Elicia Lee: Levelling up

Elicia Lee, chairperson of the Singapore Games Association (SGGA), and managing director of Eliphant, a Singapore-based game marketing and esports specialist, shares how far the fledgling association has come, and lays out the work cut out for her in her journey to build a sustainable ecosystem for gaming in the country

Please put us in your shoes for the day and tell me how you keep this association up and running.
The association is still very young, having officially launched in 2020, so there is still a significant amount of groundwork that needs to be done in terms of engaging with government agencies, getting feedback from the industry, identifying gaps to fill and opportunities to build a sustainable gaming industry in Singapore.

All exco members are here on a voluntary basis, and we all have our day jobs, with the exception of one project manager, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the association.

As chairperson, my role is to work with each of our exco members to develop and drive the association’s direction and objectives in each of the sectors we are focusing on. Another key role is building and maintaining good relationships with the government, Singapore-based companies, as well as our fellow associations in the rest of the world, to facilitate knowledge-sharing and cross-pollination opportunities.

Being chairperson of SGGA is a wonderful opportunity that I am very happy to have. The global gaming industry is growing and evolving at an exponential rate, and there is a lot of attention on South-east Asia now as one of the highest-growth regions in the world. We have the support of several government agencies as well as some of the larger companies, so we are very well placed to build on this and grow the Singapore ecosystem.

Our current exco also comprises industry veterans who are passionate about what we do, so I look forward to working with them to achieve our goals in the coming years.

I always thought the gaming industry was male-dominated, but I see many females on your exco team. How far have women come in the gaming industry?
There are actually a lot more women working in the industry than people think. The issue is that many have not been given the opportunity to be more visible, and those in leadership roles (at least in this part of the world) have traditionally been male. I’m happy to see that this has been changing in the last few years, as we see a lot more women willing to step up, and provide role models and encouragement for other women professionals in the games industry.

There are more conversations around representation now, and at SGGA this is baked into our DNA. We want to normalise that getting a job in games is for everyone, and my hope is we eventually won’t even talk about women working in gaming, because by then it will be the norm.

How far has your industry come in the past five years, and what is SGGA’s role in the future of Singapore?
Our industry has gained a lot more mainstream visibility in the last five years, thanks to the rise of esports and the proliferation of live streaming and video platforms like YouTube and Twitch.

The pandemic not only had more people playing games, but also fast-tracked the adoption of online formats for gaming and esports, as more people tuned in to watch gaming content online.

SGGA is well-positioned to support the continued growth of the gaming industry here, as we have the ability to bring together expertise and resources from both the public and private sectors, to drive capability and infrastructure development. We are also building bridges with other associations and entities in the international sphere to drive awareness of Singapore’s potential, as well as create opportunities for local businesses.

What are some of the challenges – aside from the pandemic – that have been thrown the association’s way?
Despite being a small country, Singapore’s gaming industry is quite fragmented. One of SGGA’s ongoing endeavours is to engage with the various parts of the ecosystem, and be the central force that brings them all together. Through this, we can go beyond facilitating opportunities for our local companies to collaborate, and also represent Singapore more cohesively on the global stage.

How did the association deal with the pandemic?
SGGA was officially launched in the early days of the pandemic, which had a huge impact on all the ambitious plans we had. All the events we planned were cancelled, and we had to adapt and pivot quite quickly in our industry outreach efforts and in recruiting members.

We persevered in building partnerships, and reached out to industry stakeholders. We were able to recruit new members and launch some new initiatives, and replaced our in-person monthly networking session with an online activity instead. We also brought our own Industry Day event online, utilising platforms such as Discord to facilitate speaker Q&As and online networking.

Is that why it is necessary to participate in tradeshows like gamescom asia?
Yes, gamescom asia (October 20–22, 2022) is the flagship gaming event for Singapore and we will be hosting a Singapore Pavilion to showcase Singapore-based gaming companies. This is a key objective for us as the primary trade association in Singapore, which is to champion the games industry and bring both attention and opportunities to our companies.

Tradeshows are a core component for game developers and service providers, as these are one of the best platforms for them to be seen and network with the international community. We are seeing many tradeshows around the world restart in-person events, and we are excited to participate in these together with our members.

How are you a different association today compared to when SGGA was first set up?
Our early days were more grassroots-focused, and we only really kick-started a lot of our trade-focused initiatives during the pandemic. I would say as an association, the last two years gave us a lot of insight into the struggles of our start-ups and small businesses, as well as the opportunities and challenges that came as a number of large companies relocated their headquarters to Singapore.

We’ve since expanded our exco to 10 people to provide more bandwidth to support our work. We have also identified our core focus for the next two years and assigned leads within the exco to drive specific projects.

Today, I would say we have a much better sense of ourselves and what we can realistically achieve, a more in-depth understanding of the state of the gaming industry in Singapore, and a clearer direction in terms of what we need to do and hope to achieve.

Could you share some of the association’s future plans and projects?
Our long-term goal is to facilitate and help establish the gaming industry in Singapore as a sustainable ecosystem. To do this, we will be focusing on providing resources and support for our startups, establishing industry best practices, rolling out training programmes for those looking to find jobs in gaming, and working with both large and small companies to help with hiring challenges and job creation.

Some of our upcoming projects are the launch of SGGA’s Student Chapter, and establishing Singapore Games Week, which we hope will be an annual event that provides a platform for the general public to interact with and better understand our industry and its ever-growing opportunities and benefits.

Please share some advice that you hold dear in your line of work.
There are actually two things that shape the way I work and have become my core philosophy in anything I do.

Always try to put yourself in the shoes of the other party or audience and understand things from their point of view. For example, if I am creating a plan, proposal or event, I try to understand the audience or recipient and adapt my structure to not only their requirements but also circumstances. People will be able to see and appreciate the effort and sincerity that you put in.

Everything is a learning experience. If we did something well, we learn what to do again in the future. If something went badly, we learn what to avoid in the future. If I am wrong about something, I have no issue with acknowledging it and learning from it. Being objective and honest with yourself will enable you to grow and improve.