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I Started With Games And I Didn’t Stop There

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I love playing games. But I don’t have the time to do so.

Now, I just turn on YouTube and watch recorded streams. But, not very long ago, I was quite a hardcore gamer, playing different genres of games. I was best at third and first person shooters, gosh, I remember games like Halo, Assassin’s Creed and Gears of Wars. Those were the days.

But remember when there were no consoles? Back to the time when there was only Windows 3.1. I started from there.

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There wasn’t even a desktop at that time.  It was all in the terminal. I had to type ‘win start’ and stuff like that. I play games on diskettes.

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I remembered this crazy game called Hugo’s House of Horrors. I was addicted to it. Kept playing even though I didn’t finish it. I was just happy to sit in front of the PC, typing random commands to make Hugo do stuff. I was only 5 at that time (I still haven’t completed Hugo’s House of Horrors today).

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Then came Windows 95. I recall games like Minesweeper and the annoying ski game where you would be eaten by the abominable snowman once you reach a certain area.

I was glued to the PC everyday because we no longer use diskettes, it was time for CDs. That meant that I could play more games. Better games in fact. One of the most memorable games I played was Twinsen’s Little Big Adventure and Twinsen’s LBA2. It was one of the best games of that generation, even today I still replay it.

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Soon, I had a PlayStation 2. I started playing more and more games. Metal Gear Solid, Grand Theft Auto, Winning Eleven, you name it.

Until one day, an ‘aha’ moment came to me. I was actually curious about how games were made. I would say that this was the defining moment of my life. It led me down the path of programming, and more. Now I am hungry for more knowledge beyond games, I want to learn about the web, mobile phones and wearables.

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It was 2004. I had finished my Cambridge ‘O’ Levels. I did well. Well enough to enter Junior College. But, as I collected all the flyers from the Polytechnic open houses that I attended, I came across one flyer that caught my attention. It called itself “Digital Entertainment Technology”. It was Singapore’s first-ever Game Development course. Today, it is known as the Game Development and Technology course.

I was intrigued.

I went to search for more details, but there wasn’t much. It was so new that not many people heard of it as well. Many people feel safer going to courses like Engineering. But I decided to take the risk and enrol myself in “Digital Entertainment Technology”.

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I never regretted it. Those 3 years were hardcore. We learnt about Game Design, Physics, (more) Mathematics and even 3D Modelling. I remember wearing the MOCAP (Motion Capture) suit to record skeleton movements for my 3D character. It was also during this three years that I’ve made a few games. I’ve had to understand how physics worked in 3D environments, vectors, matrices and the list goes on. Today, things are much easier with frameworks like Unity. Back then, I had to do everything myself.

During my free time at home I was building projects of my own. The first language I learnt was C++. At that time, I was also attending night classes from a private institution. There, I was learning things like HTML, Java, C and Oracle databases. It was tough. But I loved it. I used the knowledge from both sides to improve my skills and eventually produced better quality work.

Soon, the three years flew past. I was eligible for further studies. Never would I have thought that a Game Development diploma would be my path to university. But I have to make a tough decision. Do I continue with Game Development, or choose another subject to major in?

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I knew that at that time, the games industry in Singapore is very niche (it still is today). If I wanted to continue with games, universities such as NUS and NTU wouldn’t cut it. I would’ve had to go to places like DigiPen. That would cost a bomb.

With cost and the niche factor weighing me down, I decided that I would continue with NUS and NTU instead. I then considered Aerospace. Because I wanted to build simulation systems for aircraft. My games knowledge would be put to good use. But I also wanted to learn more about computers.

I was in a dilema.

In the end I put my first two choices as Computer Science and Aerospace respectively, for both Universities.

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What came next was that I was accepted into both universities for my first choice, Computer Science. I’m not sure to feel sad or happy at this point because Aerospace is something I liked a lot. My dad was a pilot and I had a keen interest in pursuing Aerospace. Luckily, I was posted to the Republic of Singapore Air Force as an Aircraft Engineer.

