By Asina Pornwasin
The Nation Weekend
Gamers now have more chances to monetise their skills and become more popular in the broader community through becoming e-sport athletes.
Apart the competitions hosted by the corporates both locally and internationally, the upcoming 30th SEA Games will be the first time that e-sport will be allowed in that competition and will feature six e-sport medals.
In the attempt to encourage the e-sport ecosystem to push beyond the game industry and the gamer community, and to encourage gamers to become e-sport athletes, the Thailand Esports Federation (TESF) has joined with the private sector to collaborate in hosting the 30th SEA Games Thailand National Qualifiers, for Tekken7.
Pratthana Leelapanang, the chief consumer business officer for Advanced Info Service (AIS) said the telecom wants to become the network of choice for e-sport players and wants to help drive the e-sport ecosystem.
That ecosystem is now quite small in Thailand, especially when compared to the entire Bt22 billion game industry here. Though it is just beginning, e-sport has the potential for double-digit growth annually, said Pratthana.
A variety of businesses stand to benefit from growth in the ecosystem, including gamers and game publishers, but also for related businesses including media, voice actors, graphic designers, organisers and others.
“We would like to leverage games to e-sport as it deserves support. It is a part of our mission to run a sustainable business through promoting the proper use of networks,” said Pratthana.
It is a part of the Cyber Wellness initiative launched by AIS early this year.
E-sport is another dimension of the digital economy, similar to e-commerce and other sectors that can drive the country’s economy, said Pratthana. The emerging new economy will be driven by digital networks and platforms and affect many industries including media, games, sports, and tech sectors. In the process, it will help create the jobs of the digital economy.
“We treat e-sport as one among the emerging businesses. It is healthily growing by double digits every year and also helps to drive other businesses. We will see the e-sport businesses achieve a significant number and size in the next couple of years,” said Pratthana.
Still e-sports will be one among many new businesses to generate future revenue for the company, and the network will remain its main revenue source.
AIS will co-host the 30th SEA Games Thailand national qualifiers along with Thailand Esports Federation (TESF). The qualifiers will be one component of the Thailand Games Expo by AIS eSports.
This is just the beginning of the e-sport ecosystem in Thailand, said Santi Lothong, the president of Thailand Esports Federation (TESF). There is a good potential for it to in future become a national competition league similar to that of football.
It is a good sign that e-sport is becoming more significant in the family of sports, said Santi.
For this SEA Games, TESF will send e-sport athletes to battle in five games – Dota 2, Starcraft II, Tekken7, AOV (Arena of Valour) and Mobile Legends Bang Bang.
“We hope our e-sport athletes will compete in the goal medal round,” he said.
There are now around 500 to 800 e-sport players participating in competitions organised by the companies. TESF would like to leverage this into a national league and transform the players into professional athletes. That could come together within the next four years, he said.
Gamers dream big
At the 30th SEA Games Thailand national qualifiers, Nopparut Hempamorn, 22 (nicknamed “Book”), won over Rachawin Tanasoontorngoon, 35 (“Chin”), to become one of the top Thai e-sport athletes. Nopparut has played Tekken since he was 12, much loves the game – and is good at it.
On the first day he played the game, Book could not dream of one day representing Thai e-port athletes. Like so many other children, he loved playing the game simply to entertain himself. He admitted that in the early years of his gamer life, he had played 10 hours a day and becoming a game addict.
His mother warned him to better manage his time to attain a balance between game playing and studying. He obeyed her, and proved to himself and his mom that game playing can be more than just entertaining yourself, but rather can provide a chance to earn money and be recognised as a top player through success in several competitions.
Book in 2013 transformed from recreational gamer to e-sport athlete when he won the Tekken World Tournament in SEA Major in Singapore.
He went on to participate in the final round of the IeSF World Championship in 2017 hosted by International e-Sports Federation, where a Philippines athlete defeated him. This time, he said, it will be a return match for him.
He spends a lot of time studying the playing style of others, acknowledging that the competitor mindset is important to win the competition.
He said that to be an e-sport player requires good time management. Playing the game must be a part of daily life, not the whole of it. The player’s duty to practice must leave room for other duties, especially studying for students or working.
Rachawin Tanasoontorngoon, 31, who was defeated by Nopparut, shared his story.
Game addiction, he said, leads some to play the game all the time and deny the other duties of daily life. He is not an addict, he added.
Chin has played Tekken for 15 years, usually for an hour or two daily. He played when he is free from study assignments as a students, and when he is now free from his work as an accounting employee. He has quite good time management and discipline around playing the game, said Chin.
Like Book, he began playing without ever dreaming of becoming an e-sport athlete. But the development of the e-sport ecosystem helped him to turn his experience and effort in game-playing over 15 years into something more meaningful.
“I attended almost all competitions hosted in Thailand. I joined three international competitions, one in Singapore [Tekken World Tour] and two others in Japan, Evo Japan 2017 and 2018,” said Chin.
To achieve high performance in the fighting game, an understanding of the player character and other characters is required, and that takes practice playing. Hours of practice are vitally important for him.
“I am being ranked number two or three, so I think I should participate in the 30th SEA Games Thailand national aualifiers to represent the country to beat competitors in the SEA Games,” said Chin.
“I have experience with Book, and he is being ranked number one in Tekken7. Personally, I love Tekken 7, and I will keep attending all competitions in the future,” he said.