The esports industry in Singapore is definitely gaining some traction and recognition now.
18-year-old Figo Chua, who plays the popular 6-versus-6 first-person shooter game Overwatch under the moniker, Azalea, has been granted deferment for his National Service (NS).
The damage-dealing player was set to play for local Overwatch team, Reveal, but they “had overlooked that he was enlisting for National Service on August 14”.
That would have made it “impossible for [Azalea] to travel overseas for the Overwatch World Cup,” said Nicholas “Caldoran” Tay, the team’s Community Lead.
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We're so proud to be able to announce the final seven member roster we will be taking with us to Blizzcon. Tank: Sachokk Tank: Xenofly DPS: Akame DPS: BubbleKitty DPS: Yuris @justyuris Support: Jervyz @_jervyz Support: ZeonFlux Photo credits: @warmskies_ #TeamSingapore #OWWC #Overwatch #OverwatchWorldCUp #Rosterreveal #overwatchgame #competitiveoverwatch #blizzcon2019 #blizzcon #teamsingaporeow #esportsteam
As a result, they placed Marcus “Akame” Kwa in the final roster and submitted the list to Blizzard, the developer of the game.
Azalea then took the initiative to apply for NS deferment, and the Team Singapore Overwatch committee and Blizzard provided an official endorsement letter to help Azalea with his deferment request.
On Friday (2 August), Azalea was notified that his request for deferment was successful.
Speaking to Yahoo! News, Azalea hopes to help his team move out of the group stages and qualify for the playoffs now that his enlistment has been deferred to December.
“I believe that my team and I have the potential to do that, and will work hard to achieve that goal,” said Azalea.
Caldoran credited CMPB (Central Manpower Base) for being “helpful during the process”, and Blizzard for being “understanding”, as they had approved of the last-minute roster change “past the deadline”.
“We thank Akame for his time and effort during this time of uncertainty, and we are thankful that he has been understanding and cooperative throughout. We wish him all the best for the future,” he shared.
Yesterday (6 August), Caldoran clarified that Azalea was given approval to defer his NS “tertiary education, and was NOT granted a special deferment purely for esports”.
He added that the Overwatch World Cup “was not the sole reason” that led to CMPB’s “lenient” decision to let Azalea defer NS “with less than three weeks” to his enlistment date.
Here’s the final line-up for the team representing Singapore from 1 to 2 November at the Overwatch World Cup:
- Figo “Azalea” Chua
- Timotheus “Bubblekitty” Yeo
- Jasper “yuris” Yue
- Mohammed “Sachokk” Asri
- Muhammad “Xenofly” Syafiq
- Alston “Jervyz” How
- Hao “ZeonFlux” Haiyang
Thanks to them, Singapore will be one of the 16 countries competing in the LAN trials taking place at the annual Blizzcon held in Anaheim, California.
Caldaron told Yahoo! News that Azalea’s deferment “gives a great deal of hope to the entire esports scene in Singapore, regardless of the game in question”.
“[It] shows that our government’s views towards competitive gaming are slowly but surely changing for the better.”
NS Deferment – A Hard Quest To Clear For Athletes
The road to NS deferment for athletes of any sports has always been paved with challenges and controversy.
The aspiring professional footballer eventually defaulted on his NS duties.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had defended MINDEF’s decision.
He said that if local footballers Saifullah Akbar, and Ikhsan and Irfan Fandi, could juggle their NS duties while bringing honour to the country, Davis could do the same.
Singapore’s Olympic darling, Joseph Schooling in 2013 was granted long-term NS deferment to prepare for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
In 2016, it was announced that his NS would be further deferred till after the 2020 Olympics set to happen in Japan.
However, back in 2005, a rare exception has been made for another esports player – the first time ever in Singapore.
The then-20 years old Stanley Aw, a Counter-Strike player, had successfully deferred his enlistment for two months so he could participate in the World Cyber Games, which took place in Singapore then.
Other esports players have not been so lucky, however.
Martin “Mexi” Lew, a League of Legends (LoL) player, had his dreams of becoming a full-fledged professional e-athlete “crushed” when the time came for him to enlist.
He was offered the opportunity to “join a highly-ranked overseas team in Vietnam as a full-time gamer” in 2016, but he had to turn it down to serve NS.
In 2014, a team of five Dota 2 (Defense of the Ancients) players had to withdraw from participating in the finals of The Summit 2, one of the major tournaments leading up to The International.
They had the chance to compete against teams from US, China, and Europe and to take home earnings from a prize pool of US$300,000.
The team, called First Departure, had managed to beat 11 teams to become champions in Southeast Asia, only to have their journeys cut short by NS and education obligations.
At that time, two of the players were studying in local polytechnics and were not allowed to take a leave of absence from their examinations to take part in the tournament.
The other member, revealed to be then-captain Galvin “Meracle” Kang, “was not granted additional leave from national service” to join the tournament.
Another successful professional Dota 2 player is Daryl “iceiceice” Koh, who is now playing for Europe-based Fnatic.
The Singaporean, who completed his NS with no problems, has amassed a total of US$1.4 million in earnings over his nine year-long career so far.
Since it was announced that esports will be an official medal sport in the SEA Games 2019, Singapore has been abuzz with more esports activities.
More needs to be done for esports as an industry, its athletes, and the gamers who want to have a career in it, to be viable.
We must admit, though, that more top-down action has been happening and there have been more support from authorities, so that is quite heartening.
Perhaps the day when people will get paid to play games, will come sooner rather than later.
Anyway, we wish Team Singapore Overwatch all the best for their games!
Featured Image Credit: Team Singapore Overwatch