Fifa player 'Hibidi' says gaming is hard work

PHOTO: AsiaOne
W.T.M. Why This Matters
For those who may not know, Fifa is a football video game series which has been around since 1993. The game is played all around the world and is considered one of the most popular football video games today.

By day, he crunches numbers as a corporate banker. But by night, Chiang Wen Jun, better known as 'Hibidi', plays Fifa professionally.

Chiang, 26, who has been playing the online game professionally for the past decade, is ranked one of the best Fifa players in the region. He's won several championships, including two World Cyber Games medals. 

With quite the impressive track record, it is no wonder that Chiang is a confident player. 

His confidence may come across as cocky, and some may think it's arrogant. Just take a look at his social media profile and you'll know what we mean. 

But when we met him, we saw another side of him, apart from his usual game face.  

It seems hard work was a common theme for Chiang when it comes to his education, and then career.

"Both my parents were in finance so when I was younger I always wanted to work in the CBD. It was my goal from young to enter the industry so you put in the work, you get the grades you need, and you make it," said the Business Management graduate, who currently works as a corporate banker. 

"There is no shortcut to success," he added, suggesting that for whatever you do in life, "you have to put in the hours" if you want to succeed.

"Some people may look at my lifestyle and they think I don't practise (gaming) at all but that's not true. I work very hard and I think the results show."

Chiang, like many other pro gamers, clocks more than a thousand games every season. "40 games gets you to about 10-12 hours so you can imagine just how much work we put into the game." he noted. 

When he first started out, his parents had their concerns about his gaming ambitions.

Back then, the take-home earnings for weekend games hovered around $300.

However, the e-sports industry has since grown. A check on shows that the highest prize money recorded for a tournament exceeds US$300 million (S$440 million).

For FIFA specifically, the annual FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC) is recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest online gaming tournament, reported the Daily Star

Just last December, Chiang and his team represented Singapore in the EA Champions Cup Winter Tournament in Bangkok, Thailand and clinched bronze, bringing home US$60,000 (S$86,700) in prize money. That tournament, in particular, had a record prize pool of US$500,000, reported The Straits Times

So how did Chiang persuade his parents to let him do what he wanted? "I had to keep my grades in check. After that, whatever I did with my time was my own business," he revealed.

Age is not just a number when it comes to e-sports.

Gaming relies heavily on hand-eye coordination and quick responses from players, just like any other physical sport. Fifa is no different and only players with the fastest reflexes will be able to stay competitive.

Chiang is the oldest Fifa player in Singapore in his late 20s.  

In an interview in 2015, he acknowledged this reality, but remains confident that he still has at least a few years left in him.

When asked how he intends to stay compeitive, Chiang insists that Fifa is a game in which an adequate grasp of its tactics can give you the winning edge. 

"It (Fifa) is a platform where the smarter player comes out on top. My opponents these days are all much younger than me - but they're not smarter. As I age, I may fade physically, but I will most definitely dominate them mentally."

So will Chiang ever turn pro full-time? 

His response was not unexpected for someone who is all too familiar with the numbers game. 

Given the choice between gaming and banking, he told us that he would go for whichever offered the higher payout.

"There was a report that came out last month, which said e-sports is expected to hit the 1 billion-dollar mark as an industry by 2020.

"But right now, I’m keeping my options open. Banking is not great right now, but it’s still decent money, so I’m keeping both on the table."

On the e-sports scene in Singapore, Chiang believes it is a matter of removing the negative "stigma of being a gamer".

At the end of the interview, one thing was clear: love or hate him, Chiang is not someone deluded about his skill and the hard work required to become a successful gamer in Singapore.

His advice for aspiring gamers?

"Get your grades up, because this is the country we live in. Getting your grades up will get your parents off your back. With them off your back, you are free to do whatever you want to do with your time, like I did when I was younger. And you can play games."