Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month - meet Niralee, Andy and Caroline

For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, some of the amazing individuals at Square Enix share their thoughts, experiences and advice about working in the games industry.
By Square Enix Team

Square Enix is what it is because of the people. That may sound like mawkish corporate smuggery, but it’s the genuine truth.

If you’ve ever delighted in a FINAL FANTASY, gone on an adventure with Lara Croft, or enjoyed any of our games, it’s all thanks to the incredibly hard-working people that brought it into existence and to you.

Square Enix employs people from all over the world, with diverse cultural backgrounds and identities, and for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we wanted to shine the spotlight on some of these talented individuals, both in the US and beyond.

Each week this month, we’ll spotlight individuals who have graciously provided fascinating insight into their careers in the games industry, the highs, the lows and what their Asian heritage means to them.

Niralee Modha, Assistant Marketing Manager, UK & Export

Niralee Modha

Hi Niralee. First question: how did you get your start at Square Enix?

Honestly, I never thought working in the games industry would be a possibility for me. Growing up in a small town, there weren’t many opportunities there.

After university, I got a job at a general retailer and was managing the digital pages for the video games range. Through this role I got to connect with many people in the industry (and play a lot of games, thanks to free codes).

One day I saw an ad for a job here at Square Enix, and thought to myself 'what's the worst that could happen'? I applied and, to my surprise, my now boss gave me a chance. I'm truly thankful!

Was it challenging stepping into the industry for the first time?

A big challenge was the steep learning curve at the start. As well as having a baptism of fire, the industry is always so fast paced and hectic. No day is ever boring, that's for sure!

What’s the highlight of your time at Square Enix (so far)?

My proudest moment so far has been launching my first ever game - Marvel’s Avengers - and seeing my name in the credits. That was really cool!

The feeling of having all your hard work out there, and it all culminating on that big day, is pretty awesome.

What advice would you give people trying to break into the games industry?

Get your foot in the door in any way you can, even if it's not your dream job at the start. Once you have exposure to the industry and put the work in, you can build up to anything you want to be!

What does your Asian heritage mean to you?

Growing up, I used to be ashamed of my culture as my peers at school were predominantly white and I was bullied for my skin colour. But now, I love and embrace my culture as it's cool and it's what makes me who I am (plus the food is wonderful!).

Being a person of colour and a woman in the industry I feel it's important to represent my heritage and make my voice heard.

Finally, what’s your favorite game of all time?

I'd be lying if I didn't say Warzone - it's gotten me through lockdown and it's been a fun way to stay connected to friends.

But on a nostalgic level, it has to be Spyro the Dragon. It's the first game I remember properly playing on a console and it was better than any toy or tv show! Me and my sisters would literally be fighting over the controller to have our turn to play it!

Andy Wong, Community and Social Media Manager for Marvel’s Avengers

Andy Wong

How did you come to join Crystal Dynamics?

I had previously worked with Marvel Games at a different company, so my love for all things Marvel led me to join Crystal Dynamics.

When I was a kid, I always dreamed of working for Square Enix because it defined a large part of my interest in JRPGs. Little did I know that I would be joining the family because of a Western-developed title.

Goes to show that you never know how your dreams might come true - it can happen in many different ways.

What do you love most about your job as Community Manager?

Although there are things I’m proud of in terms of building a community, managing our social channels, and getting our live streams started, I’m most proud of what our community creates.

Whether it’s their Photo Mode shots, lengthy live streams, or building smaller sub-communities within our community, I always get a warm fuzzy feeling when I see how amazing our players are and what we can inspire them to do. That, in turn, inspires me.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your role?

Working in community is always challenging since we’re often empathic and agree with our players more times than not. It definitely requires thick skin, but also the ability to dissect any critical remarks into actionable items for the future.

In the end, if I can help in any way and I see my initiatives are having a positive effect, it’s all worth it.

What advice would you give people trying to break into the games industry?

Community and Social Media Managers have a very public-facing job, but behind the scenes, we wear a billion different hats: writing, content creation, social media scouring, gathering feedback, developer communication, streaming, marketing, influencer relations, data analysis, and not losing our marbles are just a few of them.

Get really good at a few skills that don’t require previous game company experience. One of the reasons I was able to become a Community Manager was because I had previous games journalism and content creation experience, two big elements of my job now.

