PETALING JAYA: By day, Hazim Salihuddin is a regular university student.
By night, the 24-year-old, known in the gaming world as “Kye”, steps into his role as the captain and in-game leader of the seven-member Team Path, an esports team.
They compete in Valorant, a first-person tactical shooting game. But these tournaments are not just about fun, there is serious money to be won.
In one year since the team was set up, they have won several local championship titles, earning RM25,000, a considerable sum for a group of university students.
In Malaysia, esports tournament cash prizes can go up to RM10,000 but the prize pools for international tournaments can run into millions of dollars.
But being a championship gamer is no walk in the park; Hazim and his teammates spend at least six hours a day polishing up their skills and watching videos of other teams in action.
After graduating, the business administration undergraduate plans to become a full-time gamer, a path he has been on since he was 10.
“One of the biggest privileges in life is when you can turn your passion or hobby into a career,” he told FMT, adding his parents have always been supportive of his ambition.
“My parents were also reassured when I started making money,” he said, adding that many parents still had doubts about pro-gaming being a viable career choice.
Taking esports to the next level
In recent years, esports has gained more prominence with its inclusion in the 2023 Asian Games.
Even the 2024 budget included a RM30 million allocation to promote Malaysia as a development hub for esports.
Esports Integrated, an agency under the youth and sports ministry, said the government’s support for the industry will contribute to its growth.
“When there is improved government endorsement, as well as more esports tournaments and programmes, it will give those in the industry more opportunities to get involved,” Esports Intergrated CEO Ahmed Faris Amir told FMT.
Gaming content creator Anthon Jermayne Tanabalasingam, better known as “The Mustachio AJ”, however, believes more can be done.
In Malaysia, he said, esports revolves around the players, but the industry also includes streakers like himself, tournament organisers, coaches, sponsors and merchandisers, among others.
Anthon said the government should look to work with other stakeholders in the esports industry.
“Presently, I think there is a heavy dependence on the private sector to grow the esports industry in Malaysia.”
Team Path co-founder and operations manager Megat Danish Izmeer shared similar views about the need for greater government involvement in the sector.
“At the government level, there must be integration of esports and gaming into schools and universities, which will help break the stigma and stereotype (of the gaming industry),” he said.