Scoring hat tricks on the FIFA field
Playing FIFA in school has helped 'hibidi' become a world renowned FIFA gamer at 26.
In secondary one, he was called “Frodo” for not being tall enough to be on the school’s soccer team.
Today, he is in a league of his own, trashing his competitors in popular online soccer game, FIFA.
Youth.SG sat down with Wen Jun ‘hibidi’ Chiang just as he finished his day job as a corporate banker. As the sun set, the 26-year-old charismatic gamer and I chatted about the newest FIFA Online 3.
“The game engine is kind of strange, a little unrealistic, you can shoot from 35 metres away with the weak foot and still score a goal,” said Wen Jun, who prefers the FIFA 12 version of the controller based game.
In December 2016, the extroverted gamer clinched bronze in the regional FIFA Online 3 championships held in Thailand, bringing home a cash prize of S$85,701 (US$60,000) with two of his Singaporean teammates.
Wen Jun, who started playing FIFA professionally since 2010, also has over 50 podium finishes since 2009.
All that is quite impressive for a gamer whose start in FIFA came from random gaming sessions with his friends.
After his friends invited him to play a few matches of FIFA, the then Anglo-Chinese Junior College soccer player quickly realised he had a flair for the game.
“I was beating them by large margins. They introduced me to the World Cyber Games (an annual international competitive video gaming event) and recommended that I showed up and join a few tournaments once I was ready.
“I guess you could say I just fell into it,” said Wen Jun.
Playing soccer for the past decade has also helped him to excel in the FIFA game. Till today, Wen Jun finds himself employing real life tactics and drills taught by his school coach.
“[In FIFA], I play very wide to drag out the gameplay. They think that going for a narrow formation means that you’ll get faster gameplay, but that leaves your wings defenceless,” explained the casual soccer player, who now turns to gymming and boxing in his free time.
“I actually got a pretty bad wrist injury from doing something stupid in the gym,” he laughed.
The face of Team Flash added: “The sponsors are happy that I keep myself in shape.”
Spurred by his parents’ support, who made him promise to keep his grades up while gaming, Wen Jun continued to practice his drills on the virtual FIFA field, winning tournaments across the country.
In 2009, he snagged sponsorships by big brands, such as Samsung and Rapture, who noticed his talent from various tournaments. The local gaming scene started taking notice of the young and rising player too.
“People started calling me by my handle (‘hibidi’), rather than my actual name,” recalled Wen Jun, who was signed to Flash eSports in 2010.
Just as the industry was starting to grow and the prize money was getting more attractive, Wen Jun’s FIFA journey took a sudden backseat in 2014.
“I was on my summer internship for university and I wanted to focus on [banking],” said the business graduate from Singapore Management University, with a straight face.
But after securing a full-time job at a French banking company in 2015, he returned to FIFA to set his mark again.
However, Wen Jun was quick to add: “Banking is always my number one priority.”
“Unless the payout is higher than what I’m earning now [as a corporate banker], I’m not going to be making the switch,” he said, with a chuckle.
Returning to his former team, now renamed Team Flash, Wen Jun took on the Southeast Asian EA Champions Cup Winter 2016, held in Thailand last year.
Despite losing to the Korean teams, who clinched first and second place, Wen Jun barely felt defeated.
“I’m an Arsenal fan, we’re very good at handling bad news… you just have to get past it and move on,” he explained, with a laugh.
The Arsenal F.C. team rarely places above third place in the English Premier League and uses possessive but attacking gameplay.
How does he balance his time between his full-time job and his FIFA pursuits?
“I clock about an hour on weeknights. You don’t want to get into a point where you’re burnt out. It’s all about staying sharp.
“My boss and colleagues [at work] are also really supportive, which helps a lot,” said the easy-going gamer.
During the peak season for gaming tournaments, from April to December, Wen Jun makes sure that he practices for an hour every other night.
“You should do everything with moderation. Work hard and play hard, I guess? My friends always know how much I win in these tournaments, so it’s always me opening tables, popping bottles and celebrating,” shared the bachelor candidly.
Now that he’s an established gamer, Wen Jun hopes to show others that gaming is more than just sitting at home, and facing a screen.
“The infrastructure is there for us, I’m surprised that the esports scene in Singapore isn’t bigger. I think it has a lot to do with the stigma around the gaming industry in Singapore,” he said.
With his fellow FIFA competitive players, Joseph ‘Zarate’ Yeo and Fernando ‘Amraan’ Amraan, the trio held a coaching clinic at Bugis+ for aspiring FIFA players last month.
Wen Jun said: “Hopefully, we can help them step up with these teachings. If [these players] watch competitive matches, they will see these moves as well, but there’s no one to teach them.”
Wen Jun may be at the top of his game now, but he admitted that his gaming career may not last forever.
“I’ll probably do it for a few more years. I’m getting old, and other people in the gaming scene are really young, but we’ll see,” added Wen Jun confidently.