My life in University was tough as hell. The competition was crazy. Despite having a programming background, my head start was only for the first year. Mathematics and Computer Theory took up most of my time, but I never stopped building.

I learnt a lot of Java in NTU. Java is a good language for learning Data Structures and Algorithms. Well, I spent 3.5 years in University (finished a semester earlier because I overloaded my modules). Graduated with pride, and I never looked back.

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Today, three main things made me who I am today: Games, Aerospace and Computer Science. I will always be building new things, and stay at the fore front of technology.

Startups are overtaking the world. Technology is moving so fast, that a lot of industries are being disrupted. Uber has disrupted the transportation industry, and it’s so massive that it’s practically unstoppable. AirBnb has disrupted the hotel industry. Their slogan, “Belong Anywhere” is simple and memorable. Now, every time I travel, I always use Uber and Airbnb without fail.

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But personally, I have no intentions to join Uber or AirBnb. I want to work somewhere where my passion resides in. I want to work in a place where Games, Aerospace and Computer Science can be put to good use. I read about the Space industry. The most notable one is SpaceX, led by Elon Musk. But I’ve also heard of AstroscaleAxelspace and lastly, Spire.

I found out about Spire when I was headhunted by their recruiter, but they were asking for a hardware position, which I am not well-versed in. However, I discovered that they had Software Engineer positions.

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Anyway, it would be a good experience for me to try out those companies. I always love a good challenge. Time to brush up on my Data Structures and Algorithms.

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My Two Years As An Aircraft Technician

TLDR; What I do on a daily basis, can simply be summed up in a single video:

Although the video shows a F16 aircraft instead of the Super Puma, our roles are basically the same.

I spent two years as an Aircraft Technician in the Republic of Singapore Airforce. I was lucky that this was something I liked because not many people get to enter the vocation they want. Looking back, it was a wonderful two years out there. I’ve made a lot of lifelong friendships, and learnt many invaluable lessons.

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I’ve learnt several aerospace related stuff, ranging from aircraft parts, to how to service an aircraft down to the nuts and bolts. My dad used to be a pilot and I still have pictures of him during his National Service days. I, however, have been bestowed the responsibility to support the pilots instead.

Before I entered National Service, I was accepted into computer science, and as they say, the rest is history. Computer Science was my first choice when I entered university. My second choice was actually Aerospace.

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The picture above is me posing with the Super Puma. After my training at the Air Force School, where I learnt about how an engine works and every single part of aircraft, I was posted to the 125 Squadron.

125 Squadron is home to the Super Puma. The Super Puma provides support for our Singapore Armed Forces during their missions. It could function as a aircraft to ferry soldiers, or casualties in a Search and Rescue operation.

Two things can be installed at the doors of the Super Puma; door guns are installed if the Super Puma has to assume a defensive role, and hoists are installed if winching operations are to be conducted.

The Super Puma can also land on a ships such as the one above. Few years back, we have participated in anti-piracy operations where Super Pumas were sent out to sea to deter pirates from hijacking ships. If you have seen the movie “Captain Philips“, you probably have a vague idea of what I’m talking about.

The Search and Rescue (SAR) team is always on 24/7 standby to attend to emergencies. We have already saved countless lives. It could be one of our guys suffering from a severe heatstroke or fever in Pulau Tekong and the only way out was a heli-evacuation. Or, it could be a sea vessel emitting an SOS signal where there was a medical emergency onboard their ship.

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I’m really proud to say that I’ve played an important role in Singapore’s defence. Also, it’s not everyday you get to look at an aircraft engine face to face and watch an aircraft take off right in front of you.

Throughout this two years I’ve not only increased my knowledge of aerospace, but also learnt the importance of teamwork, safety and having an eye for detail. Furthermore, I’ve had to make decisions based on my judgement and taking responsibility for those decisions. This is definitely a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. 

Now let me end off this post with an awesome video of this RSAF marshaller!

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