Game on as tourism hits right spot

Editorial | 7 Aug 2017

The Hong Kong Tourism Board deserves a pat on the back this time, after its HK$35 million investment in the e-Sports and Music Festival helped refocus public attention on a potential industry many of us may have ignored.

While the board probably organized the Hong Kong Coliseum event as a tourism project, it's more than that. The three-day gig has shown us that e-sports has such rich economic mines that it will never be too late for the SAR to start exploring them.

Indeed, it would be irresponsible to keep doing otherwise.

At the Coliseum, professional e-game players demonstrated their electrifying skills, as they advanced in the globally popular online game League of Legends. It wasn't just a game, but serious business for the players from Hong Kong, the mainland, Taiwan, Macau, Europe, and the United States.

The prize was HK$300,000 - small if compared to tournaments in other regions - but significant in the sense the event was organized with help of public funding and by a quasi-government body.

Large crowds turned out for the festival, including many otaku - young people who have few social contacts, and often stay indoors playing and chatting online. That the young hermits were lured out of their rooms was arguably an achievement in itself.

The healthy and energetic image of the players delivered an important message to the otaku: while playing online games, it's essential to be both physically and mentally fit. Technocratic government health ads certainly couldn't measure up in terms of influence.

Hong Kong has been a late starter in e-sports. In other places like the mainland, Taiwan, South Korea and America, it's become so popular that the industry is plowing hundreds of millions of dollars to the main economy each year.

But the SAR has the fundamentals, including good players. Kurtis Lau Wai- kin, who is known in game as "Toyz," was part of Team Taiwan-Hong Kong- Macau. In the finals of the tournament, they clashed with Team China. There are also local companies dedicated to e-sports, although they may be relatively young to their peers in other regions.

This could mean potential to be fully explored, as e-sports can be an industry with a long production chain, ranging from hardware and software development, to branding and marketing. There are also coaching and medical and administrative professionals comparable to those in track-and-field sports.

It's somehow awkward the latest impetus had come from the Tourism Board rather than policy bureaus like the Innovation and Technology Bureau.

Despite criticisms the board could have organized the festival better, its chairman, Peter Lam Kin-ngok, can be rightfully proud of the results.

It's now up to others to let what's been achieved snowball.

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