Published: 14:05, October 2, 2023 | Updated: 14:57, October 2, 2023
Retro gamers roll back the years
By He Qi in Hangzhou

Kim Gwan-woo of South Korea, the gold medalist in Street Fighter V: Champions Edition, is flanked by silver medalist Hsiang Yu-lin and bronze medalist Lin Li-wei, both of Chinese Taipei, last Thursday. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

With esports included in the Hangzhou Asian Games in a bid to appeal to a younger audience, it was somewhat ironic that South Korea's first gold in the event was won by a 44-year-old playing a game that has been around since 1987.

On Thursday, Kim Gwan-woo defeated another 44-year-old, Hsiang Yu-lin, representing Chinese Taipei, in the Street Fighter V: Champions Edition gold-medal match at China Hangzhou Esports Centre.

The final proved that there's no age limit to esports success, with fans enthralled by the classic action. Street Fighter first appeared as an arcade game nearly 40 years ago and has been a mainstay of the console and PC markets ever since.

Newly crowned champion Kim has been playing the game since childhood, with the character Vega resonating with him the most.

"I've loved playing games since I was a kid, and I particularly like combat games like this. I also like the character, Vega. He is handsome, he looks like me, he wears a mask, the weapons he uses are very personal, and his fast movements are really cool," said Kim, who made all his experience count in a 4-3 victory in the final.

Many younger gamers argue that physical fitness impacts performance levels in esports. However, in the Street Fighter tourney, Kim said experience mattered more.

"This competition does not have much to do with physical fitness, and the physical differences of players have barely any effect on the match. Having success at my age shows that I can use my experience to exert my strength at these big events."

Runner-up Hsiang admitted he was disappointed not to get his hands on gold after being edged by his Korean rival in the back-and-forth contest.

"Of course, I'm not satisfied. I feel some regret, but in my heart I also feel happy for anyone who wins a medal," said Hsiang, who beat teammate Lin Li-wei in the semifinals.

Hsiang revealed that struggles in his personal life had spurred him on to compete in esports in middle age.

"My father passed away early in my life, and I have been working and living alone since I was 18. I have encountered many difficulties, but esports has always helped me solve them," he said.

"When I found out that I could go abroad to compete as a professional player, I felt like I could pave the way for other players from Chinese Taipei. It was difficult, but I knew that if I kept pushing, I could help those coming after me and open more opportunities for them."

Kim's triumph is one of two esports gold medals for South Korea so far at this year's Asiad. On Friday, the Koreans won the League of Legends final against Chinese Taipei 2-0. On Wednesday, Kwak Jun-hyouk claimed the country's first Asian Games esports medal — a bronze in the EA Sports FC Online event.