IMPACT 0555: VIDEO GAME DESIGNER CREATES GAMES AS AN INSTRUMENT FOR CONNECTION
Rika Lim, 30, joined the gaming industry as a Level Designer after a long-time interest in video games since her youth. Over the past 7 years, she has been involved in the development of popular game franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Payday.
Her goal is to raise awareness, provide mentorship, and showcase what the gaming industry has to offer to inspiring designers, as well as gain experience from the rapidly evolving games industry worldwide. Today, she shares her journey being a part of such a rapidly growing industry!
Tell us more about what you do!
As a Lead Level Designer, I lead and manage the level design team that specialises in creating gameplay within the layout they have composed. You can simply think of them as architects of virtual worlds. I have mentored level designers of various experiences for a few years since I became Lead, with topics that include level design and team management.
Some of my main responsibilities at work include breaking down the overall direction and vision of the game we work on into actionable steps relating to our area of expertise, bridging the gaps between the different departments in the studio, and finally, developing and harnessing the expertise and brilliant ideas that our designers have.
What inspires or motivates you to start/do this?
When I first joined Ubisoft, my main goal was to hone my knowledge and skills to become a well-experienced Level Designer. I was given the opportunity of becoming a lead and managing my own team during that period, and I decided to take up the offer.
Designing for the game versus guiding people on how to do it are two different things that pose different kinds of challenges. This is especially true when you get to see your team grow and flourish in their career and skills through your guidance and mentorship, pushing the boundaries on what they can achieve as a designer. This has been one of the main motivations that push me to keep going and aiming higher each time. I know I will not be alone in this journey, but with a team that trusts me to take them even further.
Have you faced any challenges so far? And how did you overcome it?
There are a range of challenges that you may commonly see in other industries, when it comes to communication, scope and people management in general. For me, the challenge has always been helping to bridge the communication between departments, reaching alignment of our goals and objectives. The way I overcome it is to always be the first to take the initiative to reach out and understand. There may not necessarily be an immediate solution, but just starting to talk about the issue is the first step to an agreement.
Balancing budget and scope for a game in general is always the most challenging part, especially when there are so many great ideas that can be brought into realisation if time and budget are allowed. Unfortunately, it is not always that perfect. However, if we are able to focus on the important elements that can make the game shine in its own unique way, that is already a win within limitations and constraints. We have to make the best out of what we are given.
I am relatively new to people management compared to people who have been doing it for over a decade or most of their lifetime now. I am still learning everyday since I began my journey as a Lead three years ago. It is important to take the time to understand the needs of the individual and their skills/talents. It also helps me when I am able to get guidance from people around me, so I can better support both the team and project with my best capability.
If you could share one piece of advice with your fellow youth, what would it be?
If you ever consider joining the gaming industry, it will be a challenging but rewarding journey. There are various roles available in the games industry and as long as you’re passionate about game development, you will be able to find something that will suit your career preference.
Having passion and drive is very important, because those will be your main motivators in your career. Furthermore, the people that you get to work with will be your anchor and pillar of support.
What is your hope or plans for the future? What do you want to see or perhaps do?
I definitely would like to continue diving into the creative aspect of making video games and help build a culture within the companies I am part of, where game developers come together and support one another in achieving the same goal: to create the best game ever. Guiding people to have a solution-oriented mindset and the openness to generate ideas and having discussions about them without barriers. It is my hope that we can push towards building a safe and healthy environment within the industry, which in turn will be able to attract individuals from different backgrounds to join us and experience this wonderful journey together.
When it comes to video games, I hope that they will eventually become more than just a form of entertainment in our lives, and evolve as an instrument of education that allows us to better learn, reflect and understand our actions and emotions. Regardless if you are the player or the developer, that is what connects us in some ways.