Social enterprise finds winning formula to help marginalised Hong Kong gamers

Teen Future gives youngsters a chance to learn and earn money by testing new products

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 8:47pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 11:02pm

Many view gaming as a waste of time that could be better spent studying, but the founders of Teen Future see it as an opportunity for teenagers to learn and carve out a future.

Connor Chu Hing-ting and Bonnie Leung set up the social enterprise about 18 months ago to provide learning and part-time jobs for teenagers through subcontracted video game testing work.

“I used to give free tuition to marginal youths for around 10 years, but I felt that I was not able to really help them,” Chu said.

This led him to explore other means of helping young people. His experience made him realise the close connection between teenagers and gaming.

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As Chu and Leung did not know much about gaming, they approached a professor who specialises in the topic. Together they found that game testing was something that could provide youngsters with learning and job opportunities.

But as most game companies had their own testing departments, Leung found it was difficult to find clients willing to subcontract testing jobs to Teen Future.

But she said the selling point of engaging the social enterprise was that it could help a company perform the tedious and repetitive aspects of testing, hence freeing the client’s staff to do the more advanced and creative parts of game development.

Teen Future collaborated with Outblaze, a Hong Kong-based digital entertainment and technology company, and sent two trainers to the firm for an internship to pick up game testing skills.

Disadvantaged youngsters were then able to pick up new skills from the trainers, which they used to earn money from part-time work.

I learnt that [game testing] is different from playing games, and you cannot use your ‘play game’ attitude to work
Yip Tze-kiu, game tester

Teen Future is currently on a six-month contract with Outblaze, which began in September. The gaming company subcontracts 90 hours of game testing work to Teen Future a month, which is shared among the two trainers and three or four testers. The trainers are paid HK$75 an hour while the testers earn HK$40 an hour.

“I learnt that [game testing] is different from playing games, and you cannot use your ‘play game’ attitude to work,” Yip Tze-kiu, a tester who spends at least 10 hours a day gaming, said.

The 15-year-old added that the job helped him gain experience and provided an alternative option should he not be able to continue studying.

“Instead of stopping teenagers from gaming due to addiction concerns, why not let them understand other aspects of gaming so they can carve out a future in the industry?” Leung asked.

Chu added: “[These teenagers] get a sense of achievement from gaming, so why not use this as a learning opportunity for them?”

Kenny Yu Chun-kit, a senior lecturer in the department of information technology at IVE (Lee Wai Lee) in Tseung Kwan O, noted that the gaming industry had grown a lot in the past 10 years.

He said that contrary to popular misconceptions, people could make money from a gaming-related job, pointing to how a game programmer could get a fresh graduate salary of HK$14,000.