Changing the public's perception of e-sports

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.
Singtel's PVP Inter-Campus League last weekend saw more than 90 teams from tertiary institutions in Singapore taking part. Gamers are hoping for greater public recognition of e-sports. The new MacBook Pro performs well, but it is expensive.
Singtel's PVP Inter-Campus League last weekend saw more than 90 teams from tertiary institutions in Singapore taking part. Gamers are hoping for greater public recognition of e-sports. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE KIAT

In less than three months, e-sports will make its debut as a medal sport at the 2019 SEA Games, but its journey towards gaining broader social recognition and acceptance may have just begun.

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.

"There is still a mindset of, 'you must study, work very hard and get a degree'," says professional Dota 2 player Galvin 'Meracle' Kang, 23, who is a coach as well as 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 at an e-sports boot camp organised by official SEA Games e-sports partner Razer.

The event at Scape gathered 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 in one of its 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 (S$47.8 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 new to e-sports, 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 watch."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2019, with the headline 'Changing the public's perception of e-sports'. Print Edition | Subscribe