Gwen Guo started IMBA Interactive which contributes high quality audio to the evolving games industry in Asia.
What’s your story?
As an avid gamer from the age of 5, video games have always been a huge part of my life although, I wanted to be an animator. When I turned 18, I picked up electronic music production as a hobby and was intrigued by its effect on the clubbing culture and spirituality. As I applied to the Singapore-MIT Gambit Gamelab internship program intending to be an animator, the interviewer saw value in my music and got me in as a sound designer instead. Here, I had the privilege of working with many talented teams in games development. Confidence was built and years down the track, I started a business with other professionals, to provide game audio services to developers and to advocate for this often undervalued craft.
What excites you most about your industry?
The people and change. There are so many meaningful conversations surrounding games development such as the push to have deeper functions aside from entertainment, diversity in both developer roles and in-game character representation and getting closer to the metaverse. Games have so much potential to push for ideals which other mediums don’t. When I share these conversations with like-minded people, it’s exciting to know that you’re part of something bigger and you’re not doing it alone.
What’s your connection to Asia?
All of my team members including myself are Singaporean and we’re all based here.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
In terms of doing business, working with clients in Taiwan/Taipei has been an absolute pleasure. While stability, funding and initiatives may not match up to Singapore’s ease of starting a business, the people, their willingness to take risk, their sincerity and warmth, their positivity and ability to value expertise beyond monetary worth; all these traits resonate with me deeply. It is the perfect recipe for collaborative, creative work.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Radical softness is the idea that sharing your emotions is a political move and a tactic against a society which prioritizes a lack of emotions” – Lora Mathis, poet and artist.
Who inspires you?
Gerard Ee from Beyond Social Services (youth and poverty), Vanessa Ho from Project X (sex workers’ rights), Brie Code from TruLuv Media (games and care) and Damian Kastbauer formerly from PopCap Games (game audio advocacy). These people inspire me for various reasons, which are:
1. Highly skilled. 2. Gets stuff done. 3. Truly has a heart for the community. 4. Dedicated to their cause. 5. Strong leadership yet down to earth. 6. Sensitive to others, self-aware and kind.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
A fellow local game developer in his early 20s survived stage four cancer and his family had to downsize to a much smaller flat to pay off treatment fees. Recently, the nodes grew a little bringing all the worries back. Despite all this, he still persists in wanting to make games, attending the game community gatherings, volunteering at game conferences to learn more. The tenacity of this friend, although much younger than me, is a humbling reminder of how life is a gift and we should live it to its fullest; building meaning in whatever we do.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing; I’m very grateful for what life has thrown at me and can’t imagine it being anything else.
How do you unwind?
I play lots of video games. I also hang out with friends and talk about absolutely nothing productive. Recently, I’ve been volunteering with a group of youths for a campaign on body image, eating disorders and bullying.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Indonesia. It’s such a diverse country that’s not far from Singapore, has beautiful landscapes and hiking spots. I’m also a huge fan of their food. My partner proposed to me at Mount Bromo and in the same trip, we hiked up and down Ijen Crater where we caught the stunning natural blue fire. Ijen Crater and its sulphur miners were also featured in BBC’s Human Planet. It was an incredible thing to witness.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Difficult Conversations by The Harvard Negotiation Project.
Shameless plug for your business:
IMBA Interactive (www.imbainteractive.com) does everything audio for games – music, sound effects, voice and implementation. Our goal of IMBA is to contribute high quality audio to the evolving games industry in Asia, promote good game audio practices in development teams and educate game developers/students on the value of sound. We also actively promote mutual support, diversity and synergy within local game development communities.
How can people connect with you?
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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