Wish you had a better job? Here are a few that sound like fun.
FOR most people, “work” and “fun” don’t mix. For a lucky few, work is fun.
Take Chan Earng Chee, for instance. The 39-year-old is paid to play — online games, that is. As the sole game reviewer for an online gaming company, Chan gets exclusive rights to test new games from China, Taiwan and Korea before they are released into the local market.
Compared with the rest of us, Chan is actually “excited” about going to work.
“Because new games might have arrived,” he explains. At nine, Chan clocks in and starts “playing”. By six, work would be over. In one week, he only has to play one or two games. Essentially, that’s the summary of Chan’s work-week for the past two years. It’s no wonder the gamer loves his job.
“Every now and then someone will point out that this job has no future. But I can’t help it — I love gaming,” says the accounting graduate who has been “addicted” to gaming ever since he was in primary school.
Initially hired as a game language translator for the company, Chan found his niche after assisting his boss with a few game reviews.
Equipped with only an ordinary PC, Chan’s workstation is hardly the sophisticated corner that one would expect of a gamer. But the best part about his job is really “getting to play all kinds of different games.”
The hardest part is, well, actually reviewing the games.
“I can easily say that a game is bad or good — but the ‘why’ is the most difficult to describe,” says Chan, who likens his job to that of a movie reviewer.
“Instead of character development and plot holes, my review will talk about the ease of game-play — is the game designed to accommodate the player’s convenience? When you’re testing a game, you’re not just playing; you have to notice a lot of details — the graphics, the sound design, the characters’ movements.”
Observation starts long before the playing begins, Chan adds.
“We have to explain things like, is the login screen appealing?” And in the most proficient gaming vocabulary too. While Chan finds his job virtually stress-free, there are times when he dreads work — like when he has to endure playing poorly-designed games.
“If it wasn’t for work, I would’ve just clicked ‘uninstall’,” he says.
For Ruhaiyah Ibrahim, reliving her childhood is part and parcel of her daily job. Especially since she gets paid to play Doraemon, a blue, earless robo-cat from the future.
For the past 10 years, the 45-year-old has been the “Malay voice” behind the Bahasa Malaysia-dubbed Japanese anime series.
“Whenever I’m introduced as ‘Aunty Doraemon’ to the kids, they will frown at me. They think Doraemon is a little boy,” says Ruhaiyah. For proof, the mother of five is required to launch into “character mode” — which she invariably ends up doing at one family gathering or another.
But who would’ve thought that Doraemon once worked as a clerk for the Public Services Commission of Malaysia? Following a friend’s suggestion, Ruhaiyah attended a voice test at a dubbing studio just for fun. And the rest, as they say, is history.
In 1988, she was cast as the voice of innocent Chia Ki in the locally-dubbed Japanese drama series, Air Stewardess. “Chia Ki had a ‘bodoh-bodoh’ (absent-minded) character. I got the job because the producer thought we shared the same personality!” she recalls.
Years later when Ruhaiyah auditioned for the role of Doraemon, it was the producers from Japan who thought that she embodied the character best.
“It was luck-lah,” she demurs.
Now, Doraemon is only one in a sea of characters that Ruhaiyah personifies daily. “I play the good guys and the bad guys. Sometimes I am 80, other times, eight. Though I’m already 45, I can still be young again,” she reveals.
In the localised Crayon Shin-chan, Ruhaiyah doubles up as a wailing baby girl and a playful teacher. One day she is Ayumi in Detective Conan, and the next, Sakura in Naruto. She has also lent her voice to Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, Kaoru, Rin Hane Koma, Clifford, Slamdunk, Teletubbies and even Doraemon’s best friend, Nobita.
The down-to-earth “Kak Yah” finds only one kind of role to be difficult: the villain. “It’s extremely challenging when you have to identify with the character,” she explains. To make her “acting” believable, Ruhaiyah has to rely on the power of exaggeration.
According to Ruhaiyah, recording one episode of each show takes no more than 1½ hours of her time, because she can now “get it right” in just two takes.
“What I enjoy most about this job is that I can play a lot of ‘famous’ characters and still keep a low-profile. Unlike popular artistes, I can go anywhere and not worry that someone might recognise me,” she says.
So how do her children feel about having “familial relations” with Doraemon?
“They’re not so excited about it anymore. Unless of course, their school friends bring it up,” Ruhaiyah reveals. “Then they’ll be the proudest kids ever.”
