Sarith “Rich” Saengviroon, 25, Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod, 22, and Jarapong “Aof” Chotikunakorn, 27, get paid to play video games. They’re on Thailand’s national teams for Heroes of Newerth, Point Blank and League of Legends, respectively. In fact, Thailand just won the world championships for Point Blank. Esports are becoming big business and our local champs make tens of thousands of baht per month for their skills. Here, they tell us what it takes.
When did you guys start playing?
Mickie: I’ve played games since I was 12. I was really addicted, sleeping at the games shop on most nights. My mom was fine with it; she told the shop staff to take care of me. Luckily, the guy in the game shop ended up being a good life coach. In 2007, esports started having competitions in Thailand including Point Blank, the first-person shooter that I played. I won the competition, which came with a B25,000 grand prize, and realized that I could make money from gaming. I became a member of Definite GZ, Thailand’s esport team. There are five members.
Rich: I became addicted with I was 11. I’d ask my mom B100 a day and stayed late at an internet shop every night. Eventually, she decided to buy me a computer so I could play at home. I played Raknarok and started making money from selling [virtual] in-game items to other gamers. I was making a couple thousand baht every week. That’s a lot for a kid! I started competing in esports back in 2004. I changed to play Heroes of Neweth three years ago.
How much do you earn?
Rich: We have one tournament with five programs every four months. If we win every program, we get B70,000 each and a grand prize of B250,000 at the end. Our team also gets sponsored by Mountain Dew, which is another B25,000 a month. After we share all that among the five of us, I’d say we make B30,000-50,000 per month. I also get paid to consult for a game company.
Mickie: Yeah, I would say it’s about B50,000 a month as Point Blank has a tournament every two months with a B100,000 grand prize and this year we won US$50,000 (B1.8 million). I’m also a commentator on Talk Talk, a program where gamers stream games for fan clubs and where fans can buy virtual gift items for streamers. I make a few thousand a month from that but net-idols can make hundreds of thousands from this program each month.
Aof: The kids in my team get B15,000 a month plus prize money, which this year was over B2 millions.
How do you guys normally train?
Mickie: We started young, 12 hours a day. First-person shooters require precise finger-and-mouse skills. Now I just need to train three hours a day, though.
Rich: My team trains every day from 7pm to midnight or 2am. We train for tactics and teamwork.
Rich, esports has a pretty misogynistic reputation. Do you feel welcome among your peers?
Rich: They’re all nice. I love being surrounded by guys. I hope I can find a husband among them! I always dress up for competitions. Like last time, I was dressed as Sailor Moon.
How well do gamers age?
Mickey: I would say it’s like a football. Start training as young as 12 and you will be a great footballer at 16. It’s the same for us. But as you get older, into your 30s, your reaction times can’t beat young athletes who will be at their peak at 20-25 years old.
Aof: There are so many international young gamers who are millionaires, like Sumail Hassan Syed from Pakistan who is the world champion and made B50 million last year. The game industry has come a long way. It’s the real deal now. Interview by Monruedee Jansuttipan