Singaporeans don’t care about their local champions. Or do they?

Just who is "Xian"?

It has been said, as recently as last weekend, that Singaporeans do not celebrate the achievements of their gaming heroes. Placing in the top four of an international, world-class tournament? Sorry mate, seems like no one cares. But is this really true? Is the Singapore gaming community really apathetic about our world-beating champions? I think not, and here’s why.

First, a little background of the specific incident set me thinking. During last weekend’s Shadowloo Showdown, one of the commentators on the live stream, Mooseking, said the following about Singapore’s reception to Kun-Xian ”Xian” Ho:

(Some Singaporeans) revealed that Xian placed third at SBO last year in KOF XIII, and he went home to Singapore and no one cared. No one gave congratulations, no one gave two shits about that.

You can watch and hear it for yourself: Mooseking says this at about the seven minute mark of the Shadowloo Showdown Justin.tv stream archive:

This comment gained immediate infamy among the Round1.sg Singapore fighting games community, members of which proceeded to post in an anger-filled forum thread (since removed) stating that they did indeed care and generally outraged that all the things they did to celebrate Xian’s triumphant return had gone unnoticed.

But wait! Hold on, you’re saying. You’ve read this far and you are wondering: Who on earth is this Xian? What is Shadowloo Showdown? What is SBO? Or for that matter (and I know I’ll get some flak for writing this), who or what is Round1.sg?

And therein lies the problem. Unless you’re deeply involved in the fighting games community in Singapore, or have been following NGNT religiously, you probably don’t have the slightest clue to the answers to the questions above.

This is not an issue exclusive to the fighting games community either. Do you know about Singapore Sword, Singapore’s only fully-professional gaming team to date (and now sadly defunct)? Or how about DotA team Zenith, who won US$13,000 for coming in first at the 2008 Electronic Sports World Cup?

It’s not that Singaporeans don’t care about our gaming champions or celebrate their gaming achievements. The key issue and real problem is that people don’t know them or their achievements in the first place.

Outside of the fighting games community, no one knows who Xian is. Even amongst those that play and appreciate fighting games on a casual basis, they probably don’t know who Xian is. They probably don’t know that SBO is one of the two most prestigious fighting games tournaments in the world. They probably don’t know that this year’s Shadowloo Showdown is the biggest fighting games event in the Asia-Pacific outside of Japan. It’s the same story for other game communities: StarCraft II,Team Fortress 2, the Battlefield series; they all suffer from the same basic problem.

The lesson we have to take away from this is a strong need to bridge the gap between the more mainstream, casual gaming crowd and the core, competitive gaming crowd. How can we do this?

From experience, it really has to start from the individual. If you know something about your community, even if it’s just a small bit of news you heard, please do share it with your friends. If you know about upcoming events, whether locally or internationally, do get your friends to watch the online live stream with you, if available, or make your way down to watch it live if it’s a local event. Besides giving you and your friends something to talk about, an opportunity to improve and learn about what is possible by watching high-level play in tournaments (and maybe even participating!), it also grows the community that little bit. It may not be much, but that little bit counts and it will snowball over time if people start talking about things.

At a higher level, community sites like NGNT and Round1.sg have to consciously provide vision and leadership and reach out to a set of gamers that goes beyond simply those who are already members of their respective core and competitive communities. While it’s important to report on the achievements of our local gaming heroes, it’s just as important to make sure that those who only play the respective games for fun, and even those who do not play, can understand the context and significance of their performances at international events, learn more about who these top players are and just what makes them so good.

People do care when the top players from our community step up to the international stage and produce world-beating performances. After all, who doesn’t love supporting their home town heroes or the underdogs (which is often the position Singaporeans find themselves in when they compete on the world stage)? The problem is simply that people don’t know that these people and events exist and, together, you and I can help make things right in our own little ways.

Have your say. Add your comments:

  • metal_spider

    Hi, just my 2 cents here…

    Might be worth getting our gaming triumphs up on (uhhhhh….) more mainstream avenues like Stomp.com.sg. Not too sure how contributors get their articles posted there but all sorts of nonsense gets approved and readership is HUGE no matter how you dislike the site, its posters and its readers.

    Definitely would have more visibility than specialised gaming forums/portals.

  • Wei-Meng

    I think you are absolutely right!

    Maybe we should form an organised crack team of STOMP! posters and try to get our gamers more visibility in that way. Certainly a good idea I’ve never thought of.

    Would you be interested? Aha.

  • http://nogamenotalk.com GFoppy

    This sounds like a good idea (ironically), I guess it’s time to bite the bullet and embrace Stomp.

    I’m game for sending stuff to Stomp, but I’m not quite sure how Stomp’s editorial process is like.

  • metal_spider

    well, if contributions are a free-for-all affair, let’s just go ahead and submit stuff to their tipoffs email at stomp @ stomp.com.sg. Just a gameplay vid, a flattering photo of the local champ and a simple writeup (one paragraph seems to be par for course) ought to be straight-to-the-point enough.

    Doesn’t have to be just sf4, obviously.

    Xian/zhiiiiep(TW) will be featured in an upcoming episode of Crosscounter with Gootecks and Mike Ross; can take this opportunity to link that episode, link a couple of glorious moments from Xian’s tourneys (vs Mago, vs Ryan Hart, etc) and get in the best picture.

    Because progression is likely to be stomp > stomp top stories > small time papers (mypaper / wanbao) > facebook links / blog entries  > real-life water cooler talk > more facebook links again > maybe bigger time local papers.

