Global Esports Federation, headquartered in Singapore, launches to bring ‘prestige and legitimacy’ to esports

Bryan Huang
Lead Producer, Editor
The board of the Global Esports Federation (GEF) and guest of honour Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the worldwide launch of the GEF in Singapore on Monday, 16 December 2019. PHOTO: Bryan Huang/Yahoo News Singapore

SINGAPORE — For Chris Chan, the newly-anointed president of the Global Esports Federation, letting the youth "run things their way" is something he believes.

The first-ever global governing body for esports was officially launched in Singapore on Monday (16 December), touting itself as the voice and authority for the esports scene worldwide.

In a media statement on Monday, the Global Esports Federation said it aims to bring legitimacy and prestige to esports, by leveraging on its history, foundations and the principles of sport.

Acknowledging that he was not a gamer and did not play video games, Chan – who is also the secretary general of the Singapore National Olympic Council – said he considered himself more an "administrator".

"That's why we have some people like (Singapore Esports Association president Ng) Chong Geng," Chan said with a laugh in an interview with Yahoo Southeast Asia.

"Sometimes we need to understand. My experience with the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) is that we think we know what the youth want, but..."

He gave the example of a website that had been created for the YOG in 2010. It received a certain amount of hits, but it was a different story when some "young kids" ran their own website.

“It's true, you must let them run things their way,” he said.

Citing the example of how urban sports finally made it to the Olympics, Chan said he had been "wearing my same hat" and having a "lengthy debate" about including extreme sports because "we don't understand these kids".

"And because we misunderstand them, we think then they should be excluded. I hope we don't create that same mistake (with esports)."

Partnership with Tencent doesn’t mean all Tencent games

The announcement of the GEF came just a week after the SEA Games had included esports for the very first time, although Chan said plans for the federation started about a year ago.

He also announced that the GEF would also be looking to hold its first annual esports and sports meet next year.

He is joined by Chinese gaming company Tencent’s vice-president Edward Cheng, five-time Olympian and board members of the Canadian Olympic Committee Charmaine Crooks, and Wei Jizhong, honorary life vice-president on the Olympic Council of Asia.

The latter three will all serve as Vice Presidents for the GEF, after it signed an agreement on Monday with Tencent as the federation's global founding partner.

Despite having Tencent as its global founding partner, Chan said that there is "no commitment" from the GEF to use all the company’s games.

He said that instead, the GEF hoped to harness the esports knowledge and experience of Tencent, which owns subsidiaries such as Riot Games, the developers of the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) title League of Legends, and TiMi Studios, which developed Arena of Valor and a mobile version of the shooter Call of Duty.

Membership in the GEF will be open to sports organisations, as well as commercial ones such as publishers, developers, sponsors and even non-government organisations and cities.

Esports and sports not so different: Charmaine Crooks

Crooks, who represented Canada in athletics for almost two decades, said she felt there were a lot of commonalities between sports and esports nowadays.

"Many people recognise that esports is a sport. These are athletes who are training every day, these are athletes who have a good team around them," she told Yahoo Southeast Asia on Monday.

"It's really important to recognise that the ecosystem of esports is becoming a lot like traditional sports.”

She cited examples of the training schedules, mental rehearsals and the healthy-eating that some esports athletes maintained.

Any athlete, whether traditional or esports, always "brings the same to their performances”, she said, adding that it was all about working hard, setting goals and learning about “how to prepare for a competition”.

“Many of us do recognise that these players are athletes. This is a bona fide sport... There are always going to be differences, but the mental capacity is one about high performance,” Crooks said.

And while she would not share her IGN (in-game nickname), Crooks said she would have definitely considered esports had it been around when she went professional.

“Anything that gets my competitive juices, I'm all in. I'm not sure which game I would've played, but it would’ve been fun.”