SME Stories

Tech for Growth | Singapore Cybersports & Online Gaming Association

Katie Ash

Sep 7, 2021

SCOGA (Singapore Cybersports & Online Gaming Association) was founded in 2008 and is registered with the Registry of Societies. It aims to elevate esports by nurturing local talents, cultivating online communities and creating job opportunities. One of its key pillars is the Esports Academy, which aims to create a centre of excellence around esports and youth leadership. With the broad support of industry partners and institutions such as the National Youth Council and NTUC, the Esports Academy equips esports lovers with important skills and values such as leadership, teamwork and communication to help them strive towards their aspirations and develop rewarding careers.

Dennis Ooi, President of SCOGA recently joined Swingvy for our latest episode of Tech for Growth, to share more about the business, and how technology helps to fuel their growth.

Interview transcript between Swingvy and Dennis Ooi, President of SCOGA

The background of SCOGA.

The Singapore Cybersports and Online Gaming Association, here in Singapore we’re known as SCOGA for short, has been around for slightly over 14 years now. We are a non-profit association focused on the esports ecosystem.

SCOGA came about when a bunch of gamers, including myself as one of the founding members, we came together and said, “let’s try to address some market gaps here, let’s try to professionalise the industry,” and from there we went. 

We started off the association as a group of 10 of us. Worked very hard to work the ground and get a better understanding of peoples’ thoughts about games and esports in general. We knew it was a slight uphill task because there wasn’t much recognition for the activity back then. But fast forward to today, I think it’s been a very interesting and meaningful journey.

Even though there were challenges we faced along the way, we prevailed. We launched our e-sports academy in 2017. We have strong partnerships from government agencies such as the National Youth Council that supports our academy. We are now an NTUCU (National Trades Union Congress Union) associate, so we work very closely with our labour union here.

The main focus of SCOGA.

Today I think if you were to ask me, what is SCOGAs main focus really it’s two things; we do youth and talent development, as well as jobs and careers.

What we try to do is map out the pathways that exist for different jobs and careers within the industry, and the inspiring youths and talented individuals that we work with, to get them into that position to stand the best possible chance to be able to work within the industry.

A lot of our activities are still spent working together with the grass roots, that has always been core for us: serving gamers, working with them, and trying to get a better understanding of their needs and how best we are able to serve them is really key in our growth.

We have very important events like our inter-tertiary esports league, which is Campus Legends, that’s been going on for three years already, and it’s seen tremendous growth over the last three seasons. In fact today we have more than half a million unique viewers who watch the programme over the two and a half month period.

Another very important event, it was our flagship event that we started in 2013, Campus Game Fest. That was an annual big event that involved all the different schools and institutions in Singapore, all coming together for 2-3 days of fun.

Unfortunately of course, because of the pandemic we couldn’t really continue that. But fingers crossed, Singapore is really trying to open up, and we hope to see the return of our marquee events in the future.

Have you been able to transition online during the past 18 months to continue the work you do?

Given that e-sports itself is inherently a digital medium, it allowed us to pivot very quickly when the pandemic hit this part of the world. A lot of our activities, whether it was esports tournaments, leagues, and even our workshops and classes, were able to quickly pivot them online. 

We conduct a lot of our training sessions for schools, for different partners in the social service sector as well. These trainings were all conducted over Google or even Zoom and other platforms that we felt were appropriate to get the lesson plan across.

Tournaments, naturally there were some challenges with people playing from home, but I think by in large we managed to overcome a lot of them. And it’s something that we’ve enjoyed for the last year and a half since you know, COVID hit Singapore.

We still are planning for a lot more activities throughout the year but you know we are slowly trying to push to see if we can start to bring some of that offline. I think that’s always the hope.

Nothing beats that human interaction and that face to face interaction with our gamers and our friends as well. So, fingers crossed, hopefully we’re able to do that sooner rather than later. 

You must have seen tremendous growth in the egaming industry over the past few years?

With SCOGA being around for over 14 years now we’ve seen the ebbs and flows in the growth of the esports sector in Singapore.

And I think when it comes to jobs specifically, it’s only been very recently that we’ve taken a very strong interest in actually trying to map these out. Working together with our labour union, NTUC, and of course working with our employers to really figure out, what is it they need to see you know in local and Singaporean candidates that would really help set them apart, and allow them to really secure these job opportunities.

We are actually running a virtual job fair together with NTUC. I think we were very fortunate to receive over 100 different job positions from different companies, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We do know that there are more. Given the limited time and the challenges that COVID has put upon us, securing these positions and being able to feature them was very important.

We conducted a webinar with some of the top employers in this space recently to get a better understanding of what they see as very crucial traits, crucial skills, that they would like to see in the Singaporean workforce, so that they can then be considered for opportunities within these companies.

What can you tell me about the people who work with you at SCOGA?

The people make up SCOGA. Without our executive committee, without our advisory panel, I think we would never have gone this far.

It’s rare to see an association like ourselves being able to stand the test of time and still stay relevant to the industry.

So yes, I think the people are essential, and I personally believe in always investing in our people and giving them the best opportunities for growth, to allow them to perform their roles and functions at a top level at all times.

I take a very keen interest in their wellbeing especially. This is just to ensure you know, if we take care of our people, they’ll take care of SCOGA in the long hall.

When SCOGA first started, what are some of the key things that enabled your growth?

Well I think there are a couple of pointers for this really. First and foremost is to really have a better understanding of everyone that works together with you. Every individual is unique, in their needs, the way they think, the way they operate. As long as we are really able to better understand and tap on their capabilities for the company, for the organisation, that is the way that I have been approaching it.

I think that you know putting in the right tools and technologies to allow our people to function and operate in a more consistent environment, and not have to worry about too much paperwork and things that bog them down so that they can focus on their primary objectives, that is key as well. It has been a very important part of my organisational culture as well.

Why did you choose Swingvy as your HR management platform?

We’re still a small company in terms of headcount. There’s only close to about 10 of us right now, you know and I think most of us wear multiple hats. I personally have to wear a couple of them as well in terms of serving the organisation and its functions.

It’s always hard to change with the processes you already have but I’m glad I did. I think [Swingvy’s] taken a lot of load off my back, especially when it comes to managing payroll, claims and the overall HR in general. It’s been wonderful for us.

What role have technologies played in your growth in Singapore?

Technology has always played a central piece for us. Esports inherently being a, you could call it a digital attack medium as well you know. A lot of technology goes behind the creation of games, publicity of games, and even the streaming of these games.

A lot of us, I think in my team especially, are very tech savvy. It is a crucial part that we provide the necessary equipment and tools, whether it is software or hardware. So we talk about social media platforms, how we track statistics, how we make decisions based on data. Now that is something I think we have started doing a lot more of. We need this information. It is critical – mission critical I would say – when it comes to deciding how to approach something new, or perhaps a challenge that we could potentially face in the future. And the more of this information that we have, I think the better judgements that we will be able to make.

But again, with that being said, I think it’s still the human touch when it comes to how technology and being able to work better with humans, that is the key right, to see a very successful implementation of any form of technology

We serve gamers at SCOGA. And we need to understand where our gamers are, what they are up to, what they would like to see in our future plans, because that also has an impact on the activities that they do. So it is very important to still have that human touch at the end of the interaction.

What’s next for SCOGA?

Lots of things in the pipeline. I think at this juncture we are really looking at growing the esports academy as one of our main areas of focus. Education and esports has always been big for us. 

We work very closely with the different schools here, whether they are secondary schools, or middle schools in other parts of the world, or institutes of higher learning, like your technical colleges, your polytechnics and even universities. We are trying to see where our syllabus and the content that we create – where is it relevant in terms of skilling up the workforce. It is our belief that we play a very complementary role to what already exists. 

There are plans to eventually develop very focused programmes for esports that you could take as a side module, or even something that people who work full time can take on a part time basis. So these are things that we have in the pipeline that I think we are going to be rolling out along the next couple of months.

And I think very importantly would be our events that we do, the IPs that we own, like Campus Games Festival and Campus Legends, these are two products that will always be a central focus for SCOGA. How we are able to grow the school or collegiate ecosystem for esports in Singapore and plug in to the bigger picture whether is it regionally or globally.

Are partnerships with gaming companies and educational institutions a focus for SCOGA now too?

The relationship that we have with NTUC, our labour union here has always been a close knit one and we are very focused on the job and careers segment. So we look at, what are the needs of the employer, where are we at in terms of education, how do we provide the best opportunities for classroom education, but not just the classroom, but even in the practical sense.

A lot of what we develop and what we do not only contains the theory component but it has to include that hands on and practical approach where you will be able to actually apply what you have learnt almost immediately. For a project for example or being attached to a company  that would then be able to provide you with that practical experience. 

The way that employers evaluate candidates in this day and age, theory is important, your qualifications are important, but what is even more important now is that you have actually made concerted efforts to pick up practical skills and experience that are relevant to that job role. And I think it's all about trying to map that out, finding out more from the employer, and then build it together with them.

This is a collaborative effort and we are always looking to work with partners who share the same goals and vision as SCOGA to really help our Singaporean workforce. That is something that won’t be changing anytime soon and will really be a focus for us.

Do you have any advice for small businesses trying to grow in this economic environment?

Be agile, be open to change. 

I think that is something that I have learned in my role at SCOGA. Even though you might think it’s an esports and gaming organisation, a lot of the work we do sometimes may not always look like its esports and games, but it has a lot of impact in the longer term. So be agile, look further ahead, you know, keep your eye on your goal and I think you’ll eventually get there. 

Watch highlights from the interview:

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