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Just as you are weaving through the mad Mumbai traffic in an auto-rickshaw, not in real life but while logged into an online racing game at work, your boss drops in at your cubicle. The outcome: the network administrator ensures that you cannot play games on your office PC.
But Deepak Abbot, general manager (casual games), Zapak Digital Entertainment, is luckier. Not only does he not mind his boss catching him gaming at work, he gets paid to do the same. In fact often he challenges his boss, the COO of Zapak, Rohit Sharma, for a game of FIFA.
This is what a job in gaming is all about -- playing games. According to industry estimates, more than 10,000 people will be hired from 2008-2010 by leading gaming companies in India alone. Do you want to be one of them? Read on if you do.
Why go ga-ga over gaming?
The opportunity: Alok Kejriwal, founder and CEO, www.games2win.com, an online casual games site, says, "Computer and mobile are being increasingly used by the young and the future lies in them." That is why games played on the PC, mobile and online have a great potential.
"Gaming in India is still in its nascent stage as compared to sectors like IT, but likely to be a very large business," says Venkat Mallik, managing director, Level Up! India, an online game publisher.
According to the Animation and Gaming report by National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), 2006, the Indian gaming industry stood at nearly $48 million (Rs 192 crore) in 2006 and is poised to increase eight-fold to $424 million (Rs 1,696 crore) by 2010.
However, the numbers are still small as compared to global figures. According to Nasscom, the worldwide gaming industry stood at $21 billion (Rs 84,000 crore) in 2006 and is expected to grow to $42 billion (Rs 1,68,000 crore) by 2010.
Reasons for growth: A large pool of English speaking manpower and availability of skills can see India emerge as a potential destination for outsourced work. Add to this, the attractive domestic opportunity, which Sashi Reddi, founder and chairman, FXLabs Studios, developer of high quality games for PC's and videogame consoles, attributes to, "more PCs and better bandwidth in homes, growth in game cafes and more spending on entertainment."
Also, big international names are setting up shop in India. These include Gameloft, an international publisher and developer for mobile games, and Microsoft Game Studios, a game developer.
The reward points: "The pay levels tend to be higher than the standard IT industry or the animation field," says Reddi. Joining salaries are around Rs 4 lakh (Rs 400,000) per annum for programmers and designers and Rs 3 lakh (Rs 300,000) for graphic artists and game developers. For a producer, salaries start from Rs 5 lakh (Rs 500,000) per annum.
Do you make the cut?
Training: "For programming and game design, individuals from IT, engineering and science background are given preference. For graphic artists, fine arts background is a must," says Salil Bhargava, CEO, Jump Games, a publisher and developer of games across mobile and web platforms. Degrees from institutes like the National Institute of Design help fine arts students. Most companies also have rigorous in-house training programmes.
Passion and aptitude: You need to be extremely passionate about gaming if you are thinking of it as a career. Says Abbot: "You might have to play the same level 100 times a day to check for bugs. You have to love gaming to not get bored."
It is not just about knowing programs, you have to work with people, work under deadlines and have subjectivity of assessment of content, says Rajesh Rao, CEO, Dhruva Interactive, the oldest game developer in India. "If you try this out without really getting involved, you will not go far," he says.
Reddi stresses the need to understand the pulse of the consumer, "Learn what it takes to draw people in. Think about what makes them tick, what makes them smile, and you will find success."
All in a day's work
Gaming is cool and why not? "This is an industry of the young, one of the few industries where the consumer is your age. Excitement is inherent in this profession," says Kejriwal.
Suhail Bagdadi, senior manager (marketing), Indiagames, a mobile and online games company and a mobile game publisher, agrees. He says that the average age in most gaming companies is around 25, leading to a youthful and competitive work atmosphere. The excitement does not end here.
Says Robert Khongwir, assistant vice-president (HR), Zapak, "We have regular tournaments in our office and top performers are awarded."
Create your own rules: Kejriwal says that unlike many other professions, you create your own rules here. For example, in a certain point in the game, you can think of several possible next steps. It is for you to chart your own path.
Late hours and hard work: Depending on the project, the going can get tough, and late hours are common. For Abbot, the workload is more than his previous job. The process is as complex and stressful as building any high-end software.
A typical game can take 18-24 months to complete and the team has to be motivated to stay focused and be patient for the results to finally be visible to the world, says Reddi.
Ever-changing trends: Each day can bring new learning with regard to the markets, technologies and strategies. "It is a challenge to keep the audience hooked. One has to keep a close eye on the latest and keep oneself open to constantly evolving and adapting," says Bhargava.
Team game: "Gaming is all about competitive team spirit. You lose or win because of the team performance," says Khongwir. More so because a game is a product of many creative brains working in tandem and there are bound to be differences.
Staying put. Sharma, however, says that one should not have very high hopes in the near future. "Success comes with time, at least 18-24 months." Though the industry is growing very fast, staying power is crucial to success, says Mallick.
The next level
The Nasscom report says that a lack of gaming culture and awareness and the absence of well-known training institutes can lead to a demand-supply gap in the future. However, the situation is improving.
Abbot makes this interesting point of living a virtual life in office, a life fraught with challenges. "Living in the virtual world helps me to live out the real world outside office," he says on a philosophical note. Perhaps, in this context it would be appropriate to modify the bard's famous saying a bit, "All the world's a game, and all the men and women merely players."
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