- Tabe Wong took a huge risk, but it paid off, and now he’s an esports star
- Esports is now a legitimate career, and even offers academic options
- Hong Kong has the largest esports stadium in Asia, the HK$30 million Cyber Games Arena in Mong Kok
IT WAS EXAM DAY. Thousands of Hong Kong students checked their pens and pencils, took a deep breath, and went to their seats in the examination halls. But there was one seat which stayed empty.
Tabe Wong Pak-kan had decided to skip the exam. Worse than that, he had decided to skip the city – heading to the airport to get a flight to Beijing.
And, no, he hadn’t told his mother. Sometimes, it’s easier to get forgiveness than ask permission, right?
What happened next was tough for the young man. He had been educated at the Kowloon branch of the prestigious Wah Yan College, so had been well placed to take the standard “good student” path to success.
But not only did he not want to do that, he was determined to make a living playing video games, as part of the nascent esports industry.
When he arrived in Beijing, where a major esports industry was growing, he found himself missing his family very much. His accommodation was poor, but he didn’t want to tell his mother – although he did call her. “Every day I kept in touch with my mother by phone or email,” he would later tell reporters.
He knew that video games was not at all a recognized path to success—but he had a specific request for her. He asked her to let him spend one year on esports, and then see what happened.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Esports is recognized as one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and with million-dollar prizes and massive audiences, is very much a legitimate choice of career for the best players.
Born in 1991, Tabe Wong was famous by the age of 22 in 2013. Today, he is 31 years old and head coach of prestigious professional team Royal Never Give Up, known as RNG. Wong said the esports sector was thriving in China, with players looking forward to the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, which will actually take place in 2023, because of the pandemic.
Many enterprises have invested in the industry, Wong told a Hong Kong newspaper in an interview, adding that professional players get a monthly salary of at least five digits, a climb from the typical pay of just Rmb 3,000 10 years ago.
Unlike old-school video games where you press a button and hope for luck, today’s esports games require players to have speed, intelligence, endurance, and swift decision-making skills.
And it is a highly competitive sector: the activity connects many contestants across cities and even continents. With hundreds of millions of esports audience members worldwide, there are giant commercial opportunities, with money flowing into the industry from multiple sources, hungry for youth attention.
Wong was in the first generation of esports professional players focusing on League of Legends in the Mainland. At the age of 22, Wong captained his team, Royal Club Huang Zu, to grab the first runner-up award in League of Legends World Championship in 2013.
He decided to step down as a player and focused on being an online commentator on esports games, before joining professional team HKA in 2017 and RNG in 2019.
Wong said that since he had been a player previously, he knew what his team players were thinking and could support them in overcoming the immense challenges.
“Though there are criticisms against me sometimes, I think it is a good chance for me to learn and grow up,” he said.
RNG has performed well this season. In April, Wong successfully led his team to be crowned the champions of the 2022 League of Legends Pro League Spring Split after outlasting Top Esports by a score of three to two in the grand finals.
In May last year, RNG ousted South Korea’s DWG Kia to clinch the Mid-Season Invitational championship in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik – which is one of most important global contests besides the World Championship. RNG was also crowned the 2021 Spring champion.
Hong Kong players have a choice. The local government have taken an interest in esports and established a major center in Mongkok. But there’s also a much large esports industry in mainland China.
It’s also possible, these days, to study related courses at tertiary institutions, so that you can keep an academic side to your interest in the sector.
The esports sector is booming around the world – and given the increasingly large audiences, and huge amount of interest from sponsors, the future looks bright.
Image at the top from RNG