Have you seen gamers rage? Cooped up in their rooms for hours at end? Flared up when things don’t go their way?

It isn’t a stretch to say that the gaming community doesn’t have a good rep. So this is the last place a good ol’ Christian should build their career in… right?

In our new series, #BehindThePaycheque, we hear from professionals across different industries on why they do what they do as they answer burning questions crowdsourced from our readers.

For Episode 2, we speak to esports coach, Ruth Lim (28), and semipro contract bridge player, Luwen Koh (31), who share their thoughts on living out their faith in the gaming industry.

Luwen first dabbled in contract bridge in his junior college’s CCA when he was 17.

With 13 years of experience in playing the game, his biggest achievements include winning 4th place in the 2016 World Wide Bridge Contest Pairs Finals, 2nd place in the 2017 Hong Kong Intercity’s Feishang Swiss Teams and 1st place in the 2021 BBO Prime Bidders Challenge.

While he currently holds a full-time corporate job, Luwen is also a certified international tournament referee who has refereed in Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong.

For Ruth, also known as PotatoFluff, her interest in gaming started when she was still schooling. During her school holidays, she would fly to international game events to network.

“I did streaming when Twitch wasn’t even a thing,” she recollected fondly. “I did competitions, I did the casting, I did everything, anything – you name it.”

Ruth’s passion drove her to study game development for her diploma and computing science for her degree.

However, upon entering adulthood, she thought it was time to stop gaming so much, especially since a career in gaming didn’t seem like a pragmatic choice. As a result, she signed on to be a researcher instead.

That’s when her father and brothers encouraged her to reconsider her decision. 

“My dad told me, ‘To be honest, it’s very hard for someone to actually have a passion, to clearly know that they are made for doing something,” Ruth recalled.

“So what if things don’t work out in gaming? Just start another job. At the most, you’re just a few years behind. But at least you won’t regret doing what you love to do.’”

That said, Ruth recognised that she was fortunate to have the blessing of her family for such an unconventional job.

Gaming professional or gaming addict?

After all, some might even go so far as to say that being a gaming professional is simply a front for one’s game addiction. 

Ruth clarified: “Pro-gamers actually play with a lot of discipline, skill set and values in order to achieve their goals.”

On the other hand, game addicts usually engage in mindless plays.

“Sometimes it comes to a point where they’re actually temporarily relieving themselves by playing games,” she added.

But mindless plays aren’t the only signposts – most of us dabble with brainless activities because we want to relax after a long and hard day.

This is why social connectivity and integration are important factors to consider too when trying to understand if a person is addicted.

Elaborating on this point, Luwen highlighted that a person needs to be functioning healthily in all aspects of his life. This includes being able to manage his social relationships, finances and “adult” properly.

He explained: “There are so many more things in life that God has given the person to manage as a steward.

“And if that person has lost track of that because of gaming, then I think that is probably a kind of addiction.”

Swearing and sin

Besides addiction, gaming also has a reputation for bringing out the worst in people. For example, gamers are known to have foul mouths, Ruth said with a laugh.

In fact, she admitted that she used crude words all the time when she was in secondary school.

Luwen concurred that cursing is especially common in games where teamwork is important and nonsensical play from one person can be detrimental to the team.

“It’s easy for anyone of any skill level to get annoyed at certain plays. But the one thing that holds me back nowadays is a very serious question: Who does God love?” he shared.

“He loves me, but He also loves the person opposite me. And if I don’t respect that, I have broken a commandment. I have broken the law. I have sinned.”

Ruth also added that gamers are naturally very reactive so it’s important to remind them of the power of words – even if they are just trolling.

“More than foul language, I think it’s very important for them to not say anything derogatory or to put down someone. That’s something that I’m very conscious about.”

From a practical standpoint, swearing also doesn’t help improve the gameplay at all. Why spend the critical time cursing when you can use it to instruct others by telling them useful information, Ruth prompted.

Nodding his head, Luwen added that swearing is never for the benefit of others.

“It’s easy to say that cursing is just an emotional thing or small thing, but how many times have we seen character build from all the small little things that person has done and was not corrected?”

Can Christians be professional gamers?

For those who are looking to carve a career in the gaming industry but are facing parental objection, Ruth stressed the importance of behaviour and responsibility.

“A lot of times parents always come to (our) webinars and say, ‘When my child plays a game, they either cannot hear anything, or it’s one ear in and one ear out. Sometimes they actually rage. They bang the computer, bang the tables and stuff.’”

Behaviours like these are unlikely to convince parents to let their children become pro-gamers.

“If you’re a student, then be responsible,” she continued.

“I think it’s quite encouraging especially when my gaming friends say that they see light – not just in me – but in my group of boys.”

“Do your best not just in your studies, but also in your family as well to show that you’re responsible. When your parents talk to you, you’re not like, ‘Oh sorry, I got to game’, sayonara (bye) and go off.”

If you’ve done your homework and really want to pursue gaming as a job, Ruth advised helping your parents to understand the prospects of it.

“Let them have their two cents as well because after all, they’ve lived 20, 30 years more than you. They have a lot of wisdom to pass down.”

Luwen agreed. “God speaks to us through our surroundings, through our people. So if your parents have a very strong biblical reason, or they explain why this is probably not for you, I think their voice should be thoroughly considered.”

He also pointed out that the line between playing for fun and playing for a career can be blurred. The reality is that a gaming career is not as easy as people think it is.

“Like traditional sports, only the top 1% make it,” Ruth noted. “So are you willing to try your whole life and maybe never smell success?”

She also highlighted that gaming is not just a 9-to-5 job; it is a lifestyle.

“There are no more June holidays, there are no more December holidays. You just train non-stop like athletes. You slack one day, you’re one day behind,” said Ruth.

“So I think these are some things why parents might say they disapprove – they’re actually more worried whether the child can take the hardship.”

To drive home the importance of character, Ruth recounted the times when the way she conducted herself opened the opportunities to share her faith.

“When I get to speak to the gamers, they actually start to ask me, ‘Oh, how come you can tahan (tolerate) certain things? So that’s when I use that opportunity to share with them my values.

“I think it’s quite encouraging especially when my gaming friends say that they see light – not just in me – but in my group of boys.”

The lack of integration between God and games can create misunderstandings and a harvest field gap. For example, Ruth noted that most Christians are ashamed to admit that they are gamers. 

But there are some markers to indicate that there is value to be in the gaming community. Meeting new friends and sowing the seed of the gospel and harvesting the fruit are just a few.

“I think there’s a very, very needed space here to actually reach out to gamers,” Ruth emphasised. “God created everything. God created games as well, so we really need to reconcile that.”

“It’s God and games, not games or God.”