2 days ago by Maryanne Lee
Singapore has never been known for games.We are well renowned as a country that prizes academic qualifications and material possessions over the less tangible things in life. Engaging on volunteer work to get our children into ‘better’ schools; aspiring towards a condominium, country club membership and a car; even picking paper over professionalism when it comes to jobs.
It is not often that a Singaporean is lauded for his or her achievements that aren’t financially or academically oriented.
But we’re doing that today.
Canada Cup 2011, a fighting-game tournament that is considered the equivalent of the World Cup, was held last weekend. Participants from all over the world convened in Calgary to duke it out against the finest fighting-game players in the world. Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom, BlazBlue, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, they played it all.
Reputations were built and torn down over the weekend. Fans of the games who weren’t able to go to Canada cheered their favourites – and their countrymen – on through the online live stream.
Singapore was no exception. From Beach Road to Bukit Batok, members of the local fighting game community gathered around computers and television screens to watch the Singapore contingent win and lose.
Team Singapore lost the international five-on-five exhibition. The crushing defeat was dealt by USA (5-1 their favour) and Europe (5-2 their favour).
But it was the same Team Singapore from whom these champions emerged:
David ‘RealDeal’ Sim combo-ed his way to a stunning first place victory in Street Figher 2: HD Remix
Leslie Cheong beat the odds to emerge overall second in Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition. We’re talking about beating some of the international players here.
One might assume that these two are sponsored, paid pro-gamers like many of the US and Japanese players participating in the tournament. In reality, they’re no different from any average Singaporean picked off the street.
David holds a full time job, while Leslie is a full time national serviceman. All the practice they get is from their local arcade in Bugis, where the skilled players only emerge during the weekends. Many of the players they had to face on their tournament conquests included world-famous, sponsored players who draw a salary from fine-tuning their game day in, day out.
But they beat them anyway.
Asked local player Soon Yong, who was supporting them from home: “who still thinks that Singapore is a small country and we have no local talent?” David and Leslie’s victories sparked an emotional Facebook post from Soon Yong, who passionately lauded his friends and the rest of Team Singapore.
Unfortunately, the heroes’ welcome for David, Leslie and the rest of their team will be limited to one held by a small clique of gamers. eSports, or competitive gaming, is not something that holds clout with Singaporeans, and only their friends will greet them at Changi Airport, unlike when the Singaporean table tennis contingent returned from overseas.
Is it time for Singapore to step up?
Many professional gamers feel it is. Earlier in the year, competitive Fifa player Aeriel ‘Flash.Xtr3me3’ Phirkhan wrote an impassioned note on Facebook that caught the attention of the entire gaming landscape. In it, he asked for the government for the support of eSports in Singapore, so that all the effort poured into their respective games can get them the recognition they rightfully deserve.
A group of older gamers, previously hailing from Unreal Tournament clan X3M, have also stepped up for future generations. In 2008, they formed Singapore’s Cybersports and Online Gaming Association, an organisation that hopes to push for more rights for local gamers. Their primary goals are to help players with school or national service commitments to get to tournaments.
Local business Rapture Gaming has also tried to do its part with the formation of the E-Sport Singapore Association. Their goal is to encourage professional growth for the eSports community and industry in Singapore by building relationships between people and organisations that are interested and involved in eSports.
In fact, support for local competitive gaming and the Singaporean eSports community seems to be mushrooming everywhere. Many gamers, competitive or not, feel that, an international win on Singapore’s behalf is still a win, whether in Street Fighter, table tennis, swimming or StarCraft II.
“People in the states have sat up and taken notice of our Singaporean players,” said Kenneth ‘Spore’ Lim, a 22 year old Singaporean and Street Fighter player studying at New York University.
“It’s time Singapore does the same.”
What do you think of our Street Fighter achievements in the Canada Cup? Is it time for more fellow Singaporeans to show awareness and support our growing influence in eSports? Let us know us through your comments.