Bright future for competitive gamers
With the launch of Singapore's first e-sports academy, can the Republic produce an Asian champion?
For years, many Singaporean parents nagged at their children to quit gaming as it was a waste of time, would affect their grades in school and was an activity with no future.
I can't blame them. When I was growing up there weren't many successful e-sports athletes.
And I have never gone far in competitive gaming after 15 years.
That mindset might change with the launching of the first e-sports academy by the Singapore Cybersports & Gaming Association (SCOGA) and Informatics Academy on Thursday.
The new academy, which is supported by the National Youth Council, will conduct workshops and master classes for games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends.
There will also be streaming and shoutcasting programmes, lessons in personal and branding communications, and even cyber wellness education.
SCOGA also inked a partnership with online streaming platform Twitch - which will help develop programmes to produce the next batch of e-sportscasters, online presenters and content creators.
It will work with the National University of Singapore's Evolution Innovation Lab to develop products that improve the performance of professional gamers, such as a brainwave-sensing headband to help the user monitor and control his anxiety levels.
SCOGA also revealed that it is in discussions with Valencia Football Club's e-sports arm to tap on their expertise and knowledge for future programmes.
These developments could not have come at a better time for local gamers.
E-sports was announced as an official medal sport for the 2022 Asian Games in China, reported The Guardian.
Global e-sports revenue is expected to surpass US$1.1 billion (S$1.5 billion) in two years, reported The Straits Times last year.
While Singapore has yet to produce household names from e-sports, there are already success stories.
For example, Dota 2 player Daryl Koh Pei Xiang, who uses "iceiceice" as his online name, is 23rd on the international earnings list, having earned nearly US$1.1 million so far.
A Singapore e-sports team also placed third at the world's biggest Fifa Online 3 tournament in December, taking home US$60,000 in prize money.
The e-sports scene here may still be in its infancy, but professional e-sports athletes and coaches told The New Paper they were excited there is finally a platform to properly groom a new generation of professional gamers.
Ms Ruth Lim, 24, a competitive Dota 2 coach, said: "People don't think of competitive gaming as a viable path because they've not seen success from it before.
"And those who want to chase that dream didn't have access to the knowledge or a platform, until now. The academy will create opportunities by providing knowledge, support and coaching."
Ms Lim, who has a computer science degree and is now a SCOGA community engagement executive, added the academy will help gamers get their basic gameplay mechanics right.
Mr Chiang Wen Jun, 26, who was part of the Fifa Online 3 team and who goes by the online name "hibidi", lauded the academy as a huge step towards legitimising e-sports in Singapore.
E-sports team Team Flash manager and founder Terence Ting said: "An e-sports academy will go a long way towards growing the grassroots scene and producing new talents capable of gracing the international stage one day."
With e-sports earning more recognition globally and a legitimate academy now established here, there is a future for competitive gamers in Singapore.
A mindset change, plenty of disciplined training and some luck could give us a realistic shot at hearing the national anthem being played at the 2022 Asian Games e-sports events.