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Esports players set hot pace in Southeast Asia

By PRIME SARMIENTO in Hong Kong | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-10-07 07:31
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The 2019 World Cyber Games are held in Xi'an, Shaanxi province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Region witnesses sector's rapid expansion

The retirement of Chinese esports player Jian Zihao, better known as "Uzi", triggered a flood of tributes from millions of fans worldwide.

The Royal Never Give Up team, with whom he began his professional career in 2012, posted on Twitter that the 23-year-old had been its "heart and soul" and "an icon in the esports world as a whole".

On June 3, Jian cited medical reasons for his retirement. After eight years of high-intensity training, he has chronic hand and shoulder problems. In an interview with sponsor Nike, he said that according to doctors, his arms are like those of someone twice his age.

While China is the world's biggest market for esports, Southeast Asia is catching up fast. Playing video games has become widely popular in the region, where favorable government policies and corporate support have helped nurture the growing industry.

In addition to those playing esports as a hobby, professional players aspire to become world champions.

"Hawaii" Yee Xiao Hao started playing the online game Defense of the Ancients, also known as Dota, with friends at high school in Brunei.

After leaving school, he turned his hobby into a budding sideline career.

Yee, a 20-something project manager, organizes esports events in Brunei, where Defense of the Ancients is popular with teenagers, and manages a team that has won regional tournaments.

Last year, he co-founded the Esports Association of Brunei, the sultanate's first body for the activity. One of its goals is to develop a core group of professional e-athletes to represent Brunei in international competitions.

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