Interview with Yitong Hu from China

Interview with Natalia Ciobanu from Moldova
May 30, 2023
Interview with Craig Wong from United States
June 1, 2023

Yitong Hu

As a child, Yitong Hu’s favorite activity was to gather toys together and provide an entire background story and names which fueled the interest in being a game developer.

Interview With The 2023 NYX Game Awards Winner –
Yitong Hu

1Please provide us with a brief bio of yourself and your background.

This year marks my tenth year in game design and production. A decade ago, I left my home country of China and spent five years in Malaysia, over two years on the West Coast of the United States, and over a year on the East Coast. Like an adventurer in a game, I moved every year, always exploring unknown maps, encountering different challenges, and making new travel companions.

But I enjoy this kind of experience very much, which not only turned my hobbies into a career but also brought me a richer life journey and more valuable mentors and friends than the average person.

2What led you to become a Game Developer / Marketer?

When I was a child, I lived far away from school and didn't have many friends around me. My favorite activity was gathering all my toys together, giving them names, creating stories, and voicing their dialogues. In third grade, I created a board game using soda bottle caps and designated roles for my classmates to play as government officials and generals in a royal court.

I wrote novels from elementary school to high school, but I always felt that words alone were not enough to convey the visual images in my imagination. In 2013, I learned for the first time that there was a game technology major in universities, and I began to dream of making a living by creating games and using video games to tell the fiction in my head to people all over the world.

3What is your role in the company, and what traits should a game developer / marketing professional possess to be successful in their role?

Black White Bear is a game demo I created entirely by myself, which means I took on the responsibilities of story writing, level design, programming, 2D art, UI, and audio design. This is a huge challenge for any game developer, but it is also an excellent opportunity for us to better understand the functions of other positions and the difficulties they may encounter in team collaboration.

What a solo developer needs most is motivation because without urging the help of teammates, it's easy for one person to procrastinate or even give up, so strict and efficient project management and time management skills are essential.

4Tell us more about your studio / company.
Currently, several talented designers and artists are assisting me in re-drawing the animations and UI in the game. They also provide valuable feedback on various aspects of the game. However, the level design, narrative design, and programming are still completed by me alone.
5What is your own definition of a great game?
I believe that a great game either provides players with a clear and profound theme, or offers a virtual space where people can escape from real-life pressures and fully immerse themselves in the joy of the present moment.
6Describe the genres of the game(s) your studio / company specializes in, as well as its main characteristics.
My greatest strengths lie in narrative-driven puzzle games and user interface design that conveys information with minimal text and icons in the clearest possible manner.
7Tell us more about your ideation process.

Most of my ideas come from visual arts in real life and movies, as I believe that video games are a combination of practical software and interactive movies. In terms of gameplay design, I consider how to arrange levels, clues, and enemies from the player's or user's perspective to best fit their logical thinking.

In terms of multi-sensory experience design, I reference how movies use composition, colors, and sound effects to make plot twists more dramatic and to better stimulate the emotions of players.

8Congratulations! As the winner of the NYX Game Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?

For a game designer, there is no better 10th anniversary gift for their first personal work than an international award. When I received the email, I read it three times and immediately logged on to the website to check the list of winners before I could believe that I was truly a silver award winner.

Moreover, this award was given to the game design and plot design category of Black White Bear, which is completely independently created by myself, and is a complete affirmation of my design ability. Since I woke up from a dream and came up with this idea on a November morning in 2019, the whole story has been brewing in my mind for many years, so Black White Bear is one of the most important works in my entire career.

9How has winning an international award help promote your company and game?
After receiving recognition from NYX Game Awards judges from so many countries, I got congratulations from many peers, alumni, and professors. Not only was I interviewed by the media in my home country, but the faculty of my graduate program also wants to feature me in their Alumni Spotlight section. I feel incredibly proud. This will undoubtedly be very beneficial for my future career development.
10What are the challenges of developing / marketing your winning entry(ies)?

Because developing this game is not my main job, I have to make way for full-time work and daily chores, and it's hard to find time to invest in the production. However, I don't want to waste such a good idea on low-quality work.

In addition, due to limited funding, I have to personally handle many things, and spend a lot of time and energy on tasks outside of designing game content. The most difficult part is not knowing if the story I wrote and the interactions I created accurately convey the struggles of a minority group and whether they can resonate with players.

11How has the country, you are based in, helped during your ideation process?

The United States is undoubtedly one of the largest game markets and game design industries in the world today, so I can get a lot of learning materials, inspiration, and enthusiastic help from industry professionals here. At the same time, the diversity and inclusiveness in American culture are an important origin of the story of Black White Bear.

During my years in the United States, I have encountered many individuals from different industries and backgrounds who have distinctive personalities and have made efforts to help minority groups to be seen by the public. Their personal energy and life philosophy have inspired and educated me greatly.

12What are the current trends in the game industry that you are most excited about?
I am glad to see game design being applied to non-entertainment digital products such as education, technical training, simulation, and healthcare. This means that there are more possibilities for the development of the game industry, and people's acceptance of video games is gradually increasing.
13What are the top THREE (3) favorite things about the gaming industry?
The entertainment spirit of developers, the openness to advanced technology, and providing a platform for multiculturalism.
14What resources would you recommend to someone who is searching to improve their game designs and development ideas / skills?
I believe participating in Game Jams is a great way to train as a game developer. It allows developers to practice their skills in topic-based creative thinking, rapid prototyping, resource allocation, and project management. Additionally, it provides opportunities for developers to learn and exchange ideas with other types of developers.
15Where do you see the evolution of the gaming industry in the next 5-10 years?
Graphic technology will continue to improve, and people will see more detailed graphics and more realistic animations. Multi-sensory technology will mature, and there will be greater development opportunities for VR and AR games. At the same time, game engines will provide more opportunities for independent developers without professional teams.
16Who inspired you in your life, and why?
My graduate professor, Michael John, is the most important mentor for me on my journey in game design. He had incredible confidence in my talent and provided strong support and detailed guidance during the creation of my first game project, "Truants," where I served as creative director for the very first time. Even years after my graduation, he still selflessly offers help in game design philosophy and job seeking.
17What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
For game designers, finishing is more important than being perfect. Always remember to jot down your ideas. Develop the habit and ability to write documents regularly. Play and observe games frequently, keep up with the latest trends, and learn from others.

Winning Entry

Black White Bear | 2023

Baby Panda was found on a river bank next to a mountain village of pure color bears. The aunty bear adopted the baby and protected it from discrimination …
(Read more at NYX Game Awards)

Yitong Hu

As a child, Yitong Hu’s favorite activity was to gather toys together and provide an entire background story and names which fueled the interest in being a game developer.

Read more about this interview with Kei Eguchi from Japan, the Gold Winner of the 2023 NYX Game Awards.