Can the SEA Games shift public perception of e-sports in Singapore?

No longer just a hobby, e-sports will make its debut as a medal sport at the 2019 SEA Games but changing the public perception may take time.
Coach Galvin "Meracle" Kang watching his team as they undergo a training session at Scape.
Coach Galvin "Meracle" Kang watching his team as they undergo a training session at Scape. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - There are less than three months before e-sports makes its debut as a medal sport at the 2019 SEA Games, but its journey towards broader social recognition and acceptance may just be beginning.

Public perception of professional gaming remains problematic in Singapore, even for the top players selected to represent Singapore in the Philippines.

"I would say it's mainly the older generation who don't understand the digital direction the world is headed in.

""It's still a lot of, 'you must study, work very hard and get a degree'," says professional Dota 2 player Galvin "Meracle" Kang, 23, who is a coach cum reserve player for Singapore's SEA Games Dota 2 team.

"I don't even think my parents know (about e-sports at the SEA Games). If that was more widely known, then perception might change. Hopefully it will change after the SEA Games."

Dota 2 is a five-on-five multiplayer online battle arena (Moba) game in which teams battle to destroy the opponent's base on a virtual map.

Mr Kang was speaking on Monday (Sept 2) at an e-sports boot camp organised by official SEA Games e-sports partner Razer and held at Scape.


The Razer SEA Games e-sports boot camp gathered Dota 2 representatives from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines for two intense days of sparring matches. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The event gathered the Dota 2 representatives from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines for two intense days of sparring matches.

Gaming hardware manufacturer Razer flew in top Dota 2 team Evil Geniuses (EG) for the camp, with EG coach Sam "Bulba" Sosale helping to guide each team in turn for one of their matches.

EG placed fifth at last month's The International 2019, which offered the most prize money in e-sports history at US$34.3 million. The team picked up US$1.2 million for its performance.

Mr Sosale's advice gave the Singapore team a glimpse into the thought processes of the top teams, which is what separates the great from the merely good, says Singapore captain Wong "Nutz" Jeng Yih, 30.

Razer is looking to hold at least one more boot camp in a similar format for another of the six SEA Games e-sports titles being contested.

 
 
 

Razer's global e-sports director David Tse says the tech firm is sparing no effort in making e-sports at the Nov 30 to Dec 11 SEA Games accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

In an initiative unique to e-sports, Razer is working with Games organisers to create a dedicated website containing basic information about the six SEA Games e-sports titles and how best to watch them.

Getting the live experience right will also be crucial as many spectators will be coming to e-sports for the first time, says Mr Tse.

"The SEA Games is becoming a platform to tell the story of e-sports beyond the core audience," he says.

"So we have to make sure that the education is there. We have to point out what to watch, how to watch and why to watch."