Sometimes, in the lucrative world of esports, besides relying on one’s own merit, a decent amount of luck is needed to properly make their way into the scene. Regardless of how it happens, so long as the person seizes the opportunity presented in front of them, they can start a career; one that could ultimately take them to different places and positions whose range can stretch far beyond their predisposed horizons. This was how current Team SoloMid LCS manager Chien-Yu "Kristine” Huang saw her admission into esports.
Through her initial jobs, including selling popcorn as a vendor for public esports events, Huang came into contact with the Hong Kong Esports organization who, after some conversations, offered her a job as the team manager for its many rosters in mid-2016. Despite having an English degree and having little to no managerial experience within the scene, Huang accepted the role and subsequently got to work in learning the ropes of the scene.
For the next six years, Huang gradually ascended the esports ladder and worked in an array of positions — as product marketing, project manager, and head of esports and production. All of which saw her produce prominent events like the Pacific Championship Series, the League of Legends World Championship, the Overwatch League, the VCT, and much more.
Things eventually came full circle for Huang when TSM approached her to see if she would be interested in becoming its newest LCS team manager. Needless to say, being the ardent fan that she’s always been, Huang obliged and soon enough, she boarded the plane to Los Angeles and meet with the rest of the TSM squad in the summer of 2022.
Nearly a year into her latest stint with TSM, Huang has reprised her first role from the days of Hong Kong; managing players with their daily needs and ensuring they can perform at their best during matchdays.
Speaking to BLIX.GG in an exclusive two-part interview, Huang talks in length about her esports career, her early life, how she entered the scene, how she joined TSM, and more.
Kristine’s start and time with Hong Kong Esports
Pedro Romero, BLIX.GG: I want to start off with your personal life before you're with TSM in the present day. As someone who grew up in Taiwan, what was your life like back then before you getting into esports?
Chien-Yu "Kristine” Huang: Taiwan is an environment where people can easily play video games and I found myself as someone who very much liked to play video games since elementary school. It's kind of different from other girls and this is how I grew up. I played video games, watched comics, and liked some boys. My major in college is English so that's how I could speak English. That's because in Taiwan, if you are the people who work in esports, almost none of them could speak English because our education didn't provide us how to speak. We could only read so that's my advantage that let me enter this job.
BLIX: What kind of games did you play back then?
Kristine: I played a lot of AAA games but the first P2P was League of Legends. I played League for about 11 years since Season 2. Before, if I played some other games, I'll maybe just forget it in three years, but with League of Legends I could play for 10 years.
(Credit: Kristine Huang/Instagram)
BLIX: What about League of Legends made you become so attached to it to the point where you devoted 10 years of your life continuously playing it until now?
Kristine: I started playing League as a very normal gamer and I didn't know what esports actually was… I just played with my classmates during summer vacation, and we started playing around when Taipei Assassins got the world championship. That was my first time watching an esports match. I never knew games could have competitions until TPA got the championship. Then I started to know some more on [sic] esports. I started learning more about players, teams, and Riot. I started my first-part time job in Garena in my sophomore year of college. I worked in a venue back then. I sold tickets and popcorn. It was a very basic part-time job, and I spent three years there to watch all the matches.
One day, a member of team management, since he knew I could speak some English, asked me if I'm interested to join [sic] his team after I graduated. I think that was my turning point because, before that time, I never decided what to do after my graduation. I just knew I loved esports and I never thought about what I could do in esports because my major is English. I thought English was useless to do in esports or gaming, but after these 10 years, I found that I was wrong because that's how I am with a foreign team here, the LCS.
BLIX: Talking about that specific team, you worked with Hong Kong Esports, which eventually took the name of Hong Kong Attitude. How did you manage that environment during your time with that team?
Kristine: I took care of the players' stuff except for any in-game related things. This included their daily routine, what time they wake up, their weekly exercise (we had weekly yoga classes), their content schedule, their media schedule, their streaming, and anything related to matches. I dealt with all the paperwork with the league or our headquarters and also other departments like the content and media team.
BLIX: What do you think was the hardest part of your time as the manager of the HKE organization?
