Former professional gamers Chan Wei Wah, 21 and Ong Boon Yang, 25 were living the dream – they had tournaments galore, fans aplenty and an enviable mastery of the hugely popular League of Legends (LoL) online multiplayer game. On top of that, they were getting paid a monthly salary – plus whatever prize money they won at tournaments.
But by the time Wei Wah and Boon Yang were 20 and 23 respectively, they had already retired from pro gaming, after a glorious run on the LoL circuit which culminated in them winning the 2011 World Cyber Games (WCG) Malaysia with their team, Orange E-Sport.
Retiring in your early 20s isn’t uncommon in the super-competitive world of pro gaming. Wei Wah and Boon Yang are living examples of an unwritten expiration policy for gamers. Here, they speak candidly about their experience as pro gamers and what life after gaming holds.
Their Gaming Days
Boon Yang: I started pro-gaming when I was 17, joining numerous teams and playing DotA before later switching to LoL and joining the Orange E-Sport team. My final team was the KL Hunters. The beginning of my pro gaming career was tough – I wasn’t making much money from playing every day so I had to live off my parents’ generosity but then again, not many regular teenagers can say they’ve had the opportunity to meet as many people as I did during the tournaments.
Wei Wah: I started gaming when I was 15 and Garena began sponsoring me when I was 18. After we won WCG 2011, our team got the chance to represent Malaysia in a tournament in South Korea. Being a pro gamer was exhilarating – at tournaments, there were always lots of fans cheering for you and there was an amped up atmosphere – it’s hard to describe.
Reasons for Retiring
BY: I wanted to continue playing but my parents weren’t supportive of my dreams. Also the gaming landscape in Malaysia wasn’t very promising, especially compared to countries like China and Korea. There is also a stigma attached to being a gamer – not everyone can accept that their son or boyfriend is a gamer. In fact, when I first told my parents I wanted to be a gamer, their response was “Please, please don’t.”
WW: I decided to retire because reality sank in and I realised that even if I continued playing for the next five years, the results would be the same. In Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand, e-sports competitors have coaches and analysts who help them improve their games. In Malaysia, it’s very DIY and obviously the results reflect that. I was also getting older and it seemed like I was wasting my time – I just had to move on.
What They Do Now
BY: I work as a trader in the family business. Yes, I’m making quite a lot of money now but life is so different. I still feel like life as a gamer is more enjoyable. I was chasing my dreams before but now I just work day after day like everyone else.
WW: I’ve been in Singapore for the past six months working in sales and marketing. Life now is okay but I still prefer my gaming days. I am doing better financially because I earn in Singapore dollars but if there were better opportunities for gaming in Malaysia, I would definitely return.
Missing The Game
BY: Yeah, I miss pro gaming but I don’t think I could have continued playing professionally. I actually quit for a six-month period once before and then went back to gaming, but I couldn’t regain my skills. For a pro gamer, the optimum time to utilise your skills is between the ages of 16 to 22 – after that, your motor skills aren’t as good.
WW: Yeah, I really miss gaming a lot. It’s like that yearning feeling you have when you break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend.