanics function right and that the games are fun," says Mr Ang, who helped to start the Singapore office of Bandai Namco in August last year, and focuses on its arcade game development.

Its growing team includes 50 artists, designers and engineers.

But that can admittedly get tedious, especially when a level has to be played for several hours to work out how a single effect is rendered, he says, adding that large- scale productions like arcade games can take up to a year to complete, with costs easily sailing past the six-figure mark.

Mr Ang, who studied digital media design at Nanyang Polytechnic, joined Bandai Namco after six years with video-game developer LucasArts, where he worked on multiple Star Wars games for various platforms, and 21/2 years as a 3D artist with a start-up that created Singapore's first Nintendo Dual Screen game.

While he is tight-lipped about Bandai Namco's ongoing projects, they include a 2015 arcade release based on a popular series that he promises will send arcade gaming to a new level.

"Arcade gaming is no longer about buttons, joysticks and a screen. The hardware for this game will provide a more immersive experience and feel like a private Imax," he reveals, referring to the super widescreen cinematographic experience.

Such developments allow arcade gaming to stay relevant with a generation accustomed to carrying a gallery of games in their pockets, he says.  "Arcades continue to thrive in markets like Japan, even though there are alternative gaming platforms.

"Even in Singapore, we have found new fans, especially as we create new and better machines on which the games are played.

"I see arcades as having a continuing relevance."

His advice to anyone hoping to level up in a gaming career is this: Dream big, work hard, and it will pay off.

"When you see someone playing a product that you created, you feel like a winner."

This article was first published on Nov 10, 2014.

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