Toyz' story: Kurtis Lau wants to take HK Esports to the world championship of League of Legends

By Wong Tsui-kai

Kurtis Lau Wai-kin is an average 22-year-old. But in the e-sports world, he is Toyz: a superstar. He told Wong Tsui-kai about the life of a gaming legend

By Wong Tsui-kai |

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Toyz hopes to be world champ again, this time as the captain of HK Esports.

If you think you’re going to be rich and famous with e-sports in Hong Kong, think again. 

“A strong Hong Kong team appearing? No chance,” says Toyz. “They aren’t conscious of their status as competitive players, and their desire to win is weaker.”

And Toyz should know.

He is one of only twenty people who can call themselves World Champion of League of Legends (LOL), this year’s top MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game. As a member of the Taiwan-based Taipei Assassins (TPA), he won the Season 2 Championship in 2012. And now after a long break, Toyz has returned to competiton and is back in the saddle as captain of the team HK Esports.

Toyz started in the e-sports scene by winning a tiny, low-level competition in a local internet cafe in 2011. He then signed with CrossGaming, a now disbanded amateur team. He played with them until he was recruited by TPA. “I transferred to TPA because CrossGaming was not a true professional team. We were paid in computer gear, while TPA was a ‘truly professional’ team which paid actual money,” he explains. “Not that it was solely due to money, but it was clear that there was far more room for development.” 

It was a decision that paid off. In 2012, Toyz and TPA were the best players in the world. “It felt good. It was worth it,” says Toyz, referring to the sacrifices he and many other pro gamers make to achieve success in the world of e-sports. 

It’s not as simple as just hanging out and playing video games. There is a great deal of practice involved, often more than twelve hours each day. It was so much that in June of 2013, Toyz was forced into early retirement due to carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful wrist injury.

But there was more to it than that. “My injury was one of the reasons, but the departure of my old teammates and disagreements with team management were also significant.”

After retiring at such a young age, Toyz passed the time with occasional coaching and streaming, where he’d play a game live over the internet for others to watch. “Streaming was certainly more relaxed than competitive play. It might be for three to four hours a day compared to over twelve. And streaming had a more hobbyist nature while competitive play felt like working.” 

But the hobby life isn’t for everyone. “I feel that the life of a competitive player is better for me. I don’t like a life that is too relaxed,” says Toys. To fight the boredom of such a relaxed life, he decided to return to action.

All-Stars Paris 2014 – international invitational League of Legends tournament in Paris.
Photo: AFP
“I had wanted to rejoin the competitive scene for quite a while. It was in June or July of this year that I started to really practice seriously and started to recruit team members.” 

In just a few short months he formed the HK Esports League of Legends (LOL) team, which will focus on the Garena Premier League (GPL), the league for Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. “I have full say in my choice of teammates. I chose these people to join the team.”

In addition to being captain, Toyz is the heart and soul of the team as well.  He has the experience to lead a team to victory, but he knows how hard that can be. “My goal is to win. I wouldn’t be returning if I didn’t feel I could win. But winning the world championship once was a miracle; making a miracle happening again would be difficult.” 

The same realistic expectations enter into his advice for others as well, especially for Hongkongers who dream of a career as a pro gamer. “There is zero room for e-sports in Hong Kong,” says Toyz. “A big issue is population. There simply aren’t enough people. Anyone seriously looking to enter e-sports should look to China or Taiwan.” 

Even then, he acknowledges that it’s a long shot: “The LOL ecosystem might last for another two years, just until the next game comes along.”

So he stresses how important it is to have a backup plan. For Toyz, this means using his skills as a business, but others might need to follow a different path. “Streaming, YouTube, merchandising … as long as you have enough popularity and savvy, earning a living off the web is possible. But an education is still the safest option.”