SINGAPORE: Five Singaporean gamers who were bound for the finals of an international tournament for a popular multiplayer online game had to pull out after two of them were denied leave of absence from their polytechnics and one of them from National Service (NS).
The episode led some members of the gaming community to question whether there should be more support for gamers who are good enough to compete on the world stage.
Others wondered if some flexibility should have been exercised, citing the case of Mr Jeremy Teng, who was granted permission to postpone his enlistment date to participate in a singing contest in Shanghai earlier this year.
The team of Singaporean gamers, who call themselves First Departure, advanced to the finals of The Summit 2, one of about 10 large-scale tournaments for Defense of the Ancients (DotA) 2, after beating 11 teams to emerge champions in South-east Asia.
But they have now missed the chance to pit their skills against teams from the United States, China and Europe for a shot at a US$300,000 (S$394,000) prize pool.
Two of the gamers expressed their disappointment at missing the tournament after the round of tough qualifiers. Mr Chan Jun Jie, 20, who is studying at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said: “We rarely have a chance to play in such a big competition and we’re talking about a few hundred thousand dollars here.”
Temasek Polytechnic student Wilson Koh, 18, added: “I’m disappointed that I could not go because the prize money is huge for students like us, but the competition was held during my exams. If there were no clashes, I’m pretty sure (my school) would have accepted my application.”
Ngee Ann Polytechnic told TODAY the dates for the gaming finals fell in the week leading up to the school’s common test period, adding that students will also have to complete assignments and present their team projects. “Therefore, we do not advise students to skip their studies and commitment to team projects,” a spokesperson said.
Temasek Polytechnic said Mr Koh’s request for leave was rejected because the dates clashed with his test period.
The team member who is serving National Service did not want to be named and declined comment.
In July, the Ministry of Defence approved the application from Mr Teng, 20, to postpone his NS enlistment date to participate in reality singing competition The Voice of China.
Deferments are granted for exceptional talents in fields such as the arts if they can show that the deferment is necessary and that they have the potential to attain outstanding results in top competitions to achieve national pride for Singapore.
Last year, swimmer Joseph Schooling became the first athlete to be granted long-term deferment from NS so he could prepare for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, where he hopes to win an Olympic medal.
Others who have been granted deferment include violinist Lim Chun and pianist Lim Yan.
Between 1999 and 2009, the Ministry of Defence granted deferments for limited periods on “less than 10 occasions”, said Dr Ng Eng Hen, then the Second Minister for Defence, in a 2009 parliamentary speech.