E-sports: Local e-sports community weighing up Asian Games hurdles

Professional gamer Ho Kun Xian, who specialises in fighting games, said he would welcome the opportunity to represent Singapore at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
Professional gamer Ho Kun Xian, who specialises in fighting games, said he would welcome the opportunity to represent Singapore at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.PHOTO: RAZER

Big-picture decision on future to guide policy on bidding for NSA

E-sports will feature at the 2022 Asian Games, signifying a big stride towards mainstream recognition for competitive video gaming.

But despite the Republic having produced several world-beaters in e-sports, it remains uncertain if the Team Singapore contingent vying for medals in Hangzhou, China will include gamers.

The local e-sports community - and its international governing authority - have several hoops to jump through.

For starters, athletes' selection for major Games like the quadrennial Asiad comes under the purview of the Singapore National Olympic Committee (SNOC), which will only consider nominees from National Sports Associations (NSAs) affiliated to the SNOC.

To be recognised as an NSA, the association must register with Sport Singapore (SportSG), the national governing body for sports - a process with several criteria before an organisation can get approval.

 

One of these is to either be listed as an Olympic sport under the International Olympic Committee or to have its international federation recognised by SportAccord, the global umbrella organisation for Olympic and non-Olympic sports bodies - a condition that e-sports has yet to fulfil.

In Singapore's case, any sport body wanting to be registered as an NSA with SportSG must also obtain charity status, among other criteria on the checklist.

Even then, it does not guarantee funding from SportSG.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, SportSG said: "As the conferment of NSA status does not automatically equate with funding from SportSG, the sports body must show evidence of good financial health and (that it) is self-sustaining with sustainable multi(ple) sources of revenue streams."

Pursuing NSA status simply to take part in a major Games is also understood to be frowned upon.

The local e-sports fraternity is aware of the procedures and explored registering as an NSA as early as 2008 - but concedes that even with the possibility of competing at the Asian Games, they are still undecided.

Singapore Cybersports & Online Gaming Association chairman Nicholas Khoo told ST: "I won't rule out the possibility that we may register (as an NSA) one day because of this development.

"But at the same time, we also ask ourselves - what do we want to do to grow the ecosystem? Our focus is always on what we need to do to build a sustainable ecosystem."

For now, there is little information beyond the inclusion of e-sports. There is the question of which titles will be contested, as well as the likelihood of e-sports featuring at future major Games.

Its inclusion at the 2022 Asiad came largely through a partnership between the Olympic Council of Asia, which organises the Asian Games, and Alisports, an offshoot of e-commerce giant Alibaba, headquartered in Hangzhou itself.

Added Khoo: "There are so many opportunities for a non-profit organisation like ours to grow the fraternity and this (the Asian Games) is one priority we cannot ignore.

"But do we turn the entire weight of our national e-sports (community) towards this one event?"

There are local gamers, however, who would relish the chance to don national colours. Said professional gamer Ho Kun Xian, who sometimes brings a Singapore flag with him when he competes: "I'd definitely love to represent Singapore at the Asian Games if I can."

The 26-year-old specialises in fighting games and counts the Evolution Championship Series in Las Vegas in 2013 among his biggest wins to date. He emerged top out of more than 1,600 players from around the world then and won US$5,600 (S$7,825).

He added: "Events for fighting games take place mostly in the American and European market and there are not many in the region. It would be a very rare chance to compete (at the Asian Games)."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2017, with the headline 'Local E-sports community to weigh up ASIAD hurdles'. Print Edition | Subscribe