Esports has taken centre stage all around the world, with every gamer who has ever had the dream of going professional grasping for their moment in the limelight.

You see champions for League of Legends, CSGO and Overwatch as they claim their glorified trophies, a symbol of their efforts and teamwork that has stretched beyond hours if not months of training.

But as things get bigger for the gaming industry, the street level action of other gaming genres tend to stay in leftfield despite the tremendous feats that players, as individuals, can accomplish under immense pressure.

I’m talking about fighting games and why Brunei (and the world) should pay extra close attention to those who mash buttons their way to victory as much as mouse clicks.

Khusairi (centre in red t-shirt) with the Brunei Fighting Game Community at Feast Fights 2018.

Widely known as the Fighting Game Community (FGC), fighting games have always been the underdog when it comes to competitive gaming simply because of how daunting it is to face off against someone, on your own, face to face. With a memorised move list combined with raw instinctive and tactical game knowledge, 90 seconds a round can be a grueling experience as this repeats from opponent to opponent in an attempt to reach first place.

Some gamers relate the genre to a game of chess where every move must be precisely calculated and strategised, though a bit of luck would definitely help with the favourable outcome. Either way, fighting games have conditioned a lot of individuals to understand the importance of fundamentals, tactics and mind games that are required to excel in this genre.

Brunei is no stranger to having its own arsenal of exceptional fighting game players with a scene that dates back to the 1990s arcade scene. But one name you may not have heard is Khusairi Azman, a 25-year-old who has imbedded fighting game mechanics since he first got his hands on Guilty Gear back in the Playstation One days.

Khusairi in action.

“Understanding the complexity that it requires to actually be good at it was what drove me to play more,” he said. “This started out by wanting to learn flashy combos that I see online and from there, I just spent a lot of my time in training for the fun of it.”

Having the enthusiasm of youth on his side, Khusairi developed his skill over the years – fueled by his admiration of the fighting game scene and motivation to harness his execution of play and awareness of how fighting games actually worked.

The fun of the game was what drove his motivation to play from day to day but there needed to be a way for him to measure up this progress and skills. On top of learning multiple fighting games such as Tekken and Street Fighter, Khusairi set his sights on the next big thing.

“One day, my friends told me about a local tournament for Tekken 6 at the Arcade (back in 2010). I decided to join and got destroyed,” he added. “I started participating a lot more with the local arcade scene and from there I gradually got the urge to get better, on top of learning more from playing against actual players.”

This humbling process has been his mantra ever since, challenging himself with real opponents at the arcade while keeping his routine of training and learning new tactics in his free time at home.

Khusairi (left) receiving the grand prize for a recent Tekken 7 tourney.

Today, Khusairi’s determination and commitment to his form has enabled him to reach consistent placements in local tournaments for recent iterations of titles such as Street Fighter 5 and Tekken 7.

According to Sugoi.BN’s national tournament rankings for Tekken 7 in Brunei, Khusairi has topped a lot of the local competition despite getting placed in third and second consistently from 2017 to 2018. Though these placements may seem like a consolation compared to first place winners, Khusairi is determined to make a change for things this year.

With the announcement of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games to finally include eSports in its line up, the 25-year-old is gearing up to compete in Tekken 7 and hopes to represent the Sultanate in the first eSports contingent.

“I’m really excited for SEA Games including eSports in their medal lineup. As a competitor, I really hope to perform better and join more tournaments to hone my skills in the future,” he said.

“I think it’s time for our local talents to get recognised worldwide.”

“More importantly as a community member, I’d personally love to see our gaming community grow as a whole. I think it’s time for our local talents to get recognised worldwide.”

Currently, Khusairi is teaming up with Meercast Gaming, but is looking for potential sponsors to help him venture into the competitive gaming scenes within the region.

Khusairi (Right) during a Tekken 7 match.

As of 2018, more than 10 tournaments were held for Tekken 7 in Brunei – stretching from grassroot levels such as universities and community efforts to a nationwide standard which even drew players from Malaysia.

Though the Brunei FGC players vary in their interest in titles, Tekken 7 remains to be the popular choice for Bruneians as their numbers continue to grow and build the competitive standard of players.

Tekken from an eSports sense is currently gearing up for their international tournament series dubbed, Tekken World Tour, where players worldwide compete for the championship. The tour will be stopping over countries such as Netherlands, Canada, Germany, France, and USA.

Additionally, the tour is slated to hit ASEAN countries such as the Philippines and Singapore too – a fighting chance for Bruneians to try test their skills and put their name on the map.

Spectators watch Khusairi in a fighting game match at EAcon 2012, the first legit FGC tournament in Brunei hosted by TFF.

The 30th SEA Games was initially to be hosted by Brunei this year but is now passed on to The Philippines to be held in end of November. With eSports included this year, you can’t help but wonder how great of an impact it would have been if Brunei were to still host it this year in the opportunity to showcase our local calibre in the category.

Gaming in Brunei is still viewed as a pastime as opposed to the career opportunities it genuinely presents today and with more Bruneians displaying their potential capabilities and interest in eSports, we can only hope that this opportunity does not go to waste in our struggle to expand our future.

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