The anticipation in São Paulo is rising as the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) Game Changers Global Championship approaches. Team SMG, hailing from Singapore, are set to make waves as the representatives of the Asia-Pacific region.
The team recently secured their ticket to the global championship after a decisive 3-0 victory over Indonesia-based Rex Regeum Qeon Kaguya (RRQ Kaguya) at the VCT Game Changers APAC Elite on 15 October.
In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Esports SEA, Abigail “Kohaibi” Kong, the formidable captain of Team SMG, shared insights into her journey as a player and thoughts on the evolving landscape of esports.
Started with CS:GO and other FPS
Kohaibi's gaming journey began at the age of nine, as she said she would play with her siblings who were avid gamers as well.
Starting with PvEs and first-person shooters like Special Forces and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Kohaibi eventually transitioned to VALORANT during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The game's rising popularity among her friends drew her in, and she soon found herself competing since there were many community tournaments being held for the game during the pandemic.
The transition to professional gaming was met with unexpected support from Kohaibi's family. “They were quite supportive of my decision as they thought it would be a short-term thing,” she said.
Her family gradually became ardent supporters as they witnessed her success in tournaments.
“I think the reason why they allowed me to go pro might be because every night, I would be having a good time,” Kohaibi shared.
“I’m laughing even while practising [with my teammates]."
Kohaibi believes that it was one of the main reasons why her parents were supportive because they wanted to see her “do things that make [her] happy.”
She even shared instances when she would go home, and her mom would ask if she had won the game. “If I answer negatively, like a no, she would be like ‘ohh man! Why?’”
How Team SMG are preparing
As all the teams are gearing up for the competition, Kohaibi shed light on her preparation and expectations for the tournament.
“I’m doing shooting routines on my own so that I don’t fall off as a player,” she shared. As a team, Kohaibi mentioned that they have also been scrimming with more professional teams outside the region.
When asked about specific teams or players she looks forward to facing, Kohaibi expressed admiration for Version 1, acknowledging their prowess as game stars with exceptional shooting skills.
Addressing the challenges faced by female gamers in a male-dominated industry, Kohaibi revealed that she had been scouted by numerous organizations, but gender bias was a hurdle to joining certain teams.
Undeterred, she emphasised the importance of knowing one's worth as a player and persevering in the face of adversity.
“I just went on looking for other teams.”
Hopeful that more organisations support upcoming talent
Reflecting on her experiences in regular matches, Kohaibi acknowledged the occasional challenges of being a female player, especially in solo queue scenarios. Despite encounters with unwarranted attention, she maintained a positive attitude and focused on her gameplay.
Looking ahead, Kohaibi expressed a desire to see more local esports organisations supporting aspiring talents, mirroring the opportunity provided to her and her team by SMG.
“I hope to see more local sports organisations supporting young Singaporeans who are looking to pursue a career,” she said.
“Just like how SMG provided me and my team the opportunity to prove ourselves when many refused to, yeah, that would be good.”
She emphasised the need for accessibility and diversity in the esports industry, hoping for more initiatives to encourage individuals from different backgrounds to pursue careers in gaming.
In closing, Kohaibi offered valuable advice to aspiring female gamers, encouraging them to explore professional gaming if they have the passion and talent.
“But do know that the road toward pro-gaming is a difficult path,” she warned. “It’s not for everyone.”
She emphasised the need to weigh the pros and cons, considering the challenges that may arise.
“But if you really have a passion and talent for gaming, you should,” she added. “It could become a core memory that you can hold on to for the rest of your life.”
Kohaibi and Team SMG will be representing the Asia-Pacific region at the 2023 VCT Game Changers Global Championship, which will take place in São Paulo, Brazil from 28 November to 3 December.
They will be facing seven other female teams from all across the world for a chance to win the 2023 VCT Game Changers championship title and the lion’s share of US$500,000.
Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.