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City Weekend

School CEO draws on games addiction to help give young animators in Hong Kong a decent future

Former video game addict Sunny Tang set up Act Plus Education Foundation two years ago to help teenagers develop creative and technical skills in computer graphics

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 January, 2018, 2:31pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 January, 2018, 3:37pm

It’s often said that life would be much more pleasant if we could do what we love and love what we do.

Sunny Tang Yat-sing, a former video game addict, is one of the lucky few who have this freedom. Tang is now chief executive officer of an animation school.

Two years ago, he set up Act Plus Education Foundation, a non-profit organisation which focuses on developing creative and technical skills in computer graphics and providing jobs for Hong Kong teenagers in the animation industry.

“Here, we provide training for anyone who is interested in animation but may still be unsure about what the future holds for them.”

Today’s success did not come easy for Tang, whose family lost everything when his father left home after his business failed. Confronted with this domestic crisis, the then 13-year-old Tang couldn’t cope with the pressure and eventually dropped out of school. He spent most of his time with friends, playing video games at internet cafes all day and hanging out at discos and rave parties.

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Jumping from one casual job to another made him feel as though his life was heading towards a dead end and about to crash at any time. It finally hit him that he couldn’t carry on like that any more.

“At the time I thought that despite my low educational qualifications, complicated family background and lack of work experience, I was still willing to learn and work to make something of myself. From then onwards I was determined to work hard and break the downward spiral.”

And he did. The cartoon enthusiast has now built up a good reputation in the animation industry and is a senior animator at one of the city’s top animation, film and film effects production houses. Before getting to where he is now, Tang also studied webpage design.

After years of self-learning, the video game addict-turned-animator received his first degree certificate from the School of Creative Media at City University.

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Census and Statistics Department figures show that the number of people employed in the cultural and creative industries increased from 171,990 in 2005 to 213,880 in 2015. The average annual growth rate of 2.2 per cent shows that the creative industries are becoming one of the city’s most important economic drivers. Yet, Tang says there are not enough opportunities for those who want to develop a career in the field.

While Tang has seen gradual improvements in the level of support from the government, he thinks there is a lot more the administration can do to boost the industries.

For years, he has encouraged and guided many youngsters, helping them rechannel their energy and weaning them off video game addiction and other bad habits. He does so by providing training for them in animation production so that they can have a practical career.

Potential animators undergo 25 days of training from learning the basics of Photoshop to motion capture, which is the process of recording the movement of objects or people, and many other skills.

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At the end of the 25 days, 20 of them will join an in-depth one-year programme.

“We have students from all walks of life and a wide age range, from 15-year-old video gamers to adults, 30 years old and above.”

It’s not all about animation though. Students will be equipped with other life skills including effective communication skills such as English presentation techniques.

“We also offer innovative services covering education and career support and provide consultations to young people from underprivileged families.”

The school has helped an average of 200 students each year.