Wan Fairulz Haswandy, 39, (third right from top) explaining the content of the video games during virtual interview session via Disccord apps.

KUCHING: Back in the day, playing video games was just a way to pass the time and viewed as a mere distraction — but things have changed today.

According to Newzoo, a global leading market intelligence and analytics firm, there were 20.1 million Malaysian gamers in 2019.

According to the firm, these gamers spent an estimated $673 million on games last year alone, making Malaysia one of the biggest markets in the region.

Malaysia Investment Development Authority (Mida) also cited that it had contributed about $100 million to the national GDP in 2018 and the industry is expected to grow at a rate of 10.9 percent, which amounts to $168 million by 2023.

Malaysia also was ranked 21 worldwide in terms of games revenue, totalling $633 million.

The accelerating revenue has driven the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia to recognise the gaming industry as one of main categories under the Malaysian National Creative Industry Policies.

Looking upon the massive growth of the industry, gamers — whether they are into multiplayer stimulation, action, adventure or strategy games —including Sarawakians, are jumping onto this virtual world’s bandwagon industry, on the path to creating video games.

Wan Fairulz Haswandy, 39, (third right from top) explaining the content of the video games during virtual interview session via Disccord apps.

New Sarawak Tribune recently had the opportunity to speak with local video game creator and game publisher, Borneo The Land Of Hornbill, in sharing their interesting journey in the industry.

Consisting of six members aged between 23 and 39, according to its admin Clinton Paran Tony, Borneo The Land Of Hornbill’s game server was just established in Aug 17 this year.

He said the idea to set up a server was initiated when he met the other five members through FiveM games.

“Borneo The Land Of Hornbill was set up via a platform called FiveM server, which allows you to play customised game content with other players.

“It is basically a modification of the Grand Theft Auto games — this platform enables us to create our own content, but keep the original framework of the game.

“We (the members) met through this platform and we never met in real life. And after we had a few conversations (virtually), we decided to create game content based in Sarawak.

“In the team, I do the content design assisted by the other five members — Amirul Zackry, Wan Fairulz Haswandy, Syahfulrizal Raslan, Christinsen Tony and Desmond Teo. All of us are from different cities.

“Anyone who livestreams our Borneo The Land Of Hornbill game server will see the FiveM game with the content that was customised by our team,” explained the 23-year-old from Betong.

Asked on the process of producing material for game content, Clinton who is also fondly known as Acing, explained that it requires a high level of 3D design skills.

He said that they became serious about creating their own video games using information collected from online sources, particularly from YouTube.

“Youtube is one of the best tutors for all of us to continue learning and developing our 3D skills.

“And because gaming has many categories, we decided to focus primarily making role play video games,” he added.

Being a video game content creator sounds like a lot of fun, however, Amirul Zackry from Mukah said, it needs a lot of hard work and teamwork.

“I think the biggest challenge for us, is to come up with creative content in a short period of time.

“We are all doing this part-time, but by having constant discussions, it will eventually help us to overcome such challenge.

“And most of the time, we will seek opinions and advice from the gaming community,” he said.

Video games content

Aimed at gathering all local livestream players in Sarawak, the gameplay videos were livestreamed in Facebook and had amassed views from hundreds of players from all over the world.

Its team member, Wan Fairulz Haswandy revealed that it already released about eight games content to date.

Among them are ‘Covid-19 #KitaJagaKita’, ‘Borneo Hornbill Ninja Warrior’, ‘Safety Briefing at Oil & Gas Plant’, ‘Borneo Explorace’ and ‘Folklore’.

He said all content would be designed and imbued with Sarawakian elements.

“Most of our games are based on role play games whereby players are able to play the characters that we had designed.

“For example, you can see the SugarBun building, which you cannot find in the original game.

“In other words, players from all over the world can play FiveM with a local twist that we highlighted in the content,” he added.

Sarawak gaming industry

The gaming industry has nevertheless sparked the interest of other young gaming enthusiasts to venture and explore the game development industry.

Besides requiring a team of highly-skilled professionals in graphic material digitisation, it also needs those who are highly-skilled in programming digital sound and characters, and the creation of creative content.

However, some contents of the games may not be suitable for all players, especially those below the age of 18.

In viewing this, Wan opined video games content creators like them must always be aware when developing content and that it must be suitable with particular context.

“Everyone can access online games nowadays and this community also includes children and senior citizens, apart from youth.

“So, if the content is not suitable for children, it is important for the admin of the server game to acknowledge the background of the players before they can join the game,” he advised.

On the development of the industry, Amirul Zackry who calls himself Kuchai said there is a need to upgrade the communication infrastructure if Sarawak really wants to move into digitalisation.

“The gaming industry itself needs good internet speed and connectivity to ensure the gaming session can be done smoothly.

“I know some people may think this is merely disruptive to children. But as for me, with a proper guideline, we can help to educate and inculcate our children to be innovative and creative.

“And this can spark their interest to delve into technology innovation. Believe it or not, some of our locals who doing this full time can earn about RM30,000 per month,” he reckoned.

In fact, Kuchai further pointed out that creating video game content can be utilised as part of an initiative to promote local businesses, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I strongly believe that our role is important to help stimulate our local businesses.

“With the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual is the best solution. And the community in this industry is not only among the locals, but worldwide,” he added.

When asked if they have plans to set up a real game development company, he said the members were still learning.

“Currently we generate income from the rating star that we received in Facebook. Because we are still new, in a month we can earn about RM2,000 to RM3,000.

“If we have the opportunity to expand this little initiative, why not? But I don’t think we will be able to do that soon,” he commented.