Millions of Chinese are obsessed with online games, but only 3,000 or so are involved in game design and production. One of the few, Leng Bing, explains to Jane Cai how he turned his degree in industrial design into a job in Beijing with one of Japan's leading game companies Why did you take the job? I accepted an offer from a leading Japanese company after weighing the prospect of a demanding and challenging life against living a stable and leisurely one. I desperately love the former, while 99 per cent of my 70 classmates chose the latter. What was it like being the newcomer in the company? I majored in interactive computer design in school, which had nothing to do with game design. But I quickly became obsessed with my job. And after I joined the company, I was sent to its Tokyo headquarters for four months of training. What was the training like? Very senior, experienced and well-known designers taught me one-on-one. I was so excited. They used lots of humour and witty expressions. They were deeply immersed in the cartoon culture, as are so many ordinary Japanese people. It's not unusual to see people, irrespective of their age, grinning or frowning as they absorb themselves in comic books. China doesn't have such a deep-rooted culture of reading comics, which is the foundation of the game industry. How do Chinese and Japanese designers differ? Compared with their Chinese counterparts, Japanese designers excel at creativity and they have a big capacity to come up with original, brilliant ideas. I used to boast that I was gifted in creativity. But I have to bow to my Japanese colleagues. We Chinese grew up in a spoon-fed education system. We were never encouraged to challenge authority and this locked up our minds. The clear proof of this is that we have an underdeveloped cartoon industry. The golden time was in the 1950s and 1960s, when the masters produced cartoons based on mythological figures or characters from novels like The Monkey King. These were the most impressive cartoons of my childhood and now I'm nearly 30. I don't see any domestic cartoons comparable to those in quality. Many masters have passed away, and there is no legacy to help revive the glory of that time. What did you do after returning from Japan? I designed games - using monsters, female warriors, weapons, treasures and, of course, plots. Many players may think it's great fun, but it's not an easy job because we have deadlines to meet. There is no fun if your interest becomes something you have to deal with every day. Later I became the team leader of seven designers and I was in charge of organising and co-ordinating the members. Now I earn 6,000 yuan a month. What are your thoughts about the gaming industry on the mainland? Games provide another world for players to live in. They contribute to the diversity of the world. It's not surprising to see more and more Chinese become fans. But game makers are threatened by rampant piracy. A pirated game disc is often sold for less than 10 yuan, while an authentic one is usually priced at several hundred yuan. Another problem is the lack of quality designers. Three years ago, there were few schools offering game design courses on the mainland, but now almost every university has one or will have one soon. But in many schools, they don't have qualified teachers, nor do they select students according to strict requirements. I'm worried a large number of mediocre graduates will not help the sector develop.