A teen’s dream job

Wong “Chawy” Xing Lei postponed his tertiary education to game professionally.
Wong “Chawy” Xing Lei postponed his tertiary education to game professionally. PHOTO: TAIPEI ASSASSINS & GARENA

Lee Jian Xuan & Lisabel Ting talk to four Singaporeans who are flying the flag high in the world gaming arena

Most parents try to wean their children off playing video games, but bus driver Wong Wang Yong, 58, and his wife Choo Boi Yong, 49, took a different view.

The couple stood by their son, professional gamer Wong "Chawy" Xing Lei, encouraging him to persevere when he lost steam.

"At one point, I wasn't doing well in the team I was in and wanted to go back to school and find a job. But they told me to give it one last try," recalls the 24-year-old, speaking to Life in a phone interview from Taiwan, where he has been based since April last year.

He postponed his tertiary education to game professionally with his parents' blessings.

Wong, whose total prize winnings amount to about US$50,000 (S$68,600), mostly plays as a carry player - roughly the equivalent of a football striker - for the Taipei Assassins, a League Of Legends squad. League Of Legends is a popular multi-player game where two teams duel to destroy each other's virtual buildings.


His team manager, Mr Quaker Liu, declines to disclose his monthly salary, saying only that he is paid "well and reasonably" as a foreign player with gaming company Garena.

His father says: "Xing Lei and his brother have been like this since they were young, spending hours on games. My wife and I let them be because at least they were engaged in something. We don't believe in restricting them too much.

"After his NS, the manager invited him to go over and we said, 'Okay, you have a chance and you are still young. Just go. When you come back, you can pick up your studies.'"

Wong is the youngest of three children. His elder brother Xing Fong, 25, is between jobs, while his elder sister, Xing Wuan, 26, is a civil servant.

Wong, who has loved video games since he was 14, admits it was a gamble to be a cyber athlete in a country where esports has suffered from a lack of government support, sponsorship and a long-held perception that gaming is a waste of time.

He says: "If you don't have the passion or do not aim to be the best, don't waste too much time trying to be a gamer. It's not easy to go far doing it in Singapore."

Similarly, president of the Singapore Cyber-gaming & Online Association Nicholas Aaron Khoo points out that gamers have to be "realistic".

"The chances of someone becoming a star player is one in a million."

From his days in Regent Secondary School when he would sneak into LAN cafes against his parents' wishes, Wong, who studied at ITE Yishun, has gone on to represent Singapore in the 2011 Defense Of The Ancients 2 tournament in Cologne, Germany. His five-man team placed third, bagging $150,000 in prize money.

He switched to playing League Of Legends as it was more lucrative. "When I decided to be a serious gamer, I had to earn as much as I could and there are a lot of League competitions in a year, which means more prize money," he says.

His daily schedule now sounds like a teenager's dream. He gets up at noon and alternates between training with his team and other teams from South Korea and China till sundown, stopping only for meals. And he does not play alone - most games are followed by his 68,000-strong Facebook following, some of whom send him fan mail.

A mini-celebrity of sorts, he also has to film promotional videos for the team's Facebook page and attend events by technology giant HTC, the squad's partner. Recently, he rubbed shoulders with Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou, who visited the team's training room.

"The visit was on Jay's private schedule. He's quite interested in esports," says Mr Liu.

Wong says he probably would not stay in this job forever, but will enjoy his success while it lasts.

"As people often say, if you love your job, every day is not a working day, so I'll continue with this as long as I can."

Lee Jian Xuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 26, 2015, with the headline 'All eyes on these gamers A teen's dream job'. Print Edition | Subscribe