Challenge accepted: Gamer from Sabah scores big after getting scammed – twice


Despite having a lazy eye condition, Johnny says he never let it stop him from competing in esports. — Moonton Games

When Xviour “Xavvsz” Johnny arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, at the age of 18, eager to kickstart his esports career with a team in KL, he only had RM10 in his pocket.

“I remember feeling confident. I consider myself orang susah (poor). So I came to KL in 2022 with the opportunity to change my life. I told myself that I would be brave even though I only had RM10,” he says.

During his secondary school days, Johnny would often save his lunch money for extra cash to play Dota 2 at cybercafes.

He actively participated in competitions, often securing cash prizes ranging from a few hundred ringgit.

“It was a lot of money for someone like me, and I was able to help support my family,” says Johnny, now 20 years old.

When Covid-19 struck and lockdowns ensued, Johnny found himself unable to play Dota 2 at the cybercafes.

“I felt desperate at the time. I needed to do something.”

While in Sabah, Johnny shifted his attention to playing Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, a mobile phone game, turning his focus towards minor MLBB tournaments in the state and gradually making a name for himself.

However, the journey was far from easy.

As part of MPX NSEA, Johnny competed in MPL Malaysia Season 12 last August. They started out in the first week strong by beating popular team Homebois 2-1. — Moonton GamesAs part of MPX NSEA, Johnny competed in MPL Malaysia Season 12 last August. They started out in the first week strong by beating popular team Homebois 2-1. — Moonton Games

“I learned a lot from my online friends, who were mostly playing the game competitively. I formed a team, and we found a sponsor. But in our first tournament, where we competed against other local teams, we came in last place,” he says.

Undeterred, Johnny resolved to work even harder and find a more cohesive team, and he began by creating a poster advertising for new mates.

“When we had the right chemistry, I felt it was our moment. We knew we could go far, and indeed, we did. We ended up winning numerous tournaments in Sabah,” he recalls, highlighting one significant victory where they took home RM1,500 as a team.

Hard mode

Johnny recounts meeting a potential sponsor who proposed to support his team and invited them to KL, promising opportunities to participate in professional tournaments offering lucrative prizes.

The assurance encouraged the team to pool their resources to pay for the flights and lodging.

As Johnny trains under MPX NSEA, he hopes that others out there who hope to make it as a professional esports player would simply never give up. — Moonton GamesAs Johnny trains under MPX NSEA, he hopes that others out there who hope to make it as a professional esports player would simply never give up. — Moonton Games

“We thought the rental situation would be temporary because that person would provide accommodation. Then we started to get worried after two days,” he says, adding that the person stopped taking his calls once they reached KL.

“At the time, we had no choice but to tell ourselves that we needed to try hard at whatever tournaments we could join and win to survive in KL,” he adds.

However, the financial hardship was too much for his teammates – all four of them returned to Sabah – but Johnny remained in KL to find new opportunities, including going for tryouts to join established teams.

“I had a lot of regret at the time that I could no longer financially support myself, and I was without a team. I started working at a restaurant thinking that I needed to earn enough money to take care of myself,” he says.

But his passion for the sport never wavered – Johnny was back on the MLBB minor tournament circuit as part of Team Freakout My.

In October 2022, the team won the MLBB Next Star tournament, taking home RM15,000 after beating Elux Esports 3-0 in the finals.

“I felt everything was happening so fast. I thought about how I was in KL with just RM10, and there I was winning a tournament with the team,” he said.

He then set his sights on the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League, finding a new sponsor and making it through the qualifiers for MPL Malaysia Season 11 last March.

The team also changed its name to Madness Esports to represent a new sponsor, and finished in 8th place during MPL MY Season 11, securing US$5,100 (RM23,700) in prize money, or so they thought.

That’s when what was supposed to be a dream come true for Johnny and his teammates ended up becoming another nightmare.

MLBB hero Bruno is one of Johnny's top picks. — Moonton GamesMLBB hero Bruno is one of Johnny's top picks. — Moonton Games

“So I got scammed again. I didn’t think it could happen again at a professional tournament level. I had ended up in a team where we didn’t get paid for our efforts even though we were promised a salary,” he claims.

Madness Esports’ parent company, Madness Gaming, alleged in a statement released last April that its general manager had failed to fulfil his responsibilities, including paying wages and providing gadgets to the players, and terminated his services.

Tournament organiser MPL MY also issued a statement to freeze Madness Esports’ prize winnings and channel them directly to the players and team coach.

“When the other teams in MPL heard about what was happening to us, they offered to help by providing us with food. I’m really thankful for the MPL community for looking after us.”

Second life

Due to being scammed twice, Johnny decided to leave the esports team and head home.

When Johnny’s mother – who worked as a clerk and raised Johnny and his two other siblings on her own – no longer wanted him to go back to KL for tournaments, he started having doubts.

Johnny wondered if he should have just stayed in lower-tier tournaments where he was winning and never had to deal with poor team management.

“My family and friends told me it’s not worth going to MPL, but it is every player’s dream,” he says, adding that he finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel when he and his former teammates were courted by the Negri Sembilan Esports Association to be a part of team MPX NSEA, which has since rebranded as Niners.

Johnny is part of the team MPX NSEA. — Moonton GamesJohnny is part of the team MPX NSEA. — Moonton Games

“The team convinced us by showing us what our accommodation and gaming house will look like. They even offered to pay part of the wages that were promised to us by the previous team,” he says.

As part of the Niners, Johnny competed in MPL Malaysia Season 12 last August. They started out strong in the first week by beating the popular team, Homebois, 2-1.

“I remember my hands shaking after the match ended. I couldn’t believe that we did it. We had beaten a strong team.”

In the second week of the tournament, Johnny was named MVP (most valuable player) and became known for his aggressive playing style as a Gold Laner, where the early goal is to farm as much gold as possible for scaling up.

Team Niners completed its debut at the MPL in 7th place, winning US$5,300 (RM24,630).

Staying on target

It was during MPL Malaysia Season 12 that Johnny went public with his eye condition, saying that all the while he had been competing professionally with a lazy eye, relying only on his right eye for sight.

“I always knew I had an eye condition, but I was not sure what it was called. Niners took me for an eye checkup, and that’s when I learned it’s called lazy eye.”

He was informed that the condition was irreversible, though it could have been rectified had he received treatment during childhood. Unfortunately, his family lacked the financial resources to pursue it at the time.

“I was told my right eye is good enough. I guess this goes to show that no matter what, if you’re determined to play this game, then you can always go further,” he says, adding that seeing with the lazy eye is like using Zoom’s blur background feature.

Johnny’s goal this year is to strengthen team chemistry and finish strong at MPL Malaysia Season 13, which starts on March 29. He feels a huge responsibility to deliver better results for the fans in Negri Sembilan.

“They have been so supportive and welcoming towards us, so I want to do my best for them,” he says.

As he trains in Seremban, Johnny encourages aspiring esports players to persevere in the pursuit of their dreams.

“When I was starting out, esports was not considered something that could be taken seriously.

“But I believe that as long as you remain focused, you will be able to figure out the best path to take towards your goal.

“You may feel like the unluckiest person in the world, but you just have to keep moving,” he says.

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Esports , Video Games , Technology

   

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