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WELP Tonight, the gaming livestream that stars the millennial celebrities of Singapore

WELP Tonight, the gaming livestream that stars the millennial celebrities of Singapore
WELP Tonight hosts Sezairi Sezali (L) and Syaza Qistina Tan (R).
PHOTO: AsiaOne

Sezairi Sezali and Syaza Qistina Tan are married, but their deepest commitment may be to video games. Their delayed honeymoon last year involved a trip to Vancouver, Canada, where they attended the eighth edition of The International, the annual Dota 2 world championship tournament. 

The husband-and-wife duo barely held back their excitement as they animatedly recounted to me how they witnessed one of the greatest comebacks in the history of esports. “You’ll never get that feeling anywhere else,” Sezairi declared, describing the spectacular lighting rigs and the explosive energy during Valve’s annual spectacle at the Rogers Arena.

Less than a year since their Very Nerdy Honeymoon, Sezairi and Syaza embarked on another geeky pursuit. Earlier this month, the Singaporean couple launched a live-streaming channel where they basically do what they would already do without a camera pointing at them: Eat junk food, hang out with their circle of famous influencer friends (including The Sam Willows, Nathan Hartono, Charlie Lim) and play a tonne of video games together. 

But despite the relatively influential Singaporean figures that make up its guests, the talk show for gamers wanted the audience watching to feel right at home. They named the program Welcome Everyone, Let’s Play Tonight. Or WELP Tonight for short.   

Let’s play

If their mission is to break down the barriers between fans and celebrities, setting up the WELP Tonight studio in the #BlueRoom of Twitter Singapore’s headquarters appeared to have been kismet. The social media giant was happy to support the project, and getting Twitter on board was as Syaza noted, “perchance”.

Photo: AsiaOne

“We intended to stream from a different venue initially but that fell through — we almost considered pushing back our May 3 premiere,” she shared when I dropped by their digs for a little look-see.

“It just so happened that we attended Twitter's birthday party a few weeks prior and we'd spoken to Rahul and Carl from their Content Partnership team who expressed interest in what we were doing with streaming.” 

With a wealth of experience in startups and multinational tech companies, the 28-year-old credits her past roles in technical support and community management for arming her with the aptitude to run a polished live-streaming channel. 

Photo: AsiaOne

“Communicating online effectively, personality management and increased agility in tech adoption — they’re all really important while live-streaming regardless if you're on a produced show like ours or you're an at-home streamer just playing video games for an audience,” Syaza explained. 

Setting up WELP Tonight was a long-time yearning, she says. Syaza wanted to make video games a full-time job for years, and the channel finally came to fruition after a meeting with Singapore's Cybersports & Online Gaming Association (SCOGA). The non-profit organisation wanted content creators, while Syaza and her husband wanted to play games on camera with their friends. The stars had finally aligned. 


Photo: AsiaOne

Taking a gander at WELP (two episodes down, eight more to go for their first season), it’s not immediately apparent that the channel’s barely old enough to even walk on its own. Its live-stream schedule is straightforward enough: Go live every Friday night at 8pm till late. It’s notable here that even though Twitter’s hosting the enterprise, the go-to gamer’s choice to stream is still pretty much Twitch

And yet, the level of production quality is staggering. Syaza, Sezairi, and the guest of the week get to sit on chic couches amidst a multi-camera set-up. The distinctive studio decor — which includes a huge model of the WELP logo and a miniature replica of Toa Payoh’s iconic Dragon Playground — pops on screen.

Photo: AsiaOne

The channel’s artwork and aesthetics are fully realised. Their About Page rattles off a list of sponsors and partners, including renowned tech brands Acer Predator, Intel, and Logitech. Deliveroo too, because who doesn’t want free nosh. 

In a country where its biggest Twitch personality is also its trashiest, the wholesomeness is refreshing. 

What appears on screen looks pretty polished, but the studio itself is an organised chaos made of wires, cables, cameras, computers, screens, audio boards, mixers, and consoles. “Equipment porn”, I blurt out loud as Sezairi takes me around the WELP studio a day before The Sam Willows’ Narelle Kheng was supposed to drop by for the live-stream. 

Photo: AsiaOne

The gaming rigs they use are, surprisingly, not as top-of-the-line or custom as one would expect. Sezairi mentions that their gaming PCs are basic — as basic as Acer Predator Orion 3000 computers can be, at least. He points out that the only monster PC rig is used as the central processor for live-mixing the videos during streams. 

