The esports industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the course of the last few years and the rise of mobile titles has allowed not just players, but talent, influencers and content creators to flourish and engage with new audiences who didn’t exist earlier. One such name is Terence Yong, better known as Icybaby12 and while he is a popular name in the South East Asian PUBG Mobile and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang circuits, for those of us who have been in following esports for longer, the name will ring a bell to a time even further back.
Terence is one of the few who can be put into an elite group of first-generation SEA esport veterans. His tryst with esports started way back with Dota 2, but we’ll get to that later. We caught up with the jovial and upbeat man that is Icybaby12 to get his take on all things esports and to learn about his story and journey as a caster.
Dota 2 in its early days, trying to go pro and shifting to mobile gaming
“I usually tell people I am an out and out shout-caster but behind the scene I do almost everything as well. This usually involves roles like being an influencer, production or maybe even public relations but mainly what people see me as is a shoutcaster.” says Terence when asked to describe himself.
Terence’s rise in popularity has been gradual and recent and the 26-year-old dabbled with a host of other titles, mainly PC gaming ones before making mobile games his mainstay. In December 2014, Terence got his first casting gig, as a shout caster for a tournament called the Ragequit Cup Season 2, which was an Indian Dota 2 tournament.
“How I started casting was an interesting turn of events. It wasn’t because I was particularly passionate about casting or something. I had a falling out in a personal relationship and I drowned myself in video games. At this time I met a few friends online who were kind of in the same mindspace as me and it kind of helped us escape reality in a way. At this time, I had a friend who was casting and he asked me whether I could fill in for him and I agreed. So yea that’s how I got my first gig as a caster and I still remember casting for more than 12 hours a day for twelve straight months, without getting paid, just for the fun of it.”
After that, Terence would continue casting as he tried his hand at other titles but like many casters finding a stable gig was hard.
“Honestly speaking, I didn’t have any idea what I was doing back then. I tried playing professionally but that didn’t work out. I tried to switch titles as well but I couldn’t find the right match. I tried Heroes of the Storm and it was okay, but the scene wasn’t that big. I also tried Heroes of Newerth but it wasn’t that great either. Alongside, I kept finding small gigs like marshalling and observing but so far casting is the only job that has stuck with me throughout me my entire career.”
However, those were the wild west days of Dota 2, when just about anyone and everyone was trying to get a foot in the door. With some of the largest prize pools in esports history, Dota quickly evolved into a tier 1 esport and with more and more stakeholders coming in every day, finding casting jobs became harder and harder.
“It’s not an easy job because it isn’t reliable or a full-time thing. When I started casting, I was already considered late to the party because people like Hades, Lysander and Xyclopzz were already established names from the SEA scene and were already working towards becoming tier 1 talent which eventually boils down to trying to make it to TI. You obviously have to hope that you get scouted out as a caster so that you can keep getting more and more gigs and it didn’t exactly go that great if I’m being honest. I kind of ended up expanding my portfolio and I tried casting games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and PUBG that time, but eventually, I worked my way into the mobile scene sometime last year.”
Mobile Esports - Finding Momentum and Understanding Why Mobile Titles are so Popular in SEA
“In Malaysia, the PC games scene is kind of dying. When PUBG (the PC version) came out, it was very popular and the first tournaments did well. But it is an expensive tournament for organizers to conduct. Even for gamers, it requires high-end PCs. I invested some time into PUBG and even tried to play professionally.”
But it just wasn’t to be. It quickly became clear to Terence that PC games would never enjoy the access and popularity that mobile games would, in Malaysia. Since almost everyone owned a mobile phone, the number of people trying out mobile titles was much higher and the esports scene started growing quite fast.
“At that time, the mobile gaming scene was doing really well and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang was very popular. Other than ESL One Genting, which was an international Dota 2 LAN, very few esports events could pull in a crowd as big as MLBB could in Malaysia. Even players like Mushi would not be able to draw crowds like an MLBB event.”
But switching from PC titles to mobile is never an easy decision. Yet one key moment helped Terence make the decision.
“It was MPL (Mobile Legends Professional League) - MYSG Season 3. The fan favourite team was Bosskur Gaming and the moment the team lost, they stepped outside the arena. At that time almost 60% of the entire crowd left the arena to meet their heroes and console and support them. It was the first time I saw such support and passion for esports in Malaysia and that too for a mobile title. I think that is when I decided to jump into mobile titles almost completely."
Soon after Icybaby started getting offers to cast PUBG Mobile tournaments as well, a title that was blowing up in the wider Asian region.
“After MPL, it opened up new doors for me. I was recommended by Mineski to VSPN who were organizing the big tournaments. I flew out to China for the PMCO qualifiers and I stayed there for about 6 weeks. We had to cast almost 4-6 maps pretty much every day. This experience was quite a great one cause I made a lot of friends not just with other talent, but with production staff. In general there were just a lot of positive vibes.”
Terence would go on to work at the PMCO SEA Regional finals in Jakarta, an experience he is unlikely to forget.
“The crowd was insane since most of my fans are from Indonesia and those guys are freaking crazy! I had heard stories about MLBB events, specifically MPL-ID where fans would throng the arenas and since there was limited seating, things would get wild with cases of fans breaking stuff outside the venue and things like that. So for PMCO, the organizers decided to keep a sort of registration for attendance so that they could control the crowd. At the event, I could already feel the hype and every time I would walk around, I would get stopped and people would ask for pictures. I mean even backstage, there would be kids who got past security somehow to meet the talent and their favourite players and try and take pictures with them!"
Getting Married and Juggling an Esports Career
2019 has been a big year in Terence’s life but, it’s safe to say that getting married earlier in July, will be the highlight of his year. In fact, at the PMCO grand finals, the dates for which coincided with his marriage, the organizers dedicated a lovely tribute video to one of the community’s most loved personalities.
“Honestly speaking, I have no idea what is to come but I’m pretty sure I can keep up with the travelling and long hours. What I can’t keep up with is spending time with friends and family. I mean it’s been a while since I properly spent time with my parents or my fiance (this interview was done before Terence got married and he had just returned from China) and yea the schedule has been hectic to say the least."
But the move certainly does come with its own set of baggage and with the mobile gaming market growing exponentially, it is important for everyone involved to be quite career-focused.
“Being in esports is never safe and stable. But since this has been my entire career, this kind of thing has been my reality since I got into casting. Every single day I’m worried about what’s happening next week or next month. Will I able to pay the bills next month and those sort of worries are always going to be there. But the only way to keep going is to focus on what you’re good at and keep hustling. I always say that discipline and mental fortitude are key to making it in the business. There are going to be a lot of haters and lots of moments of self-doubt and in these times it is key to be strong and keep putting in your full effort and going all out. If you give up, everything you have done will go out the window.”
With new money, new orgs, and new tournaments entering not just the SEA scene but the entire mobile esports scene, it's opened up new doors for a lot of people for whom, the opportunities did not not exist earlier. Terence 'Icybaby12' Yong is one such name who continues to follow his passion and his love for gaming as he brings his usual cheery self to casts and uses his energy to uplift audiences. With tournaments such as MPL Season 4, M1 Championship and even PMCO Fall already announced, it's likely that we'll all see or at least hear from Terence a whole lot in the coming months. AFK Gaming wishes him a big hearty congratulations on getting married and good luck to him for all his future endeavours.