At the end of the day, there’s no one way to work in games, but it does help to have the right skillset.

What does your Asian heritage mean to you?

My heritage is a part of my identity and I’m proud of it.

Growing up, my parents made sure to surround my sister and me with as much of our Chinese and Vietnamese culture as they possibly could, even though we were born and raised in the US.

We were encouraged to speak Cantonese, cooked our cultural dishes, and learned the many rich traditions that have shaped our heritage. Even now, I hold all these facets of my upbringing close to my heart.

I’m incredibly lucky to be working at Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix because they celebrate and respect people of all backgrounds. When needed, I am asked to consult on matters that involve Chinese or Vietnamese depictions, language, or ideas. This means the world to me!

Fun fact: I have planned dumpling-making hangouts with my team.

Finally, what’s your favourite game of all time?

My favorite game changes depending on what era of my life I’m in. At one point it was both FINAL FANTASY X and KINGDOM HEARTS because they introduced me to JRPGs and started a lifelong obsession with them. I even tried learning Al Bhed, but it didn’t stick.

In more recent times, I picked up Overwatch and five years later, I’m still playing it on a regular basis. I had never been good at FPS’s, but something about Overwatch really clicked. Tank and Support mains, unite!

However, if you were to ask me now, I would say Hades is my favorite game. The characters, the art, the choices, the depth! I have recommended Hades to everyone and cannot sing its praises enough.

Caroline Wu Bonti, Senior Creative Producer

Caroline Wu Bonti

Hi Caroline. How did you start your career in the games industry?

I wish my story was more exciting, like when a streamer with thousands of followers ends up working for a gaming company. However, my journey into the video game industry is far more traditional.

In 2005, I was working at an ad agency. It didn’t take long for me to realize that agency life was not for me. A former manager told me about an opportunity at Vivendi Games, which opened up a whole new world for me, and without hesitation, I began my new adventure.

I instantly loved everything about it - the culture, the people, and the passion. During my time at Vivendi, I was able to develop strong relationships which opened doors for me and started a new chapter at Blizzard Entertainment. I was there for several years, working with some of the most creative and dedicated people I’ve ever met.

Throughout my career, relationships have been essential and coming to Square Enix was no different. I was excited about the opportunity to make meaningful contributions and, at the same time, build relationships with everyone here.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your role?

When you join a new organization, you always want to come in, learn quickly and try to contribute right away. One area I felt confident I could make a difference, was to establish a new creative process for my team and deploy a new project management platform to improve collaboration with our partners.

Of course, changing processes that have been established for years is challenging, even if it is necessary to get better results. What’s let me overcome the challenges is the support that I and the team have received from Leadership and our partners.

I’m excited about the projects the team has been working on and can’t wait for everyone to see them.

What would you say to someone trying to break into the games industry?

Companies are looking for amazing people that first and foremost love what they do and are great at it. Combine that with a passion for video games and you’re in a good spot.

Also, don’t give up. Your career is long, so keep learning in every job you have. Develop relationships and build connections, as you never know when one of them will turn into an opportunity to get into gaming.

What does your Asian heritage mean to you?

It’s a huge part of my identity and something that I’m very proud of.

My mom and dad immigrated from China to Canada in their early 20s, with the hope of building a better life for themselves and future generations. They came with two suitcases and a Chinese-to-English dictionary.

They worked tirelessly to start a business, and I am grateful and humbled by the opportunity they provided my brother and me. They prioritized education but also encouraged us to pursue our interests and passions.

If there’s anything that I’ve inherited from my parents, it is to always work hard, continue learning and take responsibility for my actions. This has helped me throughout my career.

Asian heritage, to me, is about understanding my Chinese culture and traditions. I am proud to be an Asian American and I will do my best to preserve the values that have shaped me into who I am. And also pass that onto my daughter so she, too, will grow up, stand tall, and without any embarrassment say: “I am an Asian American.”

Finally, what’s your favorite game of all time?

Mario Kart! It brings back memories of my childhood and I can play with my 6-year-old. Rainbow Road and Red Shells 4 life!

Many thanks to Niralee, Andy and Caroline for sharing their thoughts and experiences of working at Square Enix, and the games industry as a whole.

Join us on the Square Enix Blog next week for more spotlights, and if you’re interested in working with us (we’re all very nice - honest!), make sure you check our careers pages for current opportunities.