League of Legends no longer just a hobby with HK's first Diploma in eSports Science programme by Cyberport and HKU Space

By Edmund Ho

The programme will help young people in Hong Kong who love video games to get a foot in the industry

By Edmund Ho |

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Video games have grown from a small subculture in the days of arcade machines into a global phenomenon; in 2016, the video games industry took in over $70bn in revenue, combining sales from mobile phone gaming, consoles like the Playstation 4, and personal computers.

Hong Kong is in the midst of a video gaming boom; between the government’s allocation of HK$100 million of the budget to transform Cyberport to a regional gaming hub, to the city playing host to its first e-sports competition last August, the industry seems ripe for new talent.

Enter Cyberport and HKU SPACE; this partnership will be launching the city’s first “Diploma in eSports Science”, a qualification they hope will help nurture young people who grew up playing video games.

Mr Peter Yan, CEO of Cyberport, said, “E-sports is emerging quickly around the globe and has great development potential.”

The area of digital gaming that has seen the most growth these few years is e-sports.

Hong Kong hopes to host more e-sports events like the Return of the Legends tournament held last August at HK Coliseum.
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP

While video game tournaments have existed as long as there have been competitive video games, the massive revenue that come from video games have allowed for similarly massive prizes; for example, the 2017 League of Legends (LoL) World Championships featured a prize pool of over $5 million, with first place taking over $1.5 million.

This diploma seeks to make Hong Kong’s technology industry more accessible to those who could help further develop it. Mark Chu, founder and CEO of video game developing company Gamespace Multimedia Limited, says that young people in the city who grow up playing video games, and want to pursue a career somewhere in the industry, don’t really have a channel to pursue these aspirations.

“Most teenagers nowadays have gaming experience; if you build an industry around these people, think about how many years of experience they can bring to the table if they started gaming from a young age. The key is to guide them towards how to make something out of this, how to turn them from a spectator of the gaming scene to an actual participant.”

Gabriel Pang, managing director of game development studio Firedog Creative, said that Hong Kong’s expertise in other industries like technology and entertainment can be repurposed for video game development.

Silver Yu, CEO of video game development company Skytree, says that when he started his company he had no idea how to approach the whole industry.

“My business partner and I started the company not knowing anything about how to make and market a video game; we started it because we had fond memories of playing video games together as students, and wanted to share this with more people.”

Yu says Cyberport’s start-up programme helped Skytree get to grips with the entire gaming industry. Now, Yu believes that the industry is more welcoming and open than it has ever been.

Terence Leung (left), Manager of the Youth Team, HK Cyberport; and Professor William Lee, Director of HKU SPACE, at the Launch of E-sports Programme.
Photo: Winson Wong/SCMP

“The barrier of entry into video games development is extremely low right now; between funding you can get from Cyberport and other organisations, or even no funding at all, you can create a start-up.”

Chu agrees, saying that this is the “golden period” for video game developers.

“There has never been a better time to enter into the industry; you can be a part of this first generation of video game developers with government and industry support. I got into video games because I wasn’t very good at studying; but my lifelong interest in video games paved the way to my future occupation. And that’s really the key: learning what you can out of the things you love.”

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge