One by one, his opponents left the arcade with their heads hung in defeat. It was a daily after-school affair for the then-teenage Bruce Yu-lin Hsiang. He would challenge anyone and everyone who dared step up to the Street Fighter 2 machine.
With unrivaled skill, he thrashed most challengers, forcing some to turn the machine off in frustration.
“After discovering Street Fighter 2 in a video game store when I was 12, I immediately fell into ‘madness’,” he said. “As long as someone was playing, I had to invest money to fight.”
Fast forward 30 years and there are not many bigger competitors than the man now known as GamerBee, Chinese Taipei’s top fighting game star. The 43-year-old was recently crowned Street Fighter V: Champion Edition winner at the Singapore 2021 Global Esports Games last December.
His talent has shone through amid an uneasy childhood. Growing up in a single-parent family, he had to relocate often due to the nature of his father’s work. But having found solace in gaming, he ignited a passion that shaped an unconventional path to becoming a professional esports athlete.
Knocked down but not out
Most pro gamers would be gearing up for the big stage at 18, but GamerBee had no such luxury. His father, who bought him his first game console, passed away suddenly after a bout of illness. He was left to fight for survival in the real world.
Despite getting a full-time office job, he still could not afford to pay for university, and so he decided to attend higher vocational school instead.
“Although I can be regarded as one of the top players in the Chinese Taipei fighting game circle, it could not help me in my daily life (back then),” he said. “So I had two identities – an ordinary office worker during the day, and a GamerBee in a large video game store at night.”
Gaming carried him through his darkest times. While he enjoyed his seven-year career in the hotel industry, fighting games were the antidote that knocked out stress and depression. But with the stigma of gaming still prevalent, he had to keep his hobby under wraps at work. That changed when the opportunity arose to go pro at 32.
“Until I actually became a professional player, I had completely given up on the idea of making a living from fighting games. I was very satisfied to participate in competitions during my vacation time,” said GamerBee, who now spends four to six hours a day practising.
He had a few words towards naysayers who claim he is too old to be gaming: “People can say whatever they want, …I don’t care about that.”
With a warrior’s attitude, he has clawed his way up to the top against all odds. And he is not leaving anytime soon.
“I have never really been afraid of anyone in fighting games, because my biggest enemy is survival. And no opponent will be more terrifying than losing a loved one at the age of 18 and facing the pressure of life alone.”