COMMENT: Don't call GG just yet, give our esports athletes a chance at the SEA Games

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Singapore's Dota 2 representatives at the 2019 SEA Games. (Photo: Yahoo Esports SEA)
Singapore's Dota 2 representatives at the 2019 SEA Games. (Photo: Yahoo Esports SEA)

I find it terribly unfortunate that our esports athletes, in particular, the Arena of Valor squad, did not get a chance to represent Singapore at the upcoming 2021 Southeast Asia (SEA) Games in Hanoi.

Despite having won their Selection Trials, the team were ultimately not selected even after an appeal, having not met the Singapore National Olympic Council's (SNOC) criteria for selection.

One requirement is for athletes to have at least achieved a third-place finish at the previous SEA Games, or ranked third in SEA Games countries.

But that's putting the chicken before the egg. Without a chance to compete at the world's stage, a chance to get exposure, our esports athletes will never improve.

That's also due to a smaller player base for games such as AoV in Singapore, which means that players don't have the opportunity to get the exposure.

And esports veterans I've spoken to on the condition of anonymity have told me the same thing. Some questioned the rationale of holding Selection Trials if the ultimate end goal was not to be selected despite winning it.

Perhaps that's not the fault of the Singapore Esports Association (SGEA).

They've done their part to help nominate our esports athletes, even helping to appeal.

They've also issued statements to say they plan to facilitate more opportunities for regional competitions for local athletes.

Is that enough? Maybe not for everyone, but it's a good start.

I also think they should rename the Selection Trials to Nomination Trials instead for clarity.

At least competitors will know they are just competing to be nominated... and they can still get rejected by the SNOC, of course.

But as with how the meta in esports works, where new patches can change the entire game, SNOC needs to rethink how it handles esports.

Or if it wants to handle esports at all.

After all, it feels like trying to get a baby boomer to understand TikTok. Or attempting to get 70-year-old non-gamers to understand the differences between the roles of an ADC and Jungler. Not saying it can't be done by those willing to spend the time and effort to learn and adapt, but it might not be the right fit.

Without interest, without care, by just looking at a fixed criteria, our esports athletes will never be able to take the stage, to hold our Singapore flag up high.

Just take a look at Thomas "Blysk" Kopankiewicz, who only managed to represent Singapore after an appeal.

His track record wasn't the best globally, and had just scored a few wins in 2014 to 2015. But he was good enough to win us our first esports silver medal in his first attempt.

So by not sending our Free Fire, AoV and PUBGM teams to the 2021 Hanoi SEA Games, we're losing out on three things: Experience, exposure, and opportunity.

Meanwhile, other countries who are determined to compete in all esports events gain these valuable chances, and will only do better in the future.

Will this end up coming back to haunt us down the road?

I'm not sure, but it's likely it will. And if funding is an issue, why can't we raise funds to send them to represent us anyhows, you ask?

Unfortunately, that route is closed, because they need SNOC to approve of them going.

If SNOC wants to be the gatekeepers of esports, they need to stop thinking with a closed mindset.

Esports probably doesn't need the SNOC, but if SNOC wants to tap into a younger, more engaged audience, the onus is on them to update their patch notes.

Otherwise, don't be surprised if Singapore has to call GG even before we begin.

Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at

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