NHB launches virtual showcase of digital works

30 successful proposals - blending history, art and tech - handpicked for this year's initiative

A demo of Amoy Street, A Pixel Role Playing Game (above), developed by Ms Elizabeth Ang (top right), is featured in National Heritage Board's DigiMuse Presents: Virtual Showcase
A demo of Amoy Street, A Pixel Role Playing Game (above), developed by Ms Elizabeth Ang, is featured in National Heritage Board's DigiMuse Presents: Virtual Showcase. PHOTO: ELIZABETH ANG
A demo of Amoy Street, A Pixel Role Playing Game (above), developed by Ms Elizabeth Ang (top right), is featured in National Heritage Board's DigiMuse Presents: Virtual Showcase
A demo of Amoy Street, A Pixel Role Playing Game, developed by Ms Elizabeth Ang (above), is featured in National Heritage Board's DigiMuse Presents: Virtual Showcase. PHOTO: ELIZABETH ANG

During the Covid-19 circuit breaker period, freelance illustrator Elizabeth Ang, 22, watched her peers flock to Nintendo's Animal Crossing video game franchise.

The real-time, social simulation game allows players to build a village, complete tasks and interact with one another.

Said Ms Ang: "I realised games had that social element of bonding people through a shared experience, even when they're physically apart."

So, when she heard about an open call in May by the National Heritage Board (NHB) for digital content to encourage Singaporeans to engage with local culture, she jumped at the opportunity.

The demo version of her game, Amoy Street, A Pixel Role Playing Game, went live yesterday with the launch of NHB's DigiMuse Presents, a virtual showcase of digital works blending history, art and technology.

Her game was among 30 successful proposals that were handpicked for this year's NHB DigiMuse initiative, which aims to nurture a cultural sector that embraces digital innovation. Each received up to $5,000 to bring their creative proposals to life.

Ms Ang's game follows a 14-year-old schoolgirl who time-travels to Amoy Street in the 1960s. In order to successfully return to the present day, players have to retrieve "memories" from non-player characters and repair a silver hairpin.

The game features pixel graphics reminiscent of those in Super Nintendo Entertainment System games of the 1990s such as Pokemon and The Legend of Zelda.

A fresh history graduate, Ms Ang was captivated by Singapore's rich heritage and culture and spent a month and a half studying and cross-checking books and blogs to develop the game's narrative.

Other works included in the showcase are an interactive augmented reality filter which projects jewellery and fashion pieces from the Asian Civilisations Museum on users and a 360-degree image blending past and present National Day Parades.

There is also a short film by 24-year-old National University of Singapore sociology student Jason Lee Meng Hon.

It follows a Singaporean and an exchange student - who are paired for a school project - as they uncover Katong's heritage.

Said Ms Ang: "I feel that, often, how we're taught about the past is very passive, so we might not be active in learning. Through digital mediums, we are put into the shoes of the characters. We have to interact and make the choices."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2020, with the headline 'NHB launches virtual showcase of digital works'. Print Edition | Subscribe