SEA Games Esports leaders share unique challenges in putting together the first Esports Medal meet

Written by Louis

December 11, 2019

From technology to logistics, SEA’s Esports leaders share what they have to overcome as they put together what is a first in the history of Competitive Gaming.

SEA Games 2019 will go down as a very historic moment for Electronic Sports as for the first time in its history, 6 different competitive game titles were included as medal events with different countries and their respective teams competing for national pride.

Held at the Arena in San Juan, otherwise known as the Filoil Flying V Centre, competitions involving Hearthstone, StarCraft II, Arena of Valor, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Arena of Valor, Dota 2 and Tekken 7, were played by teams and players hailing from Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. While large-scale competitions have been the norm in Esports, with events such as The International Dota 2 Championships and League of Legends World Championships filling up cavernous halls and even sports stadiums, SEA Games Esports would be an entirely different affair with multiple government-backed entities involved, organizations and as well as the fact that Esports is considered on par with Sports in a multinational sporting event.

Inside the halls of The Arena at San Juan, San Juan City, Philippines. The venue and the city played host to the 2019 SEA Games Esports.

“It was kind of hard (for our partner publishers) to grasp what SEA Games was,” says Alvin Juban, the Venue Manager for PHISGOC (Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee) an member of the SEA Games ad hoc committee for Esports, when talking to the publishers and developers of the games that were showcased during the 6-day meet. The selection process for the games that are featured in the 2019 SEA Games was no easy task and while the host country, this time being the Philippines, has the privilege to choose which games to feature, the selection will not be without its own process involving its affiliate federation. “The effort of the federation supporting the host (country) is quite important”, adds Samart Benjamin “Ben” Assarasakorn, Executive Secretary to the President of Thailand E-Sports Federation, when talking about the selection process as each considered game has to ensure that it will be able to gather players and teams from the participating countries and fall within factors such as regional reach, and fair representation of major gaming platforms, PC, Console, and Mobile. Still, nothing is set in stone in the selection process will “keep getting improved and evolved”, as described by Kelvin Tan, Secretary-General of Singapore Esports Association, most especially with the gaming industry always on a constant flow of change in terms of which games and genres are popular and are gaining traction.

As the Esports in SEA Games, 2019 involved pitting “national teams” against each other, each composed of the best players from a country, and sharing a singular nationality a rigorous process involving multiple levels of qualifier tournaments took place, with each process differing from each country, but share some similar factors such as fully involving the grassroots level. Of course, the idea of a “national team” is largely different from the traditional or professional approach wherein a team is not hindered by limitations of nationality and is, more or less, open to competing in any competition or tournament, professional or amateur.

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang medal finalists, each team is composed of Esports athletes that have undergone a selection process determined by their home country. Image credits: Razer

So how can this process be more streamlined in the future? Well according to Perlangga Putra, Assistant Manager of the Indonesia Esports Association, hosting national leagues is a major key not just to help select which players will get to represent their country, but also to garner the support of the national government and involve them in the Esports ecosystem. The league should also serve as a staging area for the different avenues and career paths that Esports might offer, not just players but also production specialists, managers, coaches, and even medical staff to name a few.

As Esports is starting to receive more and more Sports-like treatment, one key learning that David Tse, Global Esports Director of Razer, had to share is to “Coexist”. With major tournaments for different Esports titles, some of which might be part not just of SEA Games but also for other sporting events in the future, the timing of events would play an important role as to make sure that the players and other entities involved will not be robbed of their privilege of also joining or participating in these major professional leagues one way or another.


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