Annie Sumi Nam represents a company that bills itself as one of the world's largest outsourcing firms in video-game development. As a business development manager for Virtuos Games, the Edmonton-born Kitsilano resident's job is to drum up work in Vancouver for the Shanghai-based company.
With about 400 employees at its development centres in Shanghai and Chengdu, Virtuos provides services in the areas of art and animation, co-development, software engineering, and quality assurance to other companies in the video-game industry. It's worked on such games as last year's Crash: Mind Over Mutant for the PlayStation Portable and Speed Racer for the Nintendo DS.
Nam previously worked as a project specialist for Big Fish Games at the Seattle-based company's Yaletown studio, which opened in September 2008. She's a founding member of Women in Games Vancouver and is actively involved with the Casual Games Association. These affiliations led her to help organize the Leadership Development Forum on July 20 which preceded the Casual Connect Seattle conference.
The Georgia Straight reached Nam in Virtuos's office in Kitsilano.
What are you working on these days with Virtuos?
I'm the business development manager for Virtuos Games, and my goal is to bring in casual projects, as well as visual-effects projects, for the company. The company has been focused on core games, as you probably know if you've looked at the site.
How big is outsourcing in game development locally?
Locally? That's a good question. I'm trying to establish that. I think the focus before was outside of Vancouver, and so that's what I'm also trying to do is to see what we have here. I'm pretty optimistic, because we have quite a few development companies that we're not working with yet—definitely partner up with—as well as a ton of visual-effects companies locally.
Do you know what kind of impact the recession has had on companies that specialize in outsourcing, like Virtuos?
That's a really good question. I feel that, when times are good, then outsourcing is good as well, because we're actually meant to provide a service for these companies. So, when they have projects and they're really busy, then we have more work as well.
Do you think there could be any local resentment about outsourcing?
There probably is. I haven't encountered too much so far. Well, what have you heard?
I imagine some of the concerns would be communication. Sometimes you are working with companies that are in different time zones and also with different languages. That would be one concern. I guess maintaining quality is another concern for the clients as well.
And the other resentment might be—although I don't think this is really the case—that some people feel that outsourcers take away work from local people. But, in fact, we are affected by the recession as well. So, if our clients don't have projects, then it's harder for us to work with them.
What are your thoughts on getting more women into the game industry?
Well, there's a few things. I think we have to encourage girls to explore these kinds of careers—and not just producer roles, marketing, which we seem to find a higher percentage of women in already. But it's things like programming, for example, and design. I think design and programming sort of can go hand in hand sometimes. So, just really encourage them to also develop their own games.
What do you like about working in the game industry?
I guess the best part for me is trying all the new games. I love seeing what people have done with their games, and I love taking some time to just kind of relax and have some fun. I guess I'm drawn to casual games because you don't necessarily have to invest a lot of time and you can play it in short stints. Also it takes me a while to get used to the controls and stuff. So, I like it if I can pick up something pretty quickly, which is usually what happens with casual games and more casual core-type games.
What's your favourite game to play?
Rock Band. I haven't tried the Beatles one, but I would like to try that one. So, stuff like that—Guitar Hero, Rayman Raving Rabbids, another favourite. I own a Wii console and a DS. So, I gravitate toward those types of games.
Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.