    Just need to clear the first hurdle and everything will automatically fall into place.

  • Wei-Meng

    Absolutely.

    From what I understand STOMP! does have certain criteria which the editors use to see if they should post submissions. They seem to like things which really stand out, whether its controversy or just something really unusual.

    We might want to try finding a proper “angle” to submit news tips and stuff. A bit manufactured, but that’s how it works man.

  • Captain_Rainbow

    I don’t quite see the problem here.

    When I hit Bugis last weekend, everyone was buzzing about how Xian had done such an amazing job at Showdaloo Showdown, or whatever that Australian tournament was called. I personally had the livestream open and was looking elsewhere, but when I heard the word ‘Singapore’ I turned around and got sucked into what was the most exhilarating match i’ve ever seen. I was even quietly cheering Xian on as he fought and lost to Tokido. I know I was not the only one. I spotted the username of a fellow Singaporean posting in the livestream and immediately hit him up on MSN and we discussed what a great player he was and how proud we were of his achievements.

    However, I don’t see why the general public should care. Singaporeans in general don’t care about ANYTHING. Did any of you celebrate when “Singaporean” table tennis players won gold medals at the Olympics? How many of you took to the streets to celebrate Hady Mirza winning Asian Idol? I had a classmate whose dance troupe won a local tournament and made it to San Francisco to compete on the world stage, how many of you even know about that?

    If you don’t believe me, go to any of your friends, even better, FEMALE friends, tell them about Xian and his amazing victory, and see whether they care. At the most you’ll get a “Oh okay good for him” or a similar response. Fighting games have a VERY limited appeal outside of the actual community for playing them. I actually did tell my girlfriend in a fanboy-ish way about Xian and how great he did; she just laughed and said “Asian of course win lah”.

    We don’t play these games for glory anyway. I don’t think Xian expected to return to a hero’s welcome at the airport, with a wreathe of orchids and bottle of champagne waiting for him. But I’m sure that when he went to Bugis that weekend, he got a good number of congratulations and pats on the back.

    Also, it’s not just Singapore doing this, I highly doubt that outside of the fighting game community, Daigo Umehara is just a regular guy to the general public.

  • Wei-Meng

    I think you are absolutely right. The general public shouldn’t have a need to care since it’s not in their core interests, although I would make the case that it’s good they at least hear about things like this.

    My article was actually focused more towards how the core and competitive community can and should extend their reach towards the casual player segment. I think for one, it’s very short sighted to only look at the Bugis crowd. There’s a relatively huge player base of Street Fighter players that don’t go to Bugis and are not involved in the rather close-knit Round1/competitive community.

    These casual players watch YouTube videos to learn combos and stuff, surely they would also be interested to watch footage of the top players in the world playing (with the added bonus that Singaporeans are playing too!), right?

    As I mentioned, and from experience, the problem is that the wider game community doesn’t even know what EVO or SBO is, let alone Shadowloo Showdown. This is not limited to SF4 or fighting games, it’s pretty much the same for every other game with a big casual base and smaller competitive core.

    My own feeling is that these players would definitely be interested to at least watch high level play, since they have an interest in the game itself. It’s just that they don’t know such things exist, so let’s find ways to reach out and keep them informed.

    As for whether the players themselves deserve recognition, glory, fame, etc., I don’t have any straight answer for that. Personally, I want to give them that recognition they rightfully deserve, but that’s just me. :)

  • Captain_Rainbow

    Which brings us back full circle- Get them to come to Round1! That’s the purpose of this website, isn’t it? To draw in the local crowd and form a real community? If we are branching out and giving web hits to other websites like STOMP, then we might as well close down. (STOMP is a terrible website anyway; read the front page, none of that is news, just voyeurs being creepy and getting called reporters for peeping at people.)

    I think that the best solution is to just herd the sheep here. Casual players, make no mistake, are completely capable of going to Youtube themselves and watching match videos. They probably already did before even buying the game. Our job is just to make sure that they come HERE after doing so. What I propose is this: Find game shops that are willing to help distribute free flyers or namecards with every purchase of SSF4 or other fighting games. Just small flyers with our URL, what we do and a nice invitation to help them take their game to the next level. In doing so, that’s the best possible way to draw in people who are already potential members of this community, and we’ll be most efficiently targeting the correct audience.

    I think this website has everything we need to keep fighting game players informed about how Singapore is doing in tournaments and everything, the write-ups are really well done. And the community here is already booming, we’re far from being a secret underground fight club where only the elite are allowed to join.

  • http://twitter.com/Exodus_Sg Exodus_Sg

    You need to be more than a Champion to be known outside of a niche community.    Unless you are able re-create another Evo moment 37, just be contended with whatever fame and reputation within the inner circle.

  • Kaisiang

    Gotta say I had learnt more about Xian and the rest of the Singapore team only after the recent Evo 2011 tournament.

    I agree that getting game shops to spread the word via flyers and posters is a good way to reach out to most gamers. I recall that there was a SSF4 tournament being held at the Clementi community centre a couple of months ago.

    Wouldn’t there be more publicity if more gaming tournaments are held at community clubs or perhaps at shopping malls (eg: Funan, Suntec City, etc)?  I am not suggesting them to be organised merely in LAN gaming centres but in open spaces where exhibitions are often held at.

  • Random

    It might get Singaporeans’ attention if all these are broadcasted on tv or featured in the papers.