Kristine: I think being a female in esports is not that hard anymore. Even I can see lots of females working here but it's still less than males. My position is such that I can be good with everyone such as the company, other departments, sponsors, players, and with the coaching staff. I have to be a good person. Sometimes, it makes me feel like this because I'm like a bridge, right? I'll be the person to pass the message.
It's the hardest part for me, I think, is communication because sometimes we have past companies messaging players or past players messaging to the company. If both sides have a different opinion, it will make it hard for me to make both sides satisfied.
BLIX: You mentioned that there aren't many women working in esports compared to men, did you feel you had to work harder than a man would do in the same position that you're in?
Kristine: I don't think so. I don't think I have to work harder compared to men, because I'm a female, but I will work harder because I love this job.
Working in project management
BLIX: From HKE, you started working in project management and esports marketing. What caused you to switch jobs?
Kristine: I want to start from before I joined a team. It's actually an accident that I became a team manager because my first real job is within the production team in Hong Kong Esports. Like I mentioned, I took a part time job in a venue. Their team manager just resigned, and they urgently needed a team manager to take care of its three teams (the then-LMS [LoL Masters Series] team, its Academy team, and Overwatch team).
The head of esports asked me to transfer to teams. I told him that I wasn't really familiar with how esports teams work, but he still gave me the opportunity to try so I really appreciated this opportunity. Working with the team also made me love esports more because I can see deeper than normal people. I know how players work hard so I want to also work hard to back them up.
After Hong Kong Esports, I went to ASUS-Republic of Gamers and my department actually sponsored teams and also tournaments. That is another angle of how I can see a team work because we could work with them and we ask them to help us. We had an advertisement with SK Telecom and NIP at that time. How I break out is I want to try many opportunities within this industry. I think I am willing to do anything because I really love this job and I am willing to switch sponsors from the LoL format. I want to view the whole esports system from different angles.
(Credit: Kristine Huang/Instagram)
BLIX: You've worked in the Overwatch League, Rift Rivals, the FACEIT Major in London, and also The International among other things on top of League. What do you think was the most difficult event you had to manage?
Kristine: I want to share a very special experience but not the hardest one during that time. It's very normal that I am a Faker (Lee Sang-hyeok) fan and I really respect this player. I know almost every player in LMS or PCS. Maybe we don't know each other, but I know their names, or I know who is him, right? Faker is a person that is really the same even under the stage. I had a very good opportunity where I followed Faker.
We had a team to make a documentary because we worked with SKT by inviting Faker to Beijing and Taipei for two fan meetings. We also did a documentary from the Seoul airport in which we met Faker in the airport. We just recorded everything along the way to Beijing and back to Taipei. I had the opportunity to be very close to this player. We ate dinner and I was with him the whole day. I think it was a very precious opportunity that I can see the reason that a lot of people think he is the greatest in League of Legends.
(Credit: Kristine Huang/Instagram)
BLIX: From project manager, you became the head of esports in production over at Carry Live Co. for around two years. How different was it from being someone from the sidelines and working within a particular project to being the actual head of a company such as the one you worked for?
Kristine: Actually, I'm very lucky. During my career, I'm always appreciative to each of my supervisors. They provided me good opportunities to show my talent. Even if I kept switching my jobs, they all provided me the opportunity to learn and do well. The biggest difference is, in Bilibili, we do pitching. When pitching from the game publisher, if they want to hold tournaments, we write a proposal to get the tournament. I don't need to care about the target because I'm not a manager. I just need to write a project and show it and I just need to manage the budget of my project. After being the head of department, I feel I have to manage all the things.
Actually, the first day when I came aboard Carry Life Co., there was only one person in the department: me. Then I started building the department. I found my supervisor in HKE production, my first supervisor actually. Even though I only worked there for three months, he taught me a lot of things related to production like the hardware, the equipment, the cable, and all the technical things. Then we started building the whole department. I'm the head of department and he is head of production so we just started building a whole department within one and two years and, in the beginning, we had very little [sic] cases that we could take because we didn't have popularity.
We were not even a brand and I was very new to this company. I didn't know how to sell this company or what is advantageous about it so I started hiring people to construct a real well-tracked production team. From then, we have marketing people, designers, content creators, and a well-structured department for a third-party event organization company.
Our interview with Kristine continues in Part 2, where she discusses more about her journey in esports.