Singaporean Mandopop superstar JJ Lin enjoys rocking the stage while his esports teams shake up virtual ones. Founded in 2017, his esports organization has focused on developing talent in Asia, and now fields four squads competing in Valorant, Dota 2, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, and PUBGM.
In their debut year, Team SMG’s Arena of Valor team won the championship title at the AIC: Arena of Valor International Championship 2017, which JJ Lin said was his proudest gaming achievement.
More recently, Team SMG’s Valorant squad made headlines when they finished second at the VALORANT Champions Tour: Malaysia and Singapore Stage 1 Challengers 1, Riot Games’ official global league. A force to be reckoned with, even though there were a few changes to the active roster, Team SMG still managed to claim titles in five local and regional Valorant tournaments since August 2020.
Across the border, their Malaysian-based PUBGM team came in first out of 256 teams at SQUAD UP, a competition organized by YouTube and IGN SEA in August 2020.
Yet, JJ Lin reiterates, “The main goal in esports is always to win, however for Team SMG, winning isn’t everything.”
In fact, SMG stands for “Still Moving Under Gunfire”, which they explain “is a symbol to continue to move forward even in the face of adversity”. Approaching esports excellence holistically, Team SMG is not an organization that only concentrates on in-game skills.
“The biggest thing that I’ve seen time and time again, is that most esports athletes don’t focus on the outside game element of competitive play,” explained Orinn Xu, General Manager of Team SMG. “What this means is things like how they interact with their teammates, how they navigate team politics, how they handle highly stressful situations…”
“Players tend to want to be the good guy and not cause trouble and that’s where our management and guidance is incredibly important in these areas which at the top level could be what makes or breaks a team.”
During this offseason, Team SMG’s PUBGM team took a break from their usual training regime. Adopting a work hard, play hard approach, their goal was to focus more on “mental integrity through team building sessions, and also by playing other games together”. In fact, they believe that too much training would not benefit their team, “especially when we force our heads into it”. All of this serves to keep players in a “positive mental attitude” in order to achieve consistency — something that teams constantly strive for, but find difficult to maintain at the highest level of esports.
The same process of cultivating skills and mental fortitude is applied to all Team SMG squads. In Season 6 of MPL MY/SG, Team SMG finished 6th out of ten teams, and qualified for the playoffs. Unfortunately, they were knocked out by Geek Fam in the first round of the lower bracket in a close 2-1 series. Now that Singapore and Malaysia will have their own independent MPL leagues for the new 2021 season, it presents new opportunities for competing teams.
Reflecting on the last season, Team SMG’s Mobile Legends: Bang Bang team recognized that “most players have the ability to play at a high level, however not many players have the understanding or maturity to take their personal best to the top level.” With that in mind, they’ve made it a point to focus on developing not only their training strategy, but also team culture and mental well-being, especially for new players.
The newest players in Team SMG hail from Dota 2, who joined the family just last month. Led by veterans Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung and Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr, the team lost the qualifiers for the Dota Pro Circuit 2021: S1 – Southeast Asia.
Working with a brand new roster, Team SMG’s Dota 2 team acknowledges that they’re “still in the midst of finding the team’s playstyle”. In order to facilitate its five new members, Team SMG will engage sports psychologists, and personal and team coaches, and give access to career development planning to all their players.
“We are currently in the early stages of developing Team SMG regionally, and the focus right now is to get the teams in the different cities acquainted with each other and to sync common goals and values,” said JJ Lin. “The biggest challenge for us is to make sure our culture and values are being taught and applied across the teams in all regions — China and Southeast Asia.”
READ MORE: JJ Lin’s Team SMG is entering Dota with new squad led by Mushi and ninjaboogie