“Do you want to see some magic?” Hidden between the palms of Zlwin Chew are two playing cards — the ace of hearts and the four of spades. With a quick ruffle, he does the impossible — a case of “melting” both cards into one.
Chew may only be 21, but he has already mastered the art of “deception”. What started out as a hobby three years ago has quickly turned into a full-blown obssession for Chew — the psychology undergrad is currently Zouk Club KL’s resident magician, a role he claims is the first of its kind in the country.
“When I was younger, I actually thought that magicians and illusionists were involved in black magic,” he says. “How else could David Copperfield have walked through the Great Wall of China?”
In due time, the curious lad discovered that it was all “just science”.
Chew has since learnt hundreds of effects from various sources, including YouTube, how-to books and DVDs from online magic stores. These days, it’s not unusual to find Chew with a few decks of cards up his sleeve. Ask him to turn around, and you’ll find 20 forks tucked into his back pocket.
“What I love most about magic is being able to bring adults back to a moment of childlike wonder,” he quips.
Among Chew’s favourite routines is the fork-bending effect, which took him six months to master.
“Everyone can show you magic tricks. The difference is turning that trick into a performance,” Chew says. “I don’t want people to ask me ‘How did you do that?’; I want them to go ‘Wow, that was amazing.’”
Magicians are a dime a dozen but the professionals are in big demand in Malaysia and are often hired as guests for exclusive events. Inspired by the prospect that great jokes never grow old, Chew is still on the hunt for a classic effect that he can call his own.
“Magicians need to find a good and solid effect that can last — something that will amaze the audience no matter how many times they’ve seen it.”
But approaching the right audience can also prove to be quite a challenge — especially when magicians are often misjudged as “salesmen”.
“People generally don’t like magicians. We are often regarded as cheap tricksters,” Chew opines. Nevertheless, if the crowd is willing, Chew strikes up friendships fairly easily.
“I can earn a stranger’s trust in just five minutes,” he says. No problems meeting girls on the job, then?
While conjuring magic is fun, it can also be decidedly risky. Like when Chew experienced a great big bungle on-stage.
“I was supposed to predict a word from a book but in the end, I guessed wrongly. It was really embarrassing.” The incident was hurriedly brushed off as a joke and topped up with a “powerful finale”.
After impressing the likes of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the 12th Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail, Chew is now expected to perform magic at every house that he visits come Chinese New Year.
“The dreadful part about being a magician is that you never get a rest day,” he jokes.
So how do Chew’s parents feel about having a magician for a son?
“At first, they weren’t too happy that I was working in a club. They also didn’t think that magicians had a good future. But now, after seeing how I’ve built up my career, they have been very supportive and encouraging,” he reveals.
Paradise island caretaker
BEATING nearly 35,000 applicants from around the world, British charity worker Ben Southall, 36, was selected to serve as a caretaker for a tropical Australian island in 2009. All he had to do was swim, explore and relax, while writing a blog to promote the area.
Luxury bed tester
British undergraduate Roisin Madigan, 24, earned £1,000 (RM4,918) to sleep in designer beds every day for a month when she participated in a “sleep survey” carried out by luxury bed specialists, Simon Horn Ltd.
Resort waterslide tester
Lifestyle product development manager Tommy Lynch, 31, has travelled the world over to test holiday resort waterslides. He ensures that the height, speed, water quantity and the landing of the flumes, as well as all safety aspects, are in check.
After winning a contest, schoolboy Harry Willsher, 14, was selected as the chief taster for top-secret recipes in a US sweets factory — not unlike the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
In 2007, Durex offered 200 Australians over the age of 18 a chance to become condom testers. Successful applicants received a free AD$60 (RM190) selection of Durex products and was required to provide honest feedback about the condoms’ performance. A bonus prize of A$1,000 (RM3,168) was given to one lucky tester.
Bike rider-photographer for Google Maps
To add three-dimensional images to Google’s Street View Maps, two men were hired to ride around France on funny-looking tricycles to snap up photos of historical sites that were inaccessible by car.
The three-wheeler consisted of a long pole holding nine cameras, a GPS, a computer and a generator. Armed with Google T-shirts and white helmets, the riders were literally given a free ride to places like the Chateau de Versailles, the Jardin du Luxembourg and Les Halles.
Professional bargain hunter
Over a decade ago, Karen Hoxmeier started MyBargainBuddy.com, a website devoted to great shopping saves. Now when the Californian stay-at-home mum finds a good bargain, she gets paid to pass it along — stores pay her a commission to list and sell their merchandise.
n Sources: www.oddee.com and edition.cnn.com