photo by Adam Patrick Murray

Last December, life was pretty good for Cheryll “ZomgACrayon” Wong.

 “It’s such a humbling experience and nerve wrecking at the same time…”

The native Malaysian was preparing to graduate as a political science major from Arizona State University, and she was looking forward to getting a job and staying in the United States. She was one of the top-ranked female League of Legends players in North America, and her elite gaming skills had landed her a spot on the professional gaming team, LT3.

LT3 founder Kat Gunn had ambitions for a League Of Legends team, with Wong playing a critical role.

Life was indeed good, and the only thing Wong could really complain about was that her gaming laptop was getting old and would need to be replaced soon.

After graduation though, Wong got hit with one setback after another. A weak economy in the U.S. meant that Wong struggled to find a job, a challenge she wasn’t able to overcome. With no employment, Wong wasn’t able to get a new visa, so she packed her bags, said her goodbyes, and headed back to Malaysia.

Back in her home country, Wong’s IP address no longer qualified her for the North American League of Legends server, and this highly rated player would have to start all over from level one. Only after grinding through 29 more levels would she then find herself at the bottom tier of ranked play.

To make matters worse, Wong was isolated from Gunn and the rest of the LT3 team. “It just frustrates me that I’m not there to physically talk to her since I am supposed to recruit LoL players and am in charge of the LoL division,” Wong says.

Then Wong’s old laptop died.

photo by Adam Patrick Murray

Most people would find themselves overwhelmed by a cascade of problems like this, but Cheryll Wong has never been one to give up easily. She’s determined to keep pushing forward, and she has the sort of positive attitude to know that as long as life keeps throwing her lemons, at least she’ll never go thirsty.

Wong got her start in gaming playing Counter-Strike and other first-person shooters, but she really found her calling with the rise of the MOBA genre. While she has played some Heroes of Newerth, she’s been playing League of Legends since beta, and that is the game at which that she’s been most competitive. She also admits she’s slightly addicted to the game.

While not having a job isn’t ideal, Wong has been taking advantage of the extra time to play more League of Legends. She approaches her gaming almost like a job, playing for “normal work hours like 8 hours a day, but without rest on the weekends,” she says. “I’m an addict. I told you, it’s my life. Depending on where I get a job at, it may change with priorities, but time spent on the game will definitely undergo some priority shifts as well.”

Some people might view a full day of video gaming to be a frivolous endeavor, but Wong’s days are serious training sessions filled with more than just casual play. “Usually, I play normal games and try out different characters. Experiment with different builds. Read guides and tweak it a little to fit my play style. I don’t think it’s just limited to one aspect. I think being a competitive gamer is akin to being a scientist. You isolate certain variables and manipulate others and see what works for you.”

Wong has needed some extra gaming time recently, as she’s had to fully level-up her League of Legends account on the Malaysian server, Garena, so she can start playing ranked games again. While many players would be devastated by having to start the game all over, Wong has viewed this challenge with a determined and positive outlook. “I am happy to be able to start from the ground up again to be able to make the climb to Level 30 on the Garena Server,” she says. “It’s such a humbling experience and nerve wrecking at the same time. I would never had thought that I would rage more on the Garena server than the NA server, but it happened and am learning to control myself. I’ve just reached Level 30 a couple of weeks ago and now I am starting my ranked games, so I’m hoping to able to get a team going here while I’m still in Asia. So, fingers crossed at the mean time for both my competitive career and making my way back to the states.”

To get back to the U.S., Wong would need a job that could sponsor a work visa for her. “I was very keen and hopeful in getting a job in the U.S. before I left,” she says, “but the fire kinda fizzled a little as I went through a whirlwind of events in the past couple of months. It’s not necessarily a negative thing as I’ve gained a new perspective to what is concrete and what is not.”

“Having said that,” she continues, “I still want to come back and miss the states very much,” says Wong. “It’s funny that I got ‘homesick’ when I got back to Malaysia considering I’m born and bred here. I guess five years can really make a difference.”

The job markets in Malaysia and Singapore are slightly better for Wong, and she could find work in the shipping sector there. While Wong is smart enough not to flat out dismiss any opportunities for employment, she doesn’t want to play things too safely and miss out on her dreams. “I feel my passion really lies in the gaming and tech industry so I want to test the waters and give it a shot before I make any final decisions,” she says.

“LT3 stands for ‘for the love of the game’ and to go against that is to violate our principles.”

To stay true to that passion she’s applying to Riot, the parent company of League of Legends, in the US in the hopes she might return, but if that doesn’t work out, she’s also trying to work for Garena, Riot’s Singapore/Malaysian counterpart.

While Wong works to resolve her employment status and visa, she still has the problem of not having a laptop necessary for staying at the top of her game. She’s been relying on her family to help her out, borrowing her mother’s laptop or stealing time on her brother’s computer. “They work well for my gaming needs which is essentially League of Legends, but I’m sure everyone agrees that it is convenient to have your own computer especially when you’re using it full time,” she says. “For me, it’s like a security blanket that functions as both my play and work station.”

Ideally, Wong would love to get a sponsor who could help her out with her computer needs so she can focus on gaming. LT3 recently picked up sponsorship from Alienware, but not all members of the team have been able to fully realize that sponsorship yet. “Hopefully I get in touch with Kat soon… and maybe she can help me with my gaming needs,” she says, reiterating some of the problems she’s been having keeping in touch with the LT3 captain now that she’s no longer stateside. “But she and Jessica Nigri are enjoying their Alienware goodies at the moment and I am jelly!”

