As a game planner for M-Inverse local video game developer Cal Hung Ling-ki enjoys the rare privilege of indulging in his favourite pastime and getting paid for it. But that's not to suggest that there isn't serious work involved - development for just one title can take anything from six months to six years of programming.
To Hung, game designers are like storytellers, who create their work in sections. "Basically, it can be divided into four stages: preproduction, Alpha, Beta and Goal Master," he says.
Preproduction involves putting together a proposal for the game, while the Alpha stage is where the real work begins, with programmers and designers producing an initial version of the game, which is then put through the first series of testing.
During the Beta stage, different levels of the game are created, after which fellow designers and volunteers are called on to do further testing.
"The process of testing is like doing a questionnaire," Hung says. "The designer collects opinions from different sources to make the game better."
The final editing and debugging takes place at the Goal Master stage, then the game is ready for release.
According to Hung, working your way up in the industry takes only a few steps. Newcomers usually start as designers and, in three to four years, can become game planners. From there, designers can pursue the job of director, who oversees projects and ensures overall quality.
Another option would be to shift to the marketing side. "Game designers who move to marketing no longer develop games," Hung says. "Instead, they make suggestions to create games that fit market needs. They research the market and player behaviour."
The game development industry in Hong Kong is unable to attract young talent, largely due to low salaries, Hung says. New recruits earn just HK$6,000 a month, while those with a few years of experience make little over HK$10,000.
Hung nevrtheless remains happy with his choice. "For me, it feels great to be part of the industry," he says. "I am creating something on my own."