Excitedly, he shows off the wireless gaming mouse that Logitech sent them to unbox on camera: a G503 Lightspeed. I’m supposed to take it all with a pinch of salt because (1) it’s a wireless gaming mouse (latency issues, right?) and (2) it’s a sponsored product he’s supposed to shill. But his genuineness (and Wirecutter’s glowing praise) wins me over. 

“We're partnered with SCOGA, who did most of the heavy lifting in getting the sponsors interested in the show, but we attend most brand meetings as a team,” Syaza explains. “We believe that the brands need to be confident in the personalities that will be presenting their products and services”. 

Photo: AsiaOne

Authenticity is the coin of the realm in the influencer business, and WELP Tonight appears to be cashing in. While it may not exactly be a critical hit on Twitch (40 viewers last Friday), the couple remarked that the response has been pretty encouraging for a totally new channel. I asked why they would stream on a night traditionally reserved for getting turnt, but they explained that folks who do go out partying on Fridays wouldn’t be their target audience anyway. 

Watch Highlight: Narelle's Revenge from WELPTonight on

Plus, Twitch isn’t the only place where they’re broadcasting, Syaza clarified. WELP Tonight’s also streaming live on YouTube, though the seven views it received last week are pretty dismal. Their numbers on Yahoo TV, on the other hand, are pretty respectable with over 9,000 views. 

But being affiliated to Twitter, the platform gets the most benefit out of the partnership — about 67,000 views alone last Friday.

No casuals

It's been a hot minute since Sezairi's Singapore Idol days (he took home the winning title a decade ago — gods, we were young then…) and even longer since he first met Syaza. They met while working at a children’s performing festival in 2008 at the Esplanade, where he was an artist liaison and she was a dance instructor. Eight years later, they tied the knot. 

Photo: AsiaOne

Now signed under Sony Music Entertainment, the 32-year-old singer-songwriter still holds the music torch high — he released his latest single “In Secret” on the same date that they launched WELP Tonight. 

Video games, however, have always been in his life as much as music. “They encompass two halves of my life. Music was work and gaming was a hobby,” he pondered. “Now it seems like both are work but I guess I'm essentially still doing the same thing, so it's cool.”

The one game that both Sezairi and Syaza really bonded through? Guild Wars 2, the free-to-play MMORPG that still holds a massive player base today. Things got real serious too — between 2013 and 2016, they ran a guild called Warsworn on the game’s popular North American server, Dragonbrand. At its peak, the duo led over 400 guild members from across the world. 

Photo: AsiaOne

As someone who walks both worlds, Sezairi asserts that he doesn’t believe in barriers between the domains. 

“We wanted to make WELP the bridge to close the gap between personalities and gaming,” he stated. 

“Both gaming and gaming culture are a huge part of the millennial lifestyle and we wanted to break the ice first by introducing people you've heard of, but didn't know play video games”. 

Watch Episode 1: Dee Kosh Plays World War Z from WELPTonight on

A big point of setting up the show is to have famous personalities — like Dee Kosh and Narelle Kheng — express themselves in a way that other social media platforms may fail to achieve. The choice of games played together with the guests is deliberate — the titles selected each week depend on each of the guest’s gaming abilities. This, he explained, is to not stress them out too much. 

“So far the guests have been very relaxed and openly themselves while on stream and that's exactly the kind of atmosphere we're trying to capture, while the audience gets to hang out with us.”

Closing the draw distance

For veteran live-streamer Syaza, it’s also about building a local gaming and esports community to the point where it could be a major industry. 

Photo: AsiaOne

“We don't just want to normalise esports as an acceptable hobby; we want to get people interested in streaming, gaming and esports as a viable career option,” she maintains. “Other streamers might just be focused on being super entertaining or playing really well but we've got a larger mission that we're driving at.” 

Sezairi believes that bringing personalities from various disciplines and platforms onto a gaming-centric platform will bring in some fresh air to the local scene. The next WELP Tonight season could feature more than just celebrities — they floated the idea of featuring experts from non-gaming fields such as psychiatrists and restaurateurs just to broaden their talk show horizon. Tabletop games are certainly (ahem) on the table, too.

Photo: AsiaOne

For now, the couple plans to experiment with content and gather as much information as they can about how audiences are responding to their live-streams. The data gathered, Syaza says, will be used to evolve the format of the show. What WELP Tonight looks like right now may not even look the same in the episodes down the road. 

The commitment to a data-driven learning process and a fluid format is admirable, similar to the operational procedures of many startups. What’s clear is the fact that Sezairi and Syaza are embarking on a whole new media format that’s conceptually never been done before in Singapore. I can’t help but take a page from Dota and wish them all the True Sight they need get to navigate the lanes of uncertain success. 

Photo: AsiaOne

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