While Wong waits to see if anything will happen with Alienware, she is quick to show her appreciation for LT3’s main sponsor Mad Catz. “Mad Catz was our first sponsor and still is. They have continuously showered Team LT3 and our fans with their generosity, spanning from products to time at events. It has made a world of a difference.”

Wong realizes how important sponsorship is, and she is extremely grateful to Mad Catz. “The public doesn’t give you proper recognition and don’t take notice of you when you’re just a lone ranger,” she says. “Having a sponsor automatically bumps you up to the level of having a Trump card. Sponsors like Mad Catz and Alienware are able to provide us with great products to maximize our gaming performance and experience, but at the same time Team LT3 as brand ambassadors can benefit from quality assurance. As you know, sponsors shy away from teams that can’t deliver and Team LT3 can. Be it in the eSports arena or Cosplay.”

As LT3 continues to expand into eSports, they have been looking to expand their roster of League of Legends players to compliment Wong and her skills. Wong says, “I do know that putting together a LoL team is one of [Kat Gunn’s] priorities in LT3 since the MOBA genre is such a huge thing and would be a smart investment.”

LT3 just added two new members to their ranks, both of whom are League of Legends players. Joining Wong on the team are Camille Petrai and Jessica Pucca. “I’ve interacted with them on a few occasions through twitter, though not as much as I would like to,” Wong says. “They are extremely nice and down to earth. I’m confident they are easy to get along with. In terms of a gaming team experience, I am hopeful they are just as easy to get along, but I know that those two can be separate things based on past experiences. You could be the nicest person in the world, but a team needs synergy and sometimes personalities can clash and you have different ideas on what strategy works. It’s a whole different ballgame. I’m sure we will be able to manage it based on our portfolio of experiences though.”

Wong has more than enough difficulties and challenges in her life right now, but recently she’s also had to deal with harsh criticism from Internet users that have a distorted view on female gamers. Wong, like many other LT3 members, also does some modeling in addition to gaming. However, some people didn’t approve of one of Wong’s pictures, and they attacked her for it on the LT3 Facebook page. Wong fought back, proclaiming her passion for gaming and demanding that female gamers and cosplayers not be judged purely by their physical appearance.

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“This is rather embarrassing, because I didn’t think I would feel so strongly about comments made regarding my modeling pictures since I don’t do shots that are too risqué,” Wong says about the incident. “I basically had the ‘stereotypical gamer girl’ cord in my mouth thing and an individual who follows us on the LT3 page decided to post a picture that differentiated real gamers from poseurs (girl nibbling on controller vs girl engrossed in game). It hit a nerve, because gaming is an essential part of my core that isn’t easily detached and to have someone judge me because of a photo-shoot picture is plain rude.”

Wong, like the rest of LT3, is very passionate about gaming, and she is quick to point out that although all of the LT3 members are beautiful, her team is not looking for just another pretty face to add to their roster. “I believe we recruit girls by skills and personality and not by their physical appearance,” she says. “It’s a plus to have them be physically attractive, but to have an empty shell is not something we would stand for. LT3 stands for ‘for the love of the game’ and to go against that is to violate our principles.”

While the Internet criticism frustrated Wong, she continues to stay positive and has chosen to grow from the experience. “Alas, this behaviour is part and parcel of life. People are always going to judge based on superficial traits. I thank that person for evoking those raw feelings and allowing me to reflect and express myself.” 

Wong has battled through a lot in the last few months, and while her own determination and positive attitude have carried her far, she knows she can’t do everything alone. She’s deeply grateful to everyone who has helped her and continues to support her as she moves forward. “Thank you Mad Catz and Alienware for your generosity and opening many doors of opportunities for us and providing our fan base with products to enjoy. Thank you LT3 and Kat for having me on this team and sharing these wonderful experiences.” She then adds, “of course, none of this would be possible without our followers, supporters, fans or whatever you call yourselves. Your time is of great importance to us and it is with much regret that we can’t personally thank you all one by one, but know that your presence is felt!”

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photo by Adam Patrick Murray

That last group of people is very dear to Wong. “I enjoy interacting with people who follow me. I avoid calling them fans, because it seems a bit big headed to call them that. I have quickly become friends with a lot of them and they have been a joy to speak to. A lot of personalities fail to realize that people who support you have so much to offer to you in terms of personal growth. I urge anyone who has a following (be it small or big) to spend more one on one time with people who are passionate about you and are supportive of your aspirations. They give you a lot of inspiration and provide a stable footing on where you’re at more than you know!”

Cheryll “ZomgACrayon” Wong is an elite League of Legends player who has an overwhelming passion for gaming. Despite all of her difficulties with finding a job, getting back to the United States, restarting her rankings on a new server, dealing with belligerent internet trolls, and desperately trying to find a gaming laptop sponsor, Wong has always remained resolute about accomplishing her goals and optimistic about her future.

Wong knows firsthand that life isn’t always easy, but she also knows what she’s most passionate about. She says, “I offer you Steve Jobs’s quote, ‘Love what you do. Keep Looking. Don’t settle.’ and ‘Stay hungry, Stay foolish.’ I think it’s important to be realistic, but it’s just as important to know what you want and strive for it.”

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