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Online gaming: a hobby or a career?

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

Photo by Jamie McInall on

I still remember the old school days where arcade was one of my favorite hangouts.

I played games like “Virtual Striker” around Singapore, challenging strangers on the other machine within a given time period. Just slot in the tokens. Whoever scored the most goals emerged as the winner.

I honed my skills after each game. It was pure fun with a sense of adrenaline. School was very textbook-styled, here was real. My best shots were 25 consecutive wins in “Virtual Striker”. After that, I decided to take a break.

Maybe I was lucky, maybe it was my personal conviction. I believe I will triumph, nothing will beat me down.

There were game arcade places where a set of “hidden rules” known to internal players like myself – no tricks, no cheat buttons, just pure techniques. Sometimes, there would be a sticker on the machine to remind any cheaters. Anyone who was in breached get unilaterally booted out because there were several others watching by the side. He or she got booed and shooed away.

Those days, there were thugs, gangsters but all came for the passion of the game only – all respected the rules of the game, including the abilities of another.

At a young age, I learnt about mutual respect, never-to-say-die attitude till the final whistle in the game was blown. I have also analysed my opponents’ playing style.

Most importantly, it’s a part of character building in communicating with people from all walks of life. Traits that’s helpful to me to understand people-to-people relationship now.

By the way, I was not a hard core gamer, just an enthusiast about specific arcade games.

However, I didn’t have a single idea about becoming professional, neither any future knowledge how e-sports will be an emerging trend.

In case if anyone will like to know the definition of e-sports, you can find the explanation in Wikipedia. It's a growing sports. (and some says a potential career pathway)

E-sports is in the limelight with Singtel recent gaming competition endorsement. That’s after Mr. Koh Boon Hwee did an interview with the press and it was picked up the global media.

After reading the article from The Star dated November 4, 2018 – I can understand how a Professional Gamer, Mr Ho Kun Xian, with his early interest in computer games, manages to put Singapore on the world map in entertainment and media.

He trains hard, he believes in what he does. He is focused. Probably, he builds up his positive attributes, his personal characteristics during his gaming career.

“Xian” as he is known in the gaming world, plays Street Fighter, a popular game since 1987. He is ranked 17th worldwide.

Xian became Singapore’s first winner at the Evolution Championship Series in Las Vegas.

According to, Xian made at least US$88,000 from 42 tournaments so far. Not bad for being professional right?

The point is not about money.

It’s about chasing one’s passion.

Aim is to develop one’s skills over time to attain Mastery level.

Along the journey, he had mentors and supportive open minded parents. His parents told him to do whatever he wants, as long as he tries to excel in it. Once you become a Master, endorsements and money will come to you.

Years ago, gaming was a taboo thing. The perception was – if you as a youth, played computer games for hours and neglected your study, you would be a loser. A complete failure in life. There is medical truth that being totally obsessive will lead to health and mental problems. Cutting off from the real world and be in the world of games will neglect studies and therefore one will have very low chances for better and lucrative job opportunities.

But this is not a modeled answer, it’s what society perceives, it’s how we can meet expectation of the working class.

If I flip the coin to the other side, we can see there are several interesting roles taken up by millennial. They decide to take their interest to the next level, explore and find out whether this is something sustainable as a career in Singapore. For instance, Magician, Conductor, Artistic Dancer, Songwriter.

Some managed to hit on the world stage.

Mr. Wong Kah Chun, a locally acclaimed Composer is one whom brings his talent to the international arena. His key achievement can be found here. He takes the road less travelled and creates success in his own career journey.

Derrick Tham is now a renowned Songwriter in the world of mandopop.

Songwriting in Singapore? How often do you hear this 10 years ago?

The truth is, we are always hesitant to take the first plunge, to take the next step.

Either too much noises, negative perception or external circumstances.

We may not be the next Xian or Kah Chun.

But if we find something worthwhile and meaningful to pursue – go for it. Our personal accomplishments will stay with us as worthy memories.

A small success in being selected to the finals is still an achievement. Xian took small steps, got progressive traction before gaining recognition in the gaming circle.

If Singapore is not the place to be, there may be other countries that support one’s passion. Yes, move abroad!

If others disagree, take it as a positive force to prove oneself (not others)

I have to put a word of caution here.

If one feels that the interest is not able to develop into practicality and sustainability over time, admit it and pull the plug. Go back to Professions that will put food on the table.

That’s perfectly fine – no shame.

That also means one must be able to take on a driving seat at a certain point in time to make important decisions. Don’t get blinded by the foggy windscreen!

However, there is a difference in cutting off the lifeline at a very early stage as compared to a period of self-discovery.

The keyword: Self-Discovery

Having mentors and career coaches whom serve as bright lamp posts help. Positive family members and friends who morally support are also essential. Go out there to chase whatever you want. Influence mindset if need be.

Find out whether something can be a potential career pathway.

Even if it doesn’t work out, you do make a valuable gain.

A person’s characteristics can be built over time. Hence, it’s about the roadmap (key lessons learnt), not just the final outcome. Classroom can’t offer this.

As Xian quoted – “he studied the cultural differences of Japanese players, American players etc. that honed his analytical abilities in the game.”

Perhaps, something he can bring forth this strength to the corporate world and look for jobs that place a large emphasis on this.

Using e-gaming as a great example, we have to adopt a broad mindset and have the grit to excel in whatever we do. And if it doesn’t work out – have the courage to cut loose, embrace failure and take on another occupational interest that makes practical sense.

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