KUALA LUMPUR: If everything goes as planned, Malaysia will soon see the establishment of its very own academy geared towards training competition video gamers and developing them into world-class talents.
Should the pieces fall into place, the academy will be up and running in 2017.
eSports Malaysia (eSM), the governing body for competitive gaming (eSports) in the country, is on the verge of achieving one of its key objectives, which is to set up an eSports Academy to educate and produce world beaters who will fly the Jalur Gemilang high.
The move could not have come at a better time. The local eSports community is riding on a high after Malaysia’s very own Team Fnatic emerged as one of the world’s top five Dota2 teams, thanks to their success at the Dota 2 World Championship, The International 6, earlier this year.
Fnatic’s success, garnering a whopping US$1.4 million in prize money after coming in fourth at the prestigious tournament, opened the eyes of many to the potential of pursuing a career in eSports.
MAKING HOMEGROWN E-ATHLETES
The video games scene in Malaysia is a vibrant one. eSM figures show that Malaysia has 14 million gamers playing various game titles.
eSM, which falls under the purview of the Youth and Sports Ministry, has been actively involved in supporting the participation of Malaysian athletes in tournaments. The latest foray was a Malaysian team’s participation in the International eSports Federation World Championship 2016 on Oct 9 in Jakarta, Indonesia, where teams contested in League of Legends (LoL) and Hearthstone events.
The goal of establishing a formal education outfit for eSports athletes was made clear by eSM president, Datuk Latt Shariman Abdullah, at the launch of eSM in January last year.
“By focusing on the five Key Strategic Areas, namely the welfare of gamers; standardisation, education; games development; and international recognition, we are confident that eSports will move in the right direction and transform Malaysia into the world capital of eSports in the future.
“With the support of gamers in Malaysia, the government as well as the private sector, we believe it’s just a matter of time before our Jalur Gemilang will be flying high all over the world,” said Latt in an exclusive interview with NST Online.
In seeking to make the academy a reality, eSM noted that it has already identified a competent academic partner.
Latt said the concept aims to rope in those interested in pursuing a career in video games and train them with the aid of experienced figures from the industry. The plan, he said, is to train not just e-athletes, but also managers, sportscasters and event enablers.
“We are aware that not all of experts and international gamers have the capacity to become trainers. That is why it is crucial for us to have an academic partner which has a good track record in training the educators as well,” he said.
Latt also noted that the courses need to be affordable in order to groom more talent, on top of boosting more female participation. The governing body hopes to see the academy up and running by the first quarter of 2017.
For starters, the academy will focus on courses covering three games: FIFA, CounterStrike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and Dota2.
EMULATING THE ASIAN DRAGONS
Even as Malaysia prepares to launch itself into the task of developing homegrown talent for competitive video gaming, South Korea and China have already entrenched themselves as the industry’s gold standard.
South Korea’s Chung-Ang University, one of the country’s top 10 varsities, has begun the process of enrolling gamers into its Department of Sport Sciences. A check on its admissions homepage stated that there are no minimum standards of scholastic ability.
Students will be judged based on 20 per cent aptitude performance, and 80 per cent on awards or achievements in games such as League of Legends and Starcraft.
Over in China, the country’s Ministry of Education in September approved Electronic Competitive Sports and Management as a new vocational school major. Beijing Youth Daily reported that vocational colleges in China have already made plans to include eSports in their curriculum.
One of the first colleges to do so is Xilingol Vocational College in Inner Mongolia, which plans to recruit more students in 2017. The school recently created ripples in the gaming community with its famed ‘E-sport Midterm’. The exam requires a comprehensive knowledge of League of Legends, consisting of multiple choice and short answer questions within the allocated time frame.
VIDEO GAMES - BIGGER THAN BADMINTON?
The setup of a Malaysian eSports academy is one that is being keenly awaited by local professional video gamers. Kenneth Khoo, a Dota2 player as well as an experienced marshall involved in organising many eSports tournaments, welcomed the idea.
“The norm these days is for companies to pick up talent among existing gamers and groom them to become even better, as well as offer them benefits under a contract.
“Having an eSports academy will create a platform to not only spread awareness among the public regarding eSports, but also nurture new athletes from a bigger talent pool.
“This way, we will have more professional players coming from Malaysia and perhaps increase the number of female gamers too,” said the 23-year-old.
Faisal Ariffin Zainal Ariffin, 27, who manages the Fire Dragoon CS:GO team, agrees that the move is a step in the right direction.
“It’s time we have an academy. eSports has more than proven that it is a legitimate career choice. Just like any other sport, it should be recognised and become more centralised,” he said.
Faisal believes that with proper guidance and established institutions, eSports in Malaysia can even become more popular than badminton.
“We have already proven that we have players skilled enough to compete internationally. To find even more, we need to show the hopefuls that this is actually a viable career."
Faisal, who is also a presenter for Astro Supersports’ eGG Network on Channel 808, noted that countries like China have begun offering courses teaching people how to play games.
"I know of an online-based academy, the Games Academy CS:GO where they teach and guide players on how to properly play CS:GO. Bulgaria hosted a recent tournament and one of their sponsors, 'Ultra Play' is said to be launching an eSports academy.
“If it works out, it could set a precedent for all other countries that want to develop proper eSports teams.”