Esports For Life: Interview with Tan Sok Chen, UniMAP Esports Club Founder
While esports has been flourishing in the country over the past few years, it’s been a mostly male-dominated industry, with representatives from the fairer sex few and far between. Things have certainly changed for the better, and spearheading her way to the top is Tan Sok Chen. Also known as ZhenZi, the 28-year-old Penangite has been at the forefront of the esports scene for her university, the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang community, as a Moonton Student Leader.
The postgraduate student from Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP), who founded her university’s esports club, started her foray into the MLBB scene back in 2017 when her fiancé (then boyfriend) introduced the game to her. It was her first MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game, and she was hooked despite its difficulty. “It took me about 3 months to learn how MOBAs worked. And there were a lot of toxic players in the game!” she lamented.
Fortunately, she didn’t let that stop her and persevered in the game - Sok Chen ended up hitting Mythic rank at her peak! “Nowadays I play with my fiancé when he’s free, my teammates or other club members. I don’t enjoy solo games because there are a lot of noobs out there!” laughed the Penangite.
After getting good at MLBB, she took her interest in the game a step further - by organising tournaments for her university. Sok Chen had experience running events for games in the past when she was a Pirate King Online (an old school MMORPG) player, so it only seemed natural.
These events led to the formation of an esports club in her university in 2019, which became official after a 2-year trial period (the deans wanted to make sure that it wasn’t going to negatively affect the studies of those involved). “Funny story about that - when I started my post-graduate course, I didn’t have enough time to focus on my studies while being busy with esports. Thankfully, I had an understanding supervisor who let me switch to a part-time course!”
The response to the club was good but was also tinged with a little negativity. “A lot of the students complained about why there were so many MLBB events, but not for other games. What they didn’t realize was that UniMAP was filled with MLBB players. We encouraged these complainers to join the club so they could run events on their own but once they found out about the paperwork involved, they said thank you and goodbye!”
Organising tournaments isn’t a walk in the park, as some of you might know. There are a lot of factors to consider and logistics involved. Not everybody is up to the task of undertaking such a monumental project. Sok Chen was one such person. Besides planning events, she occasionally took on the role of a team manager and entered a few tournaments as a player.
“As a manager, one of my main responsibilities was to set up scrims. If I didn’t set them, the players wouldn’t train at all.” She recalls a time when she had arranged for her team to play against Orange Lourve, a team from the MLBB Professional League. “We were very excited about the scrim even though we didn’t win.” (They lost 0-3, expectedly)
While she was capable of many roles, Sok Chen found herself most comfortable behind the scenes. This was why she applied for the role of a Moonton Student Leader (MSL) in 2019. MSLs were students from universities around the country who served as bridges between the game developer and their schools. For someone who arranged events for fun, that seemed like a lot of work. Thankfully, she was well compensated with in-game rewards, diamonds and a partial scholarship. “It was a lengthy process to become one! It took 2-3 months, there was a strict screening process with multiple interviews and a case study we had to complete.”
“In the beginning, I felt a lot of pressure being one of the only females in the scene. But as time went on and I met other women, I felt more comfortable,” she admitted. In her experience, the esports scene in Malaysia has been pretty fair to her. “I don’t think I get treated differently because I’m female. However, I feel that people have been friendlier after finding out that I’m a girl. A lot of people are shocked to discover that I’m not a guy!”
Since then, Sok Chen has had many events under her belt, the most memorable one being the GamePlan Intercollege Cyber Challenge (ICC) MLBB 2019, which was held in conjunction with Comic Fiesta that year - it was the highest tier tournament she helped to execute. However, she refuses to take sole credit for any of them. “Without the support of UniMAP or the recognition of Moonton, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” She highly emphasizes working in and with a team, especially for those looking to follow in her footsteps.
“Study smart, take every opportunity to learn. Don’t be addicted to anything - be it working or gaming. Take time to rest, push yourself, but don’t force yourself. Don’t be selfish, when you learn something, try to share it with others especially if you work in a team. Learn together. If you work in a team and you learn something and do not share it with them, how can your team grow? Be humble, listen to the opinions of others before you make a decision. Always remember, we are not alone, we do not stand alone. We represent a team.”
She may no longer be a Moonton Student Leader but she’s still actively involved in the MLBB community together with her fiancé. They currently function as community leaders - people who manage and interact with Facebook and Whatsapp MLBB groups, listen to the feedback and suggestions of the community and share them with Moonton. She also freelances writing event proposals and acts as an advisor to her juniors in the UniMAP esports club.
What a ride it has been for the soon-to-be-wed beauty pageant fan - from not knowing what a MOBA was to starting an esports club and marrying the person who introduced her to the game. Sok Chen one day hopes to become a school teacher - the cool one who teaches her students how to play MLBB. “I will contribute to esports for life! Esports is in my blood.”