November 27, 2023
SINGAPORE – At the age of nine, Abigail “Kohaibi” Kong was introduced to the world of gaming by her two brothers. But Kong, now 22, plays at a much higher level, having become a professional player, and beats them easily.
She will be leading her squad, Team SMG, at the Nov 28-Dec 3 Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) Game Changers Championship, a top-tier international competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Kong is the only Singaporean in the all-female team, which also comprises three Filipinas and two Indonesians.
She said her personal target for the eight-team competition, which has a US$500,000 (S$670,000) prize pool, is “to play my best, showcase my skills to the world that I am the best”, adding: “As a team, all of us would like to achieve top three and play at the level of comfort, like we do in practice.”
Team SMG qualified for the competition after winning the VCT 2023: Game Changers Apac Elite in October. They beat seven other teams from Thailand, India, Philippines and Indonesia to claim the title which came with a US$12,000 prize money.
Kong plays a sentinel role in the game, which requires her to guard the team’s site during a match. Her specialisation is the agent Killjoy, which uses various robots and turrets to carry out her tasks.
Her teammate, Indonesian Odella “enerii” Abraham, believes that she has a lot to learn from her captain in many aspects.
Abraham, 19, said: “She makes a lot of strategies, creates new strategies and it would always go really well. She’s the definition of hard-working and talented, she’s very disciplined.
“She always goes to bed very late but wakes up very early and I would like to be able to do that because I cannot function without eight hours of sleep.”
Kong had tried many first-person shooter games during her childhood, with titles such as Alliance of Valiant Arms and Counter-Strike forming the Singaporean’s gaming foundation.
At first, her family had doubts when she told them of her decision to become a professional gamer. However, Kong was already making money as a Twitch streamer and they had an inkling that she would go down that path.
“They didn’t really think of it as something (of a big deal). I was earning money of my own through streaming, which made me able to support myself,” said Kong, who added that she would probably be working in an office job like an accountant if she did not become a pro gamer.
“They initially wanted me to study because they didn’t want me to be at home gaming all the time. But I told them (that) I like to do this and I believe that until a certain age, I’ll be able to do it, so let me try this for now.”
The path to becoming a pro gamer had not been a bed of roses for Kong. She cited a lack of corporate support for local e-sports, saying: “I feel like we lack opportunities to prove ourselves in Singapore as there are not a lot of local organisations willing to invest in the gaming scene.”
Her team now play in a female-only league and she feels that there is very little distinction between the two genders when it comes to gaming.
However, Kong believes that a gender-segregated e-sports scene might provide female players with better growth opportunities.
She said: “Having a separate league eliminates the common fear of not being able to meet certain standards or facing gender-biased discrimination. It is definitely a good stepping stone to become a stronger individual.
“I personally do not feel that women are lacking in any way.
“If men and women are seen as equals in the scene, this will positively impact the commitment of time, effort and passion invested by the individual.”