The Malaysian gamer values the importance of being a responsible streamer and hopes to build a healthy gaming environment for everyone.

To celebrate women who have contributed to the growth of esports and gaming in Southeast Asia, this series of profiles aim to tell the story of five women who have made a positive impact in their respective fields.

We humans tend to thrive better when we have social bonds with people we trust. Whether it’s society, a loving relationship with your significant other, or even a community of video game streamers, that warm and fuzzy feeling we adore is there when we’re relishing in our shared connection. It’s an emotion that Facebook Gaming Creator, Sabrina Zainal, hopes to replicate in her video game streams for fans.

Building bridges

“I started live streaming because I like talking to people,” said Sabrina, who formally goes by Wan Khairunnisa Nur Sabrina, adding that she wants to create a safe space for her viewers to be themselves. “Sometimes people are more comfortable sharing their personal problems with strangers, which is a concept I understand." That’s why she chose PUBG Mobile as her regular streaming game, saying that “it’s one of the simplest games to play so I can chat with my fans”, due to quiet periods in the game where she can relax and focus on interacting with her viewers.

Despite streaming the mobile battle royale game, Sabrina (not the witch from Netflix) cites an entirely different type of game as “the most impactful game” for her: Minecraft. Not only is it a personal favourite of hers, but it’s also the game that helped her put one foot in the gaming world. It’s fitting that the Mojang game is one that’s focused on building, as it built the metaphorical bridge that connected the Perak native with a community of Malaysian gamers (Nerd Gaming Malaysia), kickstarting her streaming career.

“It’s one of the most relatable groups of gamers I’ve ever been with,” she opined, saying that she pretty much grew up in the industry with her peers. But, having joined the gamer band in 2015, she was live streaming on other platforms with her streamer friends before trying out Facebook Gaming during its infancy stage in 2017. “We only streamed for fun back then,” but now, a lot of modern streamers are competitive, which Sabrina thought can be put to good use. “If you’re passionate about it, you would want to hustle for your channel,” suggesting that one would know when to improve themselves whenever their viewership dips.

Red Dead Redemption

Despite the above, having less viewers doesn’t always mean that the streamer is at fault; sometimes it’s even human mistakes that they unintentionally made, painting a target on their back that attracts people with digital pitchforks. One long day after work, Sabrina was hanging out at fellow streamer/Yoodo Gank player ManParang’s live stream when things got a little tense. She was asked for the upteenth time to gift a fan premium PUBG Mobile in-game currency in the comments - which has happened to her countless times via spam calls and messages (both phone and social media) that she “even hired a personal assistant solely to handle them” - that she accidentally snapped at her fan, causing a rift between her and other fans who have been berating her ever since.

“I was so tired it didn’t feel like me at the time”, Sabrina recalled, admitting that she felt guilty for leaving it in that state. “So, I made a public apology to be a good example for my followers, although people still took it the wrong way.” She also iterated that viewers shouldn’t berate streamers by repeatedly asking them for gifts, and to be more considerate of the streamer’s well-being. Notwithstanding the incident, the Ampang resident is grateful for the lessons she has learned from it to be a better person and influencer. “Mistakes make you wiser and more grateful.”

We are the world

It’s an issue that could’ve happened to entertainers of any gender, but streaming for the ladies may bring about different obstacles compared to their male counterpart. “We’re no strangers to sexism, stereotyping and inequality, not to mention that being compared to other female streamers doesn’t make us feel good,” although Sabrina acknowledges that guys would face the same thing time to time.

The Malaysian gamer copes with such occurrences by focusing on the brighter side. “If I see any toxicity, I ignore them and remind myself that I can’t please everyone. The number of haters you'd have is a vocal minority anyway,” picking off her own personal book of coping mechanisms by also mentioning to enjoy one’s own leisure time after-stream and confide in your circle of streamer friends to help with one's feelings. However, it’s not something that should merely be tolerated - similar to harassment and generalisation - and should instead be changed for the better, which is achievable.

To start things off, it’s vital for every streamer to have a good mindset and be self-aware (“the older I get, the more careful I am about what I post online”), so they can set good examples for their viewers and pass along the right thought process. “Streaming is one way to build a community; if you built a community, they’ll probably follow your mindset.” If viewers are positively affected, they’ll even defend other streamers when they’re getting harassed.” She believes that we have a chance to improve things, as the industry is still growing.

But for now, girls need to be aware that even though the gaming community is dominated by males, it doesn’t mean they’re excluded. “There are a lot of other female streamers out there, so you’re not alone. Just have the right mindset and be strong, then you’re ready to be a streamer.”

Looking for a place to be yourself? Join the get-together in Sabrina Zainal's live streams on Facebook Gaming every day, at 9AM - 3PM (+8 GMT).

The university student/streamer from Myanmar shot to sudden stardom mere months after her debut.

To celebrate women who have contributed to the growth of esports and gaming in Southeast Asia, this series of profiles aim to tell the story of five women who have made a positive impact in their respective fields.

We create happiness in our own different ways.

