August 29, 2023
SINGAPORE – It was not the fairy-tale ending he had wanted before enlisting for national service.
Wang “Jinggg” Jing Jie and his Singapore-based e-sports team Paper Rex lost 3-1 to North American outfit Evil Geniuses (EG) in the Valorant Champions grand final at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Paper Rex, however, can take pride in claiming their highest finish in the biggest international competition for the first-person shooter game. They will also take home US$400,000 (S$542,800) – their highest earnings from a single tournament.
In their 2022 competition debut in Istanbul, they had managed only a 9th-12th place finish, which earned them US$25,000.
Wang, the only Singaporean among their active players, said at the post-match press conference: “I think we did have a lot of fun, even though we didn’t win the whole thing.”
“I think all of us felt a lot of pressure and we made many mistakes because of that. Hopefully, people remember me as a crazy Raze player, I guess,” the 20-year-old added, referring to his role as an explosives expert in the game.
Paper Rex had finished top of their Valorant Champions group, after beating EDward Gaming and former Argentina footballer Sergio Aguero’s KRU Esports.
In the upper-bracket play-offs, they defeated FUT Esports and defending champions Loud en route to the final, where they edged out EG 2-1.
EG, who dropped into the lower-bracket final, were handed a lifeline after beating Loud 3-2 to earn a rematch against Paper Rex in the grand final, a best-of-five series.
Watched by a sold-out crowd of 17,500 at the Kia Forum, with at least 200,000 more following on live-streaming platform Twitch, EG grabbed the first round 13-10, with Paper Rex taking the second game 13-11.
But EG then won back-to-back games 13-5 and 13-10 to seal victory and claim the US$1 million top prize.
Paper Rex’s chief gaming officer Harley Orwall said the defeat was a painful one, adding: “Champions is the biggest tournament. It’s the pinnacle of our sport and losing in the finals, obviously, it hurts a lot.”
Team coach Alexandre “alecks” Salle, who attributed the loss to “a lot of nerves”, said: “It’s a bit difficult for us to overcome sometimes, I think pressure got to us.”
Paper Rex have come a long way since their humble beginnings, having played in various local tournaments in Singapore. In one of their first competitions, they won the 2020 Teck Ghee CSC community tournament for $500.
Battling their way through the ranks, they then qualified for the Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) in 2021, eventually winning the VCT Pacific League three months ago, which earned them US$100,000.
Despite playing remotely from different parts of South-east Asia, the team regularly host watch parties in Singapore for their various competitions.
The free-entry watch party for the Valorant Champions grand final, held at *Scape in Orchard Link in the early hours of Sunday, drew a crowd of over 180.
Besides Wang, the team who played in the grand final also included Malaysian Ahmad Khalish “d4v41” Nordin, Indonesians Jason “f0rsakeN” Susanto, Aaron “mindfreak” Leonhart and Russian Ilya “something” Petrov.
Swede Orwall said that losing Wang will be a big blow to the team because not only is he a great Valorant player, but he is also “really fun to be around, such a happy pill”.
Following the last big tournament of the season, the players will get to go on a “bit of a break”.
“We’ll go back to our respective home countries and lick our wounds a bit,” Orwall added. “Looking back at this performance in a week’s time or even later, I think we’re all going to be very happy with what we accomplished.”