As the faculty chair of the Department of Game Software Design and Production, Rahul Nath is quick to point out that games are a serious business — but also so much more. At DigiPen (Singapore), games are an important medium for teaching, testing, and implementing knowledge. Today, Rahul brings more than 13 years of industry experience to the classroom to inspire and empower the next generation of budding game designers and developers.
Rahul started his career as a game designer at Mauj Mobile in his native country of India. It was a mid-sized independent studio where he had the opportunity to work on multiple games at a time, all of which had varying production timelines and outcomes. “My biggest takeaway from this role was to learn how to effectively communicate with programmers, artists, and quality assurance,” Rahul says. After three years of learning the ropes at Mauj Mobile, Rahul joined Finnish game development company Digital Chocolate, where he worked for a year on casual games.
In 2009, Rahul moved to Singapore to take on a position as the lead designer for a project in the Learning Sciences Lab, a division of the National Institute of Education that has since become a part of the Institute’s Office of Educational Research. The aim of the lab was to utilize information and communications technology to transform and improve teaching processes and outcomes in Singapore schools. This opportunity was Rahul’s first taste of working in the field of serious games, and it was just as much of a learning experience as anything he had done before. “A year of production had already passed when I joined this team, and it was the first time that I had to wear the dual hats of both a producer and a designer,” Rahul says. “This was challenging since I wanted to add better features to the game as a designer but had to contain my own ambitions as a producer to ensure that the game would ship on time.” Thankfully, the team at the Learning Sciences Lab bonded well, and they were able to finish up the game and implement it in a few local schools, a feat Rahul considers nothing short of a miracle. “We pretty much managed to ship a game in one year when the actual time frame for the project was two years,” he says.
By this time, Rahul had already shipped 12 games in the industry and mentored countless young designers along the way. Transitioning to teaching thus seemed like a natural choice to him, since he enjoyed the process of working with teams to scope, iterate, and ultimately bring their visions to life.
Games strike a chord deep in us as they are one of the few mediums of interactive storytelling. There are very few other mediums out there that can make a person smile, cry, laugh, or believe in something while interacting with the medium.
Rahul began his teaching career at Singapore Polytechnic and moved to DigiPen (Singapore) after three years. Here, he teaches a variety of classes that include board game classes, VR classes, 2D/3D project classes, serious game classes, and many more. He considers his project classes among his favorites, as he loves seeing a project morph from an idea into a well-executed product. Under Rahul’s guidance, students have also started creating more localized, thematic games. He hopes to get his students to see and appreciate their own unique cultures and express it through their projects. After all, he says, games are not just a form of entertainment but a powerful vessel of communication.
“Games strike a chord deep in us as they are one of the few mediums of interactive storytelling,” Rahul explains. “There are very few other mediums out there that can make a person smile, cry, laugh, or believe in something while interacting with the medium,” he adds. Games that appeal to their players on an emotional level also tend to do well, and this is something Rahul can relate to on a personal level. All of his favorite games, he says, either corresponded with a significant moment in his life or have a strong personal memory behind them. Rahul played Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines at a memorable stage in his life when he was 23 and spent all his time either playing or making games. Grand Theft Auto IV was a game Rahul played during his break time when he was new to Singapore and caught in a hectic production schedule. Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? was the first video game that Rahul ever played, and it was introduced to him by his father. “I spent a lot of time in primary school playing this. Needless to say, my grades were not impressive,” Rahul says.
As games continue to evolve, Rahul believes they will keep expanding to different and newer platforms but still retain the old-school styles of engagement. “Gamers are smart people. Loot boxes or other gimmicks that exist for the sole purpose of monetization may succeed for a while, but ultimately it will always be the games that are made with great care that will succeed,” Rahul says.
His best tips to the next generation of up-and-coming game developers? “Let go of the ego as early as possible. Be kind. Be firm,” he says. “Ultimately, no one will remember your grades or bank account statements, but people will always remember the experiences they shared with you.”