Spotlight Interview: Kris Lee from Pixel Quest Academy

Educational games, including serious games, are something that most gamers scoff at, because the common perception is of boring entertainment that has little fun value. However, the application of game design as a life skill runs deep within our everyday activities without people consciously realizing it. Introducing Kris Lee from Pixel Quest Academy – a passionate game design educator who hopes to ignite self-discovery and learning through game education! Re-branded from The Students’ Studio, Pixel Quest Academy aims to nurture the next generation of future game makers in their journey to improve the quality of life through games. May the class commence!

Check out their site – https://pixelquestacademy.com/

 

Q: Give the readers a short introduction about yourself and your company. What is your role? What is your company about? What is your “origin” story?

Hi, my name is Kris Lee and I am the founder and game design educator of Pixel Quest Academy. My vision for Pixel Quest Academy is to educate and inspire our future generation of game developers from as young as primary school kids to university undergraduates.

I started my journey towards games development at an early age of 15, during one of the excursion visit to Nanyang Polytechnic by my secondary school art teacher, Mrs. Ruth Ng. After that, I was ever inspired and eager to join the course to learn to become a games developer. My parents were very supportive of my choice and I have not regretted the journey that I have chosen based on my passion.

Whenever I share this story, I am reminded of the moment when I realized that many students are influenced by the external factors for the stability of their future when choosing their education. Becoming a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant or an engineer is the safest path to a better future, yet I see many of my peers leaving the industry that they have chosen their education for, instead switching to an entirely different industry upon graduation. This is why I want to share this journey of mine based on passion. As quoted by Jim Carrey:

“You can fail at what you don’t want so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

 

Q: What challenges did your company face when it first started? What challenges does your company continue to face now?

I started the company part-time, in a very lean manner. I have to give thanks to the people around me and my previous boss, James from Arclab, who supported my journey. Hired me on a flexible time scheme and referred to me my very first client. That had allowed me to kick-start a less risky transition into my business. Currently, my challenge has turned into how I grow the company in order to realize my vision and mission while maintaining the lean framework of the company.

Your future game developers in-the-making. Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/pixelquestacademy/

Q: Why did you choose to work on the serious or educational role of games rather than the more glamorous entertainment side? What is your opinion on the role of games in education?

This started off during my time at NTU, School of Art, Design and Media, when I first encountered the movement of Art Games. These are games that are created with meaningful choices and experiences, such as Journey from thatgamecompany and Passage by Jason Rohrer. These games might not have excellent graphics or amazing tech as their selling points, but they deliver experiences that forever leave an impression in your mind even after playing them only once.

Imagine this being used in education: when you learn, you don’t just memorize for the sake of passing an exam, but you experience the learning. It stays with you much longer. Just like when you learn to ride a bicycle, you don’t simply forget how to ride one even after many years have passed.

In the current trends of education in games, there is a slight confusion in what the genre should encompass. Many game companies produce educational games that are entertainment games with the disguise of education as a selling point and not really as games that focus on education.

In my previous role at Arclab, that was what we challenged ourselves to achieve. We came up with a series of bite-sized educational games called Arctopia which is currently a series of four games – Path To Monopoly, Monopoly Power, Life of Bryan and Bryan gets FinEd. The main learning objective of the series was to teach about economic and financial literacy through a short simulation game. Players got to make decisions and took actions toward achieving their goals. Through the feedback system, they had a better understanding of the topics presented.

An example of a game made by one of the students at Pixel Quest Academy.

Q: What future do you see for education through games? Is there anything you feel that can be improved on by members of the community?

With the rise of VR and AR Technology, I see more possibilities of education through games created for VR/AR/MR. On the other side, my company is seeking for industry partners who are willing to provide more insights on how to better prepare our future game developers on what is needed to know before entering the industry.

Making and learning about games using Bloxels.

Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to enter the local education game industry?

Do not aim to build the next Clash Royale but learn to be a company like Supercell. Supercell works in very lean dev teams with fast development cycles (they usually make mobile games that take around 6 months). The teams relentlessly test their games to better improve.

Take for example, their latest game, Brawl Stars, which has been in soft launch testing since June 2017. They are still testing and improving the game, as well as validating the game to ensure its best possible worldwide success. If it doesn’t work, believe me, they will rather drop the game than release it worldwide since it might end up incurring more losses than recouping costs.

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