Game for a challenge

Game for a challenge
Mr Lim Ming Wei (right) and Mr Lee Teck Hou, both 31 and founders of GamingHow, the company behind video games cafe St Games Cafe, at their The Cathay outlet.

SINGAPORE - Think of a gamer and you will invariably conjure up an image of a young guy, probably bespectacled, hunched over a gadget for hours on end. Well, a local firm is out to blitz that stereotype.

GamingHow believes anyone should be able to enjoy playing video games, and it is setting out to bring fun to the masses.

Founders Lee Ming Wei, Lee Teck Hou and Gan Chia Huey started the company in 2007 while they were at university.

GamingHow organises events centred on video games - for instance, racing simulation ones during Formula One season, corporate family days, product launches, team bonding and fund-raising.

It counts government agencies, banks, hotel chains and other large firms among its clients.

The company also runs St Games Cafe, which offers video games.

"We're targeting casual gamers who just want to have fun with friends for a few hours... In fact, more than half of our customers are female," said Ming Wei.

"It's a different experience from gaming at home... Here, people can be as rowdy as they want," added Teck Hou.

St Games Cafe has two branches - at The Cathay and Bugis+ malls.

The venues are fitted out with plush sofas, and there are rooms for groups of friends to pit their gaming skills against each other. Drinks and snacks are also served.

The cafes offer more than 50 games, ranging from popular titles like Rock Band, Guitar Hero and the Fifa video game to the less well-known Wii Ghost Squad.

The founders, all 31, met during their National Service days and were students at the Nanyang Technological University.

They started a game equipment rental service in their final year of university, leasing out gear like consoles and other items to event organisers.

St Games Cafe was born out of the large collection of video game paraphernalia they accumulated.

They plunged into entrepreneurship almost immediately after graduating, setting up the first St Games Cafe at Square 2 in Novena in 2009. The outlet has since closed, as the company wanted larger premises.

While most of their peers had their sights set on corporate jobs, the three founders were struggling with their venture.

"When we first started out, it was tough because we had no previous work experience, and we also ran into parental objections," said Ming Wei.

Teck Hou added: "We jumped straight into this... with the mentality that we were fresh grads and had no commitments."

The company was started with the help of loans from parents and relatives as well as the trio's own savings.

While they both said they might have gained from spending some time in corporate jobs and becoming more financially stable before starting out on their own, the company does not seem to have suffered for their daring.

Revenue, which the founders declined to reveal, has grown about 30 per cent every year since 2009. More than half of that is from the retail outlets and the rest from events they organise.

While there are no plans to open more outlets in Singapore, the founders are looking to expand abroad to markets like Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Taipei.

"We think there is potential in these Asian markets in larger metropolitan cities," said Ming Wei.

This article was published on April 9 in The Straits Times.

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