Monica - M

That was a line that stood out to the writer in the midst of his chat with Myanma Facebook Gaming Creator, Monica - M (or simply Monica), who was beaming the entire time during the video interview. She recently celebrated her milestone of amassing 200k followers on her Facebook page since she started streaming video games in October last year. Having interviewed Monica, it’s easy to see how she got her quick ascent to streamer stardom.

Giggling and chatting away like old friends from the get-go, it was easy to warm up to Myayoon “Monica” SanMee Ko Ko. Having graduated from high school just last year, making her success all the more admirable. She attributed it to her streaming frequently and interacting with her fans a lot - this is to the point that she even plays Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) with them. “Their support means a lot to me,” the 18-year-old said, referencing the times her devoted fans made tribute videos of her as one of her proudest moments as a streamer. “I’m very thankful to all my fans for helping me reach this milestone.”

Getting the support she needs

As one can tell by now, her fan base is of paramount priority to the university student. With a love for video games since young, “I’ve always liked to play games with other people, which is why I enjoy streaming.” Even though Monica has gamed alone before, she admits that it can get lonely not speaking to anyone. But by streaming, not only does she have a circle of fans she can bond with over gaming sessions, she even gets free lessons in sharpening her MLBB skills. “My viewers are usually better at the game than I am, so they’ve given me a lot of advice and strategies for MLBB - they’re like my teachers.”

With so much support from her fans, one wonders if the same applies to her family as well. According to Monica, when she asked her parents for permission to try out streaming during high school, they were hesitant about it. “They felt that I still had a lot to learn, and that streaming might not be a good career. Plus, I haven’t passed my final exams yet.” Fortunately, they found a compromise: Monica promised to pass her final exams first and to perform well in her tertiary studies while pursuing her endeavour. Needles to say, the opportunity her parents gave her has paid off beautifully.

A double life

Juggling her studies and streaming schedule can be tricky, akin to adults working a full-time job and a part-time one after work. But for the girl with a sunny disposition, all that matters is that balancing the two is possible. Monica admits it can be hard to prioritise between them, but “all you have to do is manage your schedule carefully. If you do the right things during the right times, then it’ll be okay.” She added with a finality, “I can do it.”

This gamer packs a punch when it comes to her determination to be an international streamer. But, is it a career that’s a cup of tea for interested individuals? “Anyone can pursue streaming,” Monica said without hesitation. “As long as you stream consistently and interact with your fans a lot, then you can do it.” Streaming, in its essence, is entertaining your audience, and if you don’t talk to your viewers, they wouldn’t be happy. “It’s important to not only play your games well, but also care about your supporters.” They are, after all, the reason why popular streamers got to where they are today.

Be the bigger woman

Alas, not all who watch Monica’s streams are as friendly as her troupe. Being a female streamer also brings its own set of challenges that male counterparts are less likely to face, most notably the inappropriate harassment they face online. “I can get uncomfortable by those, but I can handle it,” Monica said, adding that usually only a few of these bad apples appear at a time, not to mention that she has the support of her legion of fans to drown out the haters. “We can’t control how people think of us, but we can control our own mind. For me, I’ll focus on the ones who support me and ignore the haters.” The Yangon native even filters through their comments to see if there’s any useful advice to take note of. “We create happiness in our own different ways.”

For every ill intention, there are motives behind such malicious actions. Monica believes that a portion of the community generalise female streamers as attention seekers who flaunt their good looks, lacking the skills to be bona fide streamers. “It would be nice if people don’t judge streamers by their gender,” she said, adding that this mindset is toxic. “Negative thoughts do nothing to help anyone. Instead, we should be helping each other out to build a friendly and healthy community.” Monica believes that the solution to this age-old problem in gaming, lies in educating one another on how to fairly perceive women in gaming and raising awareness on the capabilities of female gamers.

On an utterly non-serious note, Monica confesses that she has just the right skillset to be a capable MLBB player in the world of streaming. Reflecting on some of her embarrassing moments in-stream, there were a few times when she was playing with her fans and died a lot in-game “to the point that I wanted to end the stream, I wanted to show that I can play well too.” Although her fans teased her for the many mistakes she made, Monica didn’t mind, aware that it’s all in good fun. “I even compiled these moments and put them in my funny highlights videos,” she said giddily. “I can be quite hot-tempered when playing, which my fans are amused by.”

Goes to show that there are many ways to entertain viewers other than sick gameplay - if you’re a budding game streamer, it’s vital to find your own voice so that you’ll stand out from the crowd. “Find out what are your direction and goals,” Monica said. “Don’t be afraid of the challenges you’ll face, and instead focus on achieving them. But, don’t forget to do the things that make you happy too.”

Want to hang out with Monica - M? Check out her almost-daily streams on Facebook.

From TV commercials to video game animation, Passion Republic's lead animator offers plenty of insights on the game industry.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

It’s an overused adage, but one that remains vital to video game development, as teams of animators, programmers and the like synergise to create awesome experiences for us gamers. It's also one of the driving principles for Cheong Teik Mun, lead animator of Passion Republic, who recently worked on the latest instalment of the widely-successful third-person shooter series, Gears 5.

