DigiPen Institute of Technology Singapore alumnus Cheng Ding Xiang, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation in 2013, has one piece of advice for current DigiPen (Singapore) students: Dare to dream.
“Make the games you want to make without inhibition,” Ding Xiang said. “In the working world, factors like publishing and making money from games can sometimes stifle creativity and expression in the games made. So while you’re in school, have the courage to push boundaries. It is the best time to explore possibilities.
“There was a comment made by my instructor in art appreciation at DigiPen (Singapore). He told us that to be the best, you have to be different. That was the one line that has stuck with me.”
A developer at local game company Red Hare Studios, Ding Xiang has made the transition from student to game professional with seamless finesse.
Red Hare Studios is a modest outfit, with just 18 staff. The unique setup allows him to dip his fingers into many aspects of the game development pie, broadening his work experience at a critical part of his career.
“My favorite part of being in Red Hare is the ability to get involved and learn about all sides of the business,” Ding Xiang said. “Red Hare is a small company, so a few have to do the work of many, and that is where the few learn many things.”
While game-making used to dominate his mind in DigiPen (Singapore), he has his focus in more areas now.
“Most of my time is not spent making games now,” he said. “That is one of the biggest differences between school and work life. The hardest thing to do so far is making business decisions, or suggesting what should be done in the situation.”
On a typical day, Ding Xiang says he arrives to work early and meets with his boss to discuss current tasks and potential projects. After that, he sometimes meets with clients outside the office, conducts presentations, or stays at his desk to program. At lunchtime, however, he and his co-workers take a short break from work to indulge in “small gaming sessions.”
Ding Xiang credits the smooth transition from academic pursuit to work life to the solid technical foundation at DigiPen (Singapore).
As a junior college graduate, Ding Xiang says he sometimes struggled to keep up with his freshman peers who had graduated from the polytechnics with more advanced computing skills, but his persistence paid off. He even went on to become a gold winner of the Game Narrative Review Competition at the 2013 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
He also enjoyed the innovative atmosphere of DigiPen (Singapore) where he formed close friendships with like-minded aspiring game makers.
“Being a DigiPen (Singapore) student meant being immersed in an environment where so many game ideas were realized, and that was very exciting,” he said. “I do miss school a lot. I miss the times when I stayed back late with my team to work on game projects that were so personal and a source of great personal pride for us.”
It has been an exhilarating ride, and Ding Xiang says the sheer diversity of work he does at Red Hare Studios can be challenging.
“The first project I did in Red Hare was a game project, but after that I have been mainly focused on IT solutions. I knew I would get exposed to other industries due to the breadth of projects Red Hare takes on. It was something I wanted too,” he said.
Despite his undeniable passion, Ding Xiang is aware that a great game maker is an artist, and all great artists thrive on inspiration.
He says he gets his own inspiration from diving headlong into other pastimes that intrigue him. For the time being, one of his main interests is the fascinating field of circus arts.
“Knowing more about things outside of games can inspire refreshing game ideas and innovative approaches to making games,” he said. “In my free time I seek to learn more knowledge and gain exposure to things outside of games. It is my belief that different life experiences will help contribute to how I make games — as every game comes from an idea, and ideas are taken from the world we live in.”