In May, 25-year-old Crystal Khor will begin working as a pâtissière, or pastry maker, at Forêt Blanc's Sri Petaling branch. Right now, however, her focus is directed towards a different sort of temptation. In front of her virtual gun’s sights, a distant figure shuffles behind a tree. It has been twenty minutes or so since the MSI ambassador started streaming PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds from one of Battle Arena’s streaming pods, and after what feels like an eternity of non-action, this unsuspecting player looks to her like a very tasty target.
“Can I shoot?” Crystal asks with a tinge of mischief. Her teammate and fellow ambassador, Firbie Choy, hurriedly cautions against it, but the future pâtissière’s hunger is hard to dissuade. Mid-way through Firbie’s explanation of the risks, the enemy receives an unexpected serving: a series of three bullets that come in one-second intervals. He goes down; less than five minutes later, so does Crystal. “Well, this sucks!” Firbie meets the same fate shortly after, prompting an instant burst of giggles from Crystal.
It’s in the afternoon - some hours before this particular streaming session - that I first meet Crystal at the MSI Concept Store at BB Plaza. She and the other four ambassadors are there for the Cosplay Fan’s Gathering event, but unlike the other four she sports no costume. Her lack of cosplay involvement poses a small problem at first - how does she mingle with all the cosplayers? - but the self-confessed introvert manages to adapt to the situation. Adaptation served her well too at ESL One Genting 2018, her first event. Asked if she had felt overwhelmed then, Crystal takes a moment to recall her experience. “At first it felt very exciting, and it was like, you know, the fear starts kicking in because you know you have to go up on stage.” she shares, growing slightly animated as she continues. “But I mean, it’s fine. Once you get used to it, everything is like -” I can’t catch her last word, but she snaps her fingers triumphantly.
Overcoming the challenges of being an introvert was one reason Crystal decided to become an MSI ambassador, but the process wasn’t smooth-sailing. “It was quite hard for me, as I don’t really like talking to strangers,” she admits. Getting herself to interact with the people who come up to talk or ask her questions required some mental pushing at first - “You have to force yourself out… even if you don’t like the situation.” Nowadays, she feels a greater sense of calm rather than panic in such situations. “So it’s a good start, I guess,” she laughs.
Her journey as an MSI ambassador started when she was approached by a marketing manager from the company, whom she met at a friend’s birthday party. Crystal’s response was that she was “very interested”. She had already developed an interest in streaming at that point, with the encouragement of her friends. However, factors like her computer’s specifications and concerns about financial stability provided some roadblocks. In the case of the latter, having a “main” job to fall back to felt like the safer choice. It was with the marketing manager’s offer and a more capable gaming machine - built with the help of her brother and his friend - that she found her way back to the potential path of a gaming career, although her role as an MSI ambassador is part-time as of now.
For more than half her life, Crystal has been gaming, sometimes from night till morning. She started off on the PlayStation 1, before switching over to PC with games like O2Jam and Gunbound. Five years ago, she discovered Heroes of Newerth and with it the antagonistic side of online gaming, especially towards females. “Even though you’re doing well, you’re supporting them or you’re like, you know, you’re carrying the team, they still scold you and be like: ’Urgh’ - How to say - ‘just go back to Barbie,’” she says, sounding slightly amused. “And every time they lose, they’ll blame it on the girl, for being a girl.” A possible reason for this behaviour, Crystal thinks, is that online gaming is still fairly young and would have to mature further for attitudes to progress. Currently, she sees some progression being made, like in cases where female gamers aren’t automatically assigned to the support role in games like Dota 2 and are instead asked what role they would like to play. But while she notes that “everyone gets nasty comments” and it’s something gamers will have to “get used to”, she doesn’t excuse the behaviour of toxic gamers nevertheless. “There’s always karma,” she says simply.
While the PC isn’t Crystal’s sole gaming platform - she games on consoles and mobiles as well - it is is where Crystal’s favourite game exists. She loves playing Dota 2, and Templar Assassin is her favourite hero. “But I can’t use her,” she confesses with a laugh. She also admits to having a stronger preference for gaming over making pastries, although conversely she feels more proficient in the latter. “Honestly speaking, I learn quite slow for games.” On the other hand, making pastries produces the feeling of “instant success”. Even so, she greatly enjoys the feeling of improving in games. “It feels like you’re - you’ve levelled up.”
About once a week, Crystal streams on her MSI ambassador Facebook page, where she uses the moniker of Crystal Aphrodite. Once she begins working at Forêt Blanc, this will be the most she can manage as she will be working six days a week. Fortunately, MSI isn’t particularly strict about how often she has to stream. While she, like the other ambassadors, has her KPI measured, MSI keeps in mind that she’s a part-timer with other responsibilities. They also want Crystal and the others to have fun doing their jobs. They can stream any games they like, so long as it’s on PC of course.
Although she mainly plays Dota 2, Crystal finds herself streaming PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds more often, usually with Firbie along for the ride. While she’s at Battle Arena tonight, she typically streams from home - this is in fact her first time using one of Battle Arena’s streaming pods. Her streaming space is situated in the living room, which according to her is rather cramped. However, Crystal says that she’ll be renting a house soon, where there will no longer be such concerns. She also tells me that if her gaming-related pursuits go well, she would consider quitting her main job. To aspiring streamers, she says: “I’m sure many streamers feel discouraged when their views are low and people give nasty comments. But... if their passion is there, just continue.”
Despite her years-long interest in streaming, it turns out that that isn't her favourite part of being an MSI ambassador. Instead, it is the giveaways she does that earns that title. The reason: “I get to give away all these cute little dragons!”