You might not consider gaming a professional sport, even a career choice, but would it change your mind to know that the prize money for winning DOTA 2 is at a whopping USD25.53 million?
Monetary opportunities aside - the global esports market was valued at nearly USD865 million in 2018 - there is a burgeoning industry emerging from gaming tournaments and live streaming of video games; some even make a good living out of gaming.
In Malaysia, esport, while growing, is still an untapped market, says Kendrik Tan, CEO and co-founder of the Academy of Esports (AOES).
You can also be a streamer, a coach, a broadcaster, lighting designers and host big gaming events. The list of career opportunities goes on
Founded in 2017 with two friends Kieren Lam and Kuan Sin Leong, Tan says the academy aims to train and nurture local gamers to be world-class professionals.
“We teach students about the business of esports. We help build their career and brush up their skills in gaming.”
“It’s about growing their brand as a professional gamer. We coach students in the finances of gaming, as well as teach them how to increase followers on social media through Instagram and Facebook.”
AOES, located in the Iskandar Development region in Nusajaya, Johor is Southeast Asia’s first academy of such kind, dedicated to promoting and training gamers through an intensive eight month programme.
With more than 55 students enrolled with AOES, the acadamy is still at a budding stage but Tan is confident with a bit more recognition and support from the government, the sport and supporting industries have the potential to grow exponentially
“Instead of being a professional gamer, you can also be a streamer, a coach, a broadcaster, lighting designers and host big gaming events. The list of career opportunities goes on.”
“If you’ve ever witnessed an esport competition, you can see that it is a huge spectacle. There’s a whole team behind it that makes it all happen," says Tan.
AOES and Iskandar Investment have spent over RM1 million setting up the academy, where students get access to top gaming hardware. "We have the newly launched HP Omen devices that offers cutting-edge graphics, design and performance," says Tan.
The 28-year-old entreprener, trained in architecture and design, is living the example of pursuing one's dream in egaming. Going against the wishes of his family, he started the academy as he realised the wasn't enough support system available to gamers alike to truly hone their skills and compete profesionally.
They couldn’t see a future or understand the purpose of an academy. It wasn’t until 2017 then Iskandar Investment Berhad saw our potential and invested in us
"I’ve always loved playing video games and had a passion for it. I also understand the business of it.”
“It was tough not getting the support of my family at the first; they couldn’t see it as a career.”
“We approached several brands hoping for them to come on board but all of them turned us down. They couldn’t see a future or understand the purpose of an academy. It wasn’t until 2017 then Iskandar Investment Berhad saw our potential and invested in us,” he says.
According to Tan, pro-gamers are required to endure similar training intensity like any professional athlete. Gamers are known to put up to 13 hours in front of the computer - an intensity that some would consider 'addiction', but according to Tan, a necessary training to improve endurance and cognitive function.
“It takes a lot of dedication and mental energy to maintain the same level of focus throughout the game,” says Tan.
AOES, he adds, also working closely with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, in efforts to develop the industry further, without divulging much details. He is very confidenct, however, that Iskandar will be the hub for esports to take root and grow in Southeast Asia.
“Right now, China and Denmark are the two countries that have been winning tournaments but the rest of the world is slowly catching up to them.”
“The prize pool for DOTA 2 last year was RM100 million. That, to mem is an insane amount of money, and people who are winning these tournaments are kids as young as 16-years-old. It really does change your life competing in these tournaments,” says Tan.
At the moment, AOES is run by a small team - five coaches and eight operations staff. While still at an infancy stage - he plans to stay in Johor over the few years, Tan harbours hopes that the academy can one day be a leading egames training centre in the region.
“We’ve had offers to open an AOES outside of Malaysia but because our team is still so smalland we’ve still got a lot to learn, that’s not in the cards for us right now,” he says.