He has built up a reputation as an immensely talented and formidable professional FIFA gamer. Yet in a country such as Singapore where people are quicker to criticise than lavish praise, he has been dubbed as being arrogant and brash.
As the world of E-sports continues to grow at a rapid pace, Goal Singapore sat down with Wen Jun or better known by his stage name “Hibidi”, to get to know better Singapore’s E-sports star.
Let’s start off first with your stage name, how did it come about?
At the age of 16 I entered my first tournament and I obviously needed a stage name. Being a big Eminem fan at the time, he had a song called “Big Weenie” and there was a part in the lyrics where it went ‘Hibidi gaga boo-boo’.
So originally my stage name was ‘Hibidi gaga boo-boo’, till I went for my first world championships and everyone made fun of the name. So I decided to shorten it to just “Hibidi”.
Before being a professional FIFA gamer, you were a banker. How did that switch happen?
Well working in a bank can be boring as you have to maintain a certain image all the time compared to gaming where one can be more expressive. So, in the end I endured being a banker for two years before deciding to switch.
In addition I was buoyed by the monetary incentive in E-sports and realised I was making the same amount of money when I was working as a banker. So this definitely played a huge part in why I made the decision to take the leap into being a professional gamer full-time.
Subsequently I am also working with a major European footballing league on an E-sports tournament in SoutheastAsia, which will also be a boost for me financially.
What are some of the challenges you face as a gamer, especially in a conservative country such as Singapore?
When I first started out my father told me I could do this as a hobby but I had to keep my grades in check. And so that’s what I did, the grades weren’t fantastic but it allowed me to progress till university.
In actual fact this is the biggest challenge which is to practice your gaming while maintaining your grades because paper qualifications do matter strongly, after all we are living in Singapore.
In addition to that, then comes the sacrifices you have to make. Instead of heading to a nightclub and getting wasted on a weekend, you have to remain disciplined and keep practicing on your gaming skills.
Explain to us the practice routine of a professional gamer.
So, the competitive FIFA season is every weekend and you have 72 hours to clear 40 matches. Each match has a duration of 15-20 minutes.
Importantly these 40 matches determine your world rankings and whether you qualify for the world events. The window starts on Friday 3pm and closes on Monday 3pm and you have to complete your 40 matches within this period.
But throughout the week you also have to work on other aspects in FIFA such as your set-pieces and different tactical sets. It is really like the life of a professional footballer except you are seated on the couch.
I think it also helps that I used to play football physically in school and a lot of what my coaches taught me has helped me when it comes to FIFA. What I have noticed are people who actually play the game in reality before, we defend a lot better because we are aware of things like how to shift from one end of the pitch to the other and how to press.
So there’s a lot the real world can learn from us and vice-versa.
How did it feel to win medals at World Cyber Games and to sign for Leicester City’s Christian Fuchs’ E-sports team?
For me whenever you achieve one target, you think of the next because obviously there lots of haters in E-sports.
It’s about not resting on your laurels and constantly proving your critics wrong. I am Singapore’s all-time most successful WCG (World Cyber Games) player and so after winning those medals, I have decided that attractive football is of paramount interest to me now that my success has given me that credibility as a gamer.
For me compared to other professionals I play to entertain rather than just to win. By entertaining that’s how you get budding gamers to notice you and in turn you are able to inspire them to pick up E-sports professionally.
How long do you think it will take before professional gaming becomes a viable career option in Singapore?
Part of the issue here in Singapore comes from the infrastructure. I believe the infrastructure here is pretty bad. Most E-sports teams here are just money-minded and don’t take good care of their players especially the younger ones.
For example, there was a case whereby a young player was signed to a team and he had a chance to go on loan to another team overseas but was prevented from doing so. In the end the young player had to pay a really hefty termination fee with his original team to withdraw from his contract with them.
For me personally that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and it is these kind of situations that curb the growth of E-sports here.
But what I am trying to do for Singapore and around the region is create a supportive eco-system for players. I will be setting up my own academy at the end of September, and what I want to do is bring budding gamers through every aspect of what it is to be a professional gamer.
We want to create a number of tiers so that if a person wants to be a gamer, there is a structure for him or her to progress. Moreover parents who have kids that want to be gamers will have a better understanding of what the route to the top is like. Even if someone who wants to play casually but at a higher level will have the opportunity to do so through the eco-system that I am building. It does not necessarily mean that people who enter this field turn out to be top professional gamers.
In the next part of this series, Wen Jun reveals the origins of his famous celebration, how the entertainment factor is crucial for a gamer, while revealing tips and tricks for FIFA gamers out there.