Inside Malaysia’s US$786m Gaming Industry’s Growth, Competition And Friendships

By Chong Jinn Xiung

Five Malaysian gaming personalities share their passion for the gaming industry and how they've built careers around it

Tatler Asia
(l-r) Adam "SparTankeR" Faiz, Radzi "Ikutoo" Rahman, Radzi "Ikutoo" Rahman, Vivy 'Ai Gaming' Evynse Majegen, Firdaus "MasterRamen" Hashim and Andriyana "ChuChu Gaming" Ghazali (Photo: Imran Sulaiman)
Cover  (l-r) Adam "SparTankeR" Faiz, Radzi "Ikuto00" Rahman, Vivy 'Ai Gaming' Evynse Majegen, Firdaus "MasterRamen" Hashim and Andriyana "ChuChu Gaming" Ghazali (Photo: Imran Sulaiman)

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Video games are typically viewed as entertainment but it is a serious business that is larger than Hollywood and the music industry combined. Even though the global pandemic negatively impacted many businesses, reports indicate that the global gaming industry still managed to generate revenue of over US$201 billion in 2021. According to the Southeast Asia Game Industry Report 2021, Malaysia's gaming market, valued at US$786 million, is the third largest in Southeast Asia.   

The country has built a reputation for having a thriving game development ecosystem. Many Malaysian game studios have a reputation for developing original games and outsourcing development for international publishers. Since 2016, international game studios including Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios and Bandai Namco Studios have set up shop in Malaysia. 

Beyond making games, Malaysia also has a flourishing e-sports ecosystem with talented athletes, casters and tournament organisers. Its government has consistently supported the local e-sports industry since 2019. More recently, it allocated US$4.5 million from the national budget to nurture Malaysian e-sports talents. 

Taiwanese laptop maker Acer has long been a major player in the gaming space. Its gaming brand, Predator, has grown alongside Malaysia's gaming ecosystem over the years as it has supported local livestreamers, professional e-sports teams and organised tournaments such as the Predator League since 2018. As part of its initiative to cultivate a strong gaming culture in the country, Acer established the Predator Tribe community, comprised of five distinguished personalities at the top of their game.

We speak to the Predator Tribe to learn about the evolution of Malaysia's gaming landscape and what is in store for the future.

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Firdaus “MasterRamen” Hashim

E-sports in Malaysia would not be where it is today if not for Firdaus "MasterRamen" Hashim. He is one of the first organisers in the local e-sports scene, and the gaming community affectionately gave him the nickname, "father of Malaysian e-sports".

Firdaus, a former engineer, was often active on internet forums and started hosting small tournaments for one of his favourite games, Defense of the Ancients (Dota). “Though this started out as a passion project, it slowly grew into a business which I started with my partner. The modern era of e-sports started in the early 2000s with the emergence of games like Starcraft, but the sport only truly caught on in Malaysia after 2016," he says.   

Firdaus founded IO Esports, an e-sports event management company, in which he serves as director. IO Esports has organised numerous state and national competitions in Malaysia such as the Selangor Cyber Games and Malaysia Cyber Games. It has also helped to organise major international competitions like ESL One in 2017 and 2018. In August, Malaysia will again host the ESL One 2022 tournament in Genting Highlands and will feature a US$400,000 prize pool.

"E-sports in Malaysia has grown by leaps and bounds over the years and is expected to get bigger. Regionally, there is even wider recognition of e-sports as it was introduced as a medal sport at the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games," says Firdaus, who helped train Malaysia's delegation of e-sports players in 2019.  

On the subject of whether e-sports is considered an actual sport, he argues that not all sports require physical exertion. He points to chess as an example where players exert their mental capacity instead of their bodies to compete. Firdaus hopes that e-sports will one day be as popular as badminton in Malaysia.

Radzi “Ikuto00” Rahman

Radzi Rahman, better known as Ikuto00, has been on both sides of the gaming ecosystem as a developer and e-sports enthusiast. He worked as a project manager for Moonton Games, the developers of Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB), a top-rated mobile game. Radzi, who holds a Master's Degree in Physics, now works as the e-sports development manager at a Malaysian gaming brand.  

A passionate gamer and part-time shoutcaster, he provides commentary on e-sports competitions and devotes his time to training and developing the next generation of top e-sports athletes. To him, the most rewarding aspect of his job is seeing the team improve. To date, they have secured a place in the M3 World Championship, the biggest MLBB tournament in the world, and represented Malaysia at the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, where the team placed fourth.  