Leveling up with Teik Mun's Level Up KL workshop, alongside senior animator Julian On and animator Thong Vie Eik (in white shirts).

“As lead animator, I oversee the animation department, and also work closely with the project leads who handle on-hand projects and liaise with our clients,” Teik Mun said. Together, they lay out the projects’ timelines and team’s direction, making sure everyone and every aspect stays aligned, among other things.

“Ask anyone at the company and they’ll say that I’m always busy talking to someone,” revealed the seven-and-a-half-year video game veteran with a chuckle. “I invest a lot of time communicating with the team to ensure they’re happy with their work, and to instil leadership so that we stay solid as the company expands.”

Teik Mun's team was in charge of cinematics, moments and gameplay animation for Gears 5.

With an impressive portfolio of AAA video games that’s bound to grow, Passion Republic would need to educate future staff to maintain the quality of its services. Fortunately, teaching seems to be second nature to Teik Mun. A guest lecturer at The One Academy (where he graduated from) who also did a workshop at Level Up KL 2018, he admitted that teaching newcomers - his hardest responsibility - happens to be his most rewarding task.

“You have to understand their perspective so you know how to motivate them,” Teik Mun explained. “Great leadership is teaching them how to use their strengths wisely, to work smarter without overworking.”

Looking like a proud mama hen, Teik Mun with his graduates.

Gear up

It’s unsurprising that the lead animator has plenty of wisdom to impart to his disciples. Aside from having worked on the likes of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Teik Mun’s last project isn’t the only Gears game he has worked on.

“Our relationship with The Coalition (Gears’ developer) began when we worked on the cinematics of their debut game, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition,” relayed Teik Mun. “We built a good relationship with them during the nine months we worked with them, so much so that they approached us again for Gears of War 4, which we were more than happy to do.”

Check out some of Passion Republic's cinematics on Gears 5 here.

Beyond cinematics (in-game cutscenes) for Gears 4, Teik Mun and his team broke new ground by also working on its gameplay animation, which he believes strengthened the relationship further.

He explained, “Gameplay animation is extremely interactive (as players control the game). We needed to work closely with The Coalition to understand how the gameplay works and align our animation with it, so that it blends and looks good from every angle.”

It wasn't always like this

From the way Teik Mun talked about animating games, it’s as if he was born to be in the industry. Ironically though, he actually comes from a TV commercial background, having joined Passion Republic when it was a studio for commercials in its first two years.

“I only got interested in games after we made the big switch to work on them,” he said, reminiscing how he started understanding games at an in-depth level. He’s been acquiring all the knowledge he can, so that the team can create art that goes well with the game. He even began playing them to help with the process, citing Red Dead Redemption 2 as his current favourite.

Splendid concept artworks by Passion Republic's artists.

There are times when the lead animator had to get his hands dirty to learn. For example, Teik Mun recalls a high-profile project that he and a fellow lead animator struggled with, as they had no experience working on a particular aspect of animation the job required.

“We just kept doing it again and again until we figured it out, because we really wanted the job,” the 29-year-old said. “We finally got it, then we taught our teammates what we learned so they could do it, too.”

With the team behind Gears 5. (That's me in the middle!)

It’s still hard work, but the unusual transition has, indeed, paid off for the studio.

“Everyone, especially fresh graduates, can’t believe they can work on large-scale overseas video game projects right here in Malaysia while being able to see their family, speak their language, and be proud of doing what they love,” said the young lad from Ipoh. “This is something we want to implement across the industry.”

“Plus, working on games gives us more time to create better quality work, which aligns with our vision at Passion Republic.”

And what is that vision?

“To always create the best art we can that inspires, while maintaining a fulfilling career with good work-life balance,” Teik Mun answered, saying the approach transcends games.

"Goal post wall" for staffs to share their career milestones and goals they want to accomplish.

Malaysia boleh

It’s amazing that such prospects can already be found here in Malaysia, and it’s not unlikely that local studios will be able to produce AAA video games in the near future, which Teik Mun dreams of being a part of.

“I want to take away the mindset that only international studios can develop AAA games,” he said. “I believe that Malaysia has the talents to create good and inspiring games that gamers would love.”

Say hello to the family of Passion Republic!

You heard that? There’s no better time to get into the thick of the video game industry than now. And if you’re seeking to do animation for video games, the weekend-lecturer had this to say:

“Animation means designing movement not just for living things, but objects as well. Pay attention to how humans move and have a solid grasp on character animation before moving on to more creative aspects, such as creatures.”

Plus, even if you don’t like playing video games, you can still be a part of the scene!

“But you have to love games and understand their mechanics, perhaps by watching people play. So, when you animate, you can make sure it connects well with the gameplay,” Teik Mun concluded.

For more information on other notable works from Passion Republic, check out their website or follow them on Facebook.

The Deep Fry: Gears 5 subverted my expectations in all the right ways, minus a few hiccups.
The biggest announcements from Level Up KL Biz 2019 Day 1.

Rocketfuel Entertainment Sdn Bhd
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