Brandon Chia is undoubtedly one of Asia’s top Street Fighter V (SFV) players and among the top 50 in the world. He has come up tops on a few occasions, including being crowned the Intel World Open SEA Champion.
Yet one win continues to elude him: victory in an offline tournament.
“I would like to score one big win at an offline setting,” said Singapore’s SFV representative to the December 18-19 Singapore 2021 Global Esports Games (GEG).
“All the tournaments have been online tournaments. Winning online tournaments and winning
offline tournaments will have a different kind of feeling so I want to win and experience what it
Indeed, the GEG will represent Chia’s best chance to break his duck. He will be coming into the tournament in good form: apart from winning the Intel World Open SEA title, he was third at both the Capcom Pro Tour Southeast Asia and also the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) 2021 Online Asia South.
And with the absence of most of the top-ranked players in the SFV world, he is a firm favourite to emerge victorious.
At 29, Chia can pass off as a veteran in the esports world. But although he has been playing Street Fighter since he was 6, it was only four years ago that he decided to do it competitively.
And it has been a juggling act ever since, as he toggles between his day job as a business analyst to his alter ego in Street Fighter — which is usually Akuma.
“At first, I picked up Akuma because he looked cool,” said Chia, donning an Akuma jersey. “As I played him more and more, I started to realize that he is an all-rounded character who is very reliable in matches. That is why I stuck with Akuma to this day.”
But Chia was a late bloomer in the professional circuit and he started taking part in tournaments only when he was in university in Australia.
“I’ve been a very competitive person since I was young,” said Chia, who also played snooker competitively.
“The thought of getting smashed by top players did not influence my vision or cause any fear in me when I started joining tournaments. There were plenty of failures when I first started, I got beat early on and wouldn't get very far. However, at the end of the day, it's been a fulfilling journey so far.”
And indeed it has been. Four years on, Chia has risen up the ranks of the SFV competitive scene and has proven himself to be a rising star in the region.
“This year, I’ve had consistent results and have performed well in the tournaments that I took part in,” he said. “I would rate myself in the Top 5 or Top 10 in the Southeast Asian region, but that’s up to the public’s discretion,” added the Singaporean humbly. The secret behind his success? Being able to divide his time between training and his personal life by following a strict schedule. After logging out from work from Mondays to Thursdays, he practises from 8pm to 11pm before calling it a day. Fridays and the weekends are sacred, reserved for time with family and close friends. This schedule may seem simple, but it is a formula that Chia developed after learning things the hard way. “In the past, I practised daily to get the best out of myself through physical exertion. It did not work out and I was burning out from chasing my first win,” he recalled. “After that phase, I disciplined myself and created this schedule to always keep myself mentally and physically fresh.” Pre-Covid-19, Chia would often travel overseas for tournaments, which also required a lot of careful planning. Late-night flights to-and-fro nearby countries over the weekends meant that he had to be careful not to tire himself out before starting work weeks. “We (players) try our best to return to Singapore by early Monday mornings, at about 1am or so,” he explained. “This way, we can at least get some rest and won't feel too drained before going back to the office.” Despite its hassles, Chia has missed playing in international offline tournaments — which is why he relishes participating in the GEG. “It's been a really, really long time since a lot of us have competed on a global scale in an offline setting,” he said. “GEG is going to be a really fun time and a refreshing experience for us players. It’s also the first time that an event of such prestige is being held in Singapore and so it is nice to be participating in it!” Although he is a player with no bad blood or personal agenda against any of his fellow players, Brandon is relishing the chance to face Bruce "GamerBee" Hsiang. “Gamerbee, a very influential figure in the Taiwanese fighting game community, is my friend,” he said with a smile. “I have no burning desire to beat him, but it will be nice to face him in the tournament.” However, Chia does have his concerns. Isolated in a bubble during the GEG, he would be unable to have his family and friends by his side. “This is the first time I’m going to a tournament alone, as one man against the world,” he said. “I don’t really like to be away from family and I won’t have my friends from the local fighting game community there to practise with me, so that will be a challenge.” But he knows that his family and friends will be supporting him all the way. “My family has been very supportive of my esports career,” he said. “They give me the encouragement and the time I need for practice and it's been a wonderful journey with their support. “The local fighting game community is also very friendly and encouraging. We motivate each other and practise together. I have forged a lot of good friendships along the way and that is what's most important about my community.”