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DigiPen Institute of Technology Singapore alumni, Tan Yong He, Timothy Tham and Muhsen Bin Hassan, appeared at home in a meeting-cum-recreation room in the office of 12 Gigs Asia, a wholly owned Asian subsidiary of a mobile social casino games company from San Francisco, California.

The small office in a shop house in Chinatown, Singapore where they work is decked out in various game paraphernalia.

The trio were outfitted in the T-shirts bearing a slogan of their company, as they gave a brief introduction of how they made the transition from eager learners at DigiPen (Singapore) to steady game developers at 12 Gigs Asia. Some of the work they undertake daily includes bug-fixing of mobile games offered by 12 Gigs Asia and developing new features and add-ons for games.

Yong He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Game Design in 2013, Timothy graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation degree in 2013, and Muhsen graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design in 2014.

Timothy, who received the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship To Encourage Upgrading Award from the Ministry of Education in 2010, is the longest serving of the three, having joined 12 Gigs Asia for two years. The International Games Festival China 2012 Student Finalist picked 12 Gigs Asia out of a slew of offers that he received, including offers from triple-A game studios.

Yong He joined 12 Gigs Asia after working as a research engineer at the Applied Research and Technology for Infocomm Centre (Artic) in Singapore Polytechnic for about one and a half years. At Artic, he dealt with educational games of a more serious nature.

The trio were attracted to the company for various reasons.

For Yong He, the ability to concentrate on improving his technical skills at 12 Gigs Asia enticed him to make the move.

Three DigiPen graduates sit together in front of a wall decorated with pixel art and the 12 Gigs Logo wearing black t-shirts
From left: DigiPen (Singapore) alumni, Muhsen Bin Hassan, Timothy Tham, and Tan Yong He.

“In my former job, I had to meet with clients often and perform tasks like project planning, and I was required to wear formal attire to work. 12 Gigs Asia allows me to focus on the technical aspects of game development, which should have been my priority as a fresh graduate,” said Yong He.

The creative atmosphere of 12 Gigs Asia, highlighted by a shared passion that fellow employees in game development have, is a big plus. In addition, the small set-up meant that they could learn a lot more than being in a large multi-national game company.

Muhsen said, “My colleagues here and the environment are fun. It is a game-centric place. All of us here are passionate about games.”

Timothy was drawn to the open and bottom-up culture of small-sized start-ups, intentionally eschewing large and established multi-national game studios.

Timothy added, “There are a lot of discussions going around here. In bigger companies, game developers execute the tasks that they are assigned. But we are encouraged to voice our inputs here. I figured that since I was young, I should choose a small company where I would have a greater say and also learn more on the job.”

Working for a US company means significant amount of intercontinental business liaising, which poses as challenges at times in a fast-paced industry like gaming.

Timothy explained, “The main mode of communication is email. Whenever there is an issue, we would send them (the headquarters) an email but only get a reply one day later due to the time difference.”

All three credit their DigiPen (Singapore) education for equipping them with vital skills – namely technical skills and team work, to perform their jobs in the competitive and rapidly-evolving game industry.

“Technical skills imparted to us during our education were important. They formed the foundation that prepared us for our careers in game development. The curriculum was rigorous. Luckily, we had faculty members who were willing to assist and teach the students, they would stay back to as late as 10 p.m. during school projects to assist us,” said Timothy.

“DigiPen (Singapore) group projects taught us the value of team work. We had to work together as a team, and resolve any differences we had. This is an important skill and I am glad that DigiPen (Singapore) prepared me for it,” said Muhsen.