"As an e-sports development manager, I'm involved in many aspects of the team, from maintaining the training house where players reside to scouting and identifying new talents," Radzi explains.  

"Contrary to what many believe, e-sports athletes don't sit around playing games all day. We have to manage their nutrition, exercise and sleep routine, so they are in the best condition to perform at competitions," he adds. With gaming becoming mainstream in Malaysia, Radzi believes there is a ready pool of talent keen to make it their career.   

"Things aren't slowing down and we need to ensure that the ecosystem is organised and self-sufficient,” he says. “There needs to be a clear path forward for people who want to fit into specific roles, be it an e-sports athlete, game developer, streamer, shoutcaster or tournament organiser. All of these need to be well thought-out to maintain our forward momentum."

Andriyana “ChuChu Gaming” Ghazali

Casting is an essential element in the e-sport experience, providing entertainment and information to e-sports viewers. An e-sports tournament would not be complete without the passionate and lively commentary of a shoutcaster livening up the atmosphere. Casters are commonly likened to sports commentators, but there is more to the job and you have to think on your feet, says Andriyana "ChuChu Gaming" Ghazali, a professional shoutcaster.  

"As a caster, it is your job to keep the audience engaged with the game. It is challenging because not only do you need to know how the game is played, you also need to think 100 steps ahead and build a narrative for the audience to follow," she says.  

Andriyana, who holds a medical degree, admits that she never aspired to be a professional shout caster, but she was taken in by the thrill and challenge of doing it. To her, the main appeal of the job is the ability to put herself in the mindset of a player, coming up with a story that will get the audience emotionally invested in the game to the point that they will cheer when their team wins, or weep when they lose.  

She advises those interested in being shoutcasters to start small, like offering to cast at a local community tournament. "It pays to take the time to learn to work with the production crew. If you are more technically inclined, you can give the game's developer constructive feedback on how to improve the game."  

Adam “SparTankeR” Faiz

More than ever before, you can earn a living by playing games. Adam "SparTankeR" Faiz, a gaming content creator, is an excellent example of a gamer who turned his hobby into a full-time job. The former sound engineer started streaming games on Facebook in 2016 and was instantly hooked by how exciting it was to connect and interact with an audience in real-time. 

Live-streaming, the act of broadcasting a video game session in real-time over the internet, is estimated by market research to reach US$4.36 billion in value by 2028. The trend has grown in popularity and Adam says he was lucky to be at the right place and time when things took off in Malaysia. "Eventually, my job as a streamer made me more money than my actual day job; that's when I decided I wanted to do this full time," he says.  

While there has been a lot of focus on PC games like Dota, League of Legends and Counter-Strike in e-sports, Adam says competitive mobile gaming is also catching up and could be more popular than PC and console games in the future.

"E-sports is becoming more accessible to a wider audience,” he says. “Mobile gaming has a larger audience size than traditional PC gaming, as nearly everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. Having live-streamed mobile games on my channel, I can see how there is a massive audience base that's hungry for this type of content. It is easy to see why mobile gaming could be the future of competitive gaming moving forward." 

Vivy “Ai Gaming” Evynse Majegen

Gaming is often viewed as strictly competition, but for some, games are a way to connect with others and form lasting friendships. Vivy “Ai Gaming” Evynse Majegen is a well-known Malaysian streamer who streams games like Apex Legends and MLBB.  

She says gaming changed her life when she created a community in an online game called World of Tanks many years ago. 

"I met many of my close friends, many of whom are from Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, through the game," she says.  

Beyond competing and having fun, Majegan believes gaming can positively impact a person. She admits that she was a shy and reserved person, but live-streaming games helped her express herself and improve her confidence.  

"As I played games, I had to break out of my shell as I needed to be more conversational with people and work with them as a team," she says. Though she does not livestream as often as she did in the past, Majegen still finds the act of live-streaming rewarding as she finds time to interact with viewers and positively impact the community.

Acer's Predator League is back this year with a total prize pool worth up to US$400,000 for the regional finals. The cross-continent tournament includes competitors from 15 regions, bringing top-tier talent in PUBG and Dota 2. The best teams will compete at the grand finals in Japan this November. Follow Predator's Facebook page for more information.

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