It was midnight. Heinrich Picar secretly booked a car to take him away from home and toward his dream of working in esports. Broke and heartbroken with only a large garbage bag filled with clothes and personal items, he held back tears as he ran away from home and plunged into the unknown.
Ever since he was 10 years old, Heinrich Picar, aka Heins, had only one dream: to become a pro player and streamer. That was a decade ago when esports was virtually unheard of in the Philippines. Ten years later, he would prove everyone wrong about esports: You don’t need to be a pro player to have a successful career in this industry. Heins has worked in four esports teams in the Philippines. He has closely worked with famous players, liaised with brands, and grew the social media pages of talents and influencers. Now, he’s a digital marketing associate for ECHO, one of the top esports teams in the region. He also runs his eponymous Facebook page Heins, in which he live-streams his gameplays and other content. But before he got to where he is now, Heins survived a hell he told nobody about. This is his story.
Before running away from home, Heins was already working for someone in esports. He formed a friendship with a famous Singaporean streamer whom he always watched.
“I was just an avid gamer of Mobile Legends and other types of games,” Heinrich Picar tells Esquire Philippines. “I was not a very studious student but I’m also not a failure. It was really my dream to become a pro player but my parents did not really support my passion. Despite that, I did not let it stop me from what I wanted to do. Before I was able to enter the esports industry, I handled a few personalities.”
“There was this one personality from Singapore whom I helped. He had a really bad public reputation or image. He’s famous in the Mobile Legends community because he’s a world record holder, and I was a huge fan because he’s the top 1 player in the world leaderboards in the game.
One day, the player looked for a moderator and Heins applied. “I grew his Facebook page from zero to 50,000 followers in two months,” Heins told Esquire, as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
That figure—50,000 organic followers in two months—is something many brands would covet and not even achieve in a year. But Heins had no idea what this feat meant.
“I also looped him with big esports personalities and streamers here in the Philippines,” he adds.
It was the start of his career working behind the scenes in esports. But it was also his first heartbreak in the industry.
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Heins eventually helped the player enter into partnerships and collaborations with sponsors and other streamers and gamers. "I was guided and coached about the esports industry and its workings by Carlo Giron, whom I followed on social media."
But when the Singaporean player no longer needed Heins, he was cut off.
“I really got depressed after that because I worked very hard for him. For six months working with him 24/7, I was only getting paid P1,000 to P2,000 a month. I wasn’t thinking so much about money at that time because that was my passion. That’s also the time when I found what I really wanted to do in life.”
For half a year, Heins went through depression. But something brought back a little hope in his journey. He discovered Work Auster Force, a pro team that became a champion in the qualifiers for the Mobile Legends Professional League (MPL) Season 7 in the Philippines. It was Work Auster Force that opened the door to Heins’ journey in the professional esports scene. And one particular pro player held that door open for him: 3MarTzy.
Heins applied for the post of page editor for Frediemar “3MarTzy” Serafico, who was then a pro player at Work Auster Force. Heins showed Serafico the work he’s done for his previous client from Singapore.
“He replied! I was so surprised. He looped me in with the team manager, Merlyrose Bagting, and I was interviewed. They hired me as the page editor of 3MarTzy.” Because of his abilities, Heins received an email two weeks later, promoting him as the team’s social media manager.
Heins did not know how to react. He was 19 years old, still studying in school, and was being offered a job many college graduates would kill for—he would be working for a top esports team whose players are some of the most talented in the country. There was a moment of disbelief coming from the fact that he hasn’t graduated from college and that no one has taught him anything about social media management. Everything he knew, he learned on his own.
“The world stopped spinning for a second. The pressure was real, this was not a joke. I would be handling the entire social media presence of not just one player, but the whole team!”
Within three days, Heins formed and directed his own team of page editors, social media analysts, copywriters, and graphic artists. It would seem like a tough job for an undergraduate to handle, but the real struggle was not about work.
"Ang pinaka naging struggle ko sa esports was the lack of support from family but I completely understand them and could not blame them since they wanted me to prioritize my studies, and esports was still unheard of at that time."
Months passed and Heins ran away from home because of arguments with his family about his chosen path.
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“Hindi ko na kinaya. Naglayas ako.”
Running away from home was a very huge risk Heins took. He had no connections, no money, and no support from anyone. All he had was a burning passion for esports and gaming.
For a lot of Filipino parents, working in esports is not considered a serious career, and Heins’s family was opposed to their eldest son working in the industry. There was a time when they likened it to “playing games.” But Heins does not blame his family for thinking that way.
“It was past midnight and I had this big garbage bag filled with my stuff. Dumating yung Grab, tumakas ako habang nakatalikod si Papa. Sobrang heartbroken ako noon because I didn’t want to leave lalong lalo na si Dad kasi he's been bedridden for two years at sinusuportahan naman niya ako kahit papaano.” It was the most heartbreaking day for Heinrich Picar. He can even remember the exact date: June 10th, 2019.
Leaving his family for esports was such a huge risk and a turning point for Heins not knowing the future of the path he took.
“What if tama pala yung parents ko at mag-fail ako sa esports? That’s what was running through my mind. Should I stay or should I go? That was the turning point of my life.”
Not long after running away from home, Heins received a salary raise. He was managing a team of eight people. “I am really grateful to Gen Vincent Fabro and Lilac Tayaban who recommended me to TNC, and Eric Redulfin for trusting our team to run TNC’s social media during their debut season, and for providing me with sidelines even after I left. I will not forget Merlyrose Bagting, who saw something in me I never saw for myself, took a chance on me, and promoted me.”
But because of schoolwork and the pandemic, Heins could not pursue a full-time career at TNC and had to leave. He was supporting his own schooling taking online classes while doing part-time jobs for other streamers. He was living off an income of P6,000 a month. Every day, he would eat lugaw sold for P30 just to make ends meet and save enough to pay his own tuition fee at school. It was a difficult time for esports.