Online games hook software developers and teenagers
ASK ANY teenage boy in Hong Kong what he would like to do on the weekends and the answer in all probability would be to play video games.
Welcome to the world of computer gaming, where avid players sit for hours glued to the screen, hammering away at the buttons of a controller, trying hard to win the latest war between good and evil.
Few other forms of digital entertainment can evoke as much enthusiasm and passion as gaming, a multibillion-dollar industry that has captured the imagination of millions worldwide.
Nowhere is this better reflected than in Hong Kong and on the mainland, where the craze for computer games has reached fever pitch.
The mainland, with its population of more than one billion, has the world's largest number of online game players - about 25 million.
The industry is expected to average 30 per cent to 35 per cent growth over the next few years.
Gino Yu, associate professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and director of digital entertainment and game development, said design posed one of the toughest challenges for developers in Asia, given their traditional strength in production rather than creative design.
Most of the games designed in Asia were not based on original ideas but on concepts that had been adopted from elsewhere, he said.
This lack of creativity, according to him, is because of Hong Kong's education system, which does not encourage students to think outside the box.
Mr Yu tackles this problem through his 'Recovering Creativity' course at the university, part of the Master of Science programme in multimedia and entertainment technology.
Through meditation and other exercises, he sets out to fire students' imagination.
'Everyone has creativity within them. It is just a question of finding it,' he said.
But for those not good at thinking outside the box, it is not the end of the road.
There are some aspects of game development such as programming, testing and management that do not require as much creativity.
Mr Yu said game development as a subject of study was gaining more popularity than other areas of information technology.
Wallis Wong, business development manager of 3 Dynamics Asia, a mobile games developer, said graduates in game development would not struggle to secure a job in the expanding industry.
Other than technical skills, new entrants should also have a wide variety of interests.
'For example, if we want to develop a soccer game, we need people who know something about the sport. Only then can we develop the [online] game,' Mr Wong said.
Wilson Yuen, lecturer of computer studies at City University, said the mobile phone games industry was considered an easier starting point for graduates because of its lower entry barrier.
Games on mobile phones were usually smaller and simpler and could be written by one person, he said.
Online or personal computer games were more complex and required a multi-talented team and a much longer lead time.
A wide variety of interests
An understanding of popular culture and the latest game trends
Effective communication skills
The ability to think creatively
This article was first published in the South China Morning Post on January 21, 2006
One of the major obstacles to creativity is that most of the time we tend to have a firm grip on reality and refuse to think beyond what makes sense to us. That's why we often find children more creative as they allow their imagination to roam.
Working in groups, write down at least eight consequences to each imaginary situation below. Let's all release the child in us and allow ourselves to think about the impossible.
What if our pets could talk?
What if we never had to sleep?
What if we could read other people's minds?
What if we would never grow old?
What if examinations and tests were abolished?