Confessions of a pro gamer

Confessions of a pro gamer

SINGAPORE - He's got a job many teenage boys can only dream of: Mr Romulus Tham, 26, is a professional computer game player.

He is part of a team of six who train with the discipline of an army unit, burning their entire weekends just to get so good at multiplayer online battle game League of Legends that they bag first place at regional and international competitions.

The payoff?

Prize money for top teams in big tourneys, like the League of Legends World Championships held in Los Angeles, California, is a cool US$1 million (S$1.27 million).

If they win, they split the winnings, along with their monthly salary.

When Mr Tham joined the Singapore Sentinels - sponsored by online gaming company Garena - a year ago, his salary was pegged to that of a fresh graduate.

The most the Singapore Sentinals have won so far is US$10,000 ($12,710) at the recent Garena Premier League.

Then there are the other perks.

As a pro gamer, he has fans.

The business graduate from the Singapore Institute of Management admits: "We get quite a bit of female attention, especially from fans in Taiwan and Vietnam, where the team is quite well known." The team has about 32,000 fans on Facebook.

"When we visit those countries for competitions, the lines to see us are like those you see McDonald's queue for Hello Kitty," he says with a chuckle.

Mr Tham sometimes gets recognised on the streets, where fans call out his online moniker "Kailing" and ask for autographs and photos with him.

"It's quite a strange feeling because we don't really see ourselves as celebrities," he says.

"Better-looking members of our team also have complete strangers, usually females, adding them on Facebook. Other fans send us figurines and drawings of ourselves," he says.

The team members have to display talent before they are scouted, and they are hired on a contract basis.

You have to be good and stay good.

The team of five is currently in Vietnam and fighting to enter the finals of the competition's third season.

They train up to 10 hours a day on Fridays and the weekends, and three hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

And discipline is strictly enforced.

Players are fined $25 each time they are more than 15 minutes late.

"We need to instil discipline. This is not just play, it's an actual job," he says.

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