As a kid, I was always told by my parents: ‘You can’t make a living playing video games.’ Turns out they were wrong. E-sports – or professional video gaming – have flourished in recent years, even becoming an event at the 2022 Asian Games alongside swimming and basketball. This month, Hong Kong also hosts the E-Sports and Music Festival, where international champions will showcase their skills and K-pop singers will perform.
E-sports is an all-consuming career. Deer, 20, started playing League of Legends, the most popular game in the e-sports realm, three years ago. A member of PandaCute, the highest-ranked female e-sports team in Hong Kong, Deer spends her days developing camaraderie with teammates, familiarising herself with characters in the game and analysing tactics. ‘I don’t even have time for my family,’ she says with a laugh.
There is a huge community of gamers in Hong Kong; League of Legends alone has about 300,000 players. But e-sport players seldom meet in person outside of competitions. ‘We usually make online acquaintance with fellow players, and only with those of the same level,’ says the player who goes by LOFS, 22, one of the city’s top gamers. ‘If we want to form a team, we will only pick names from player charts. The top 200 are called the Elite group. While we all know each other online and the atmosphere is amiable, there is always a competitive vibe. After all, everyone wants to be first.’
E-sports players are young; some say 25 is retirement age. Many of them go on to become strategists or create their own online channels. Ryan Chow, a retired e-sports player, has been a force behind the growth of the activity in Hong Kong. ‘To get good at e-sports, you need to compete a lot, and Hong Kong lacked a competitive event. This motivated me to set up events and build up the community,’ he says. He is working with the government to launch the E-Sports and Music Festival at the Hong Kong Coliseum. Chow also plans to open Versus Stadium, an e-sports-themed pub in Cheung Sha Wan. Who says you can’t make a living from playing video games?
Hero image: Calvin Sit