India clinched the bronze medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Esports Championships earlier this month, which was being held in Birmingham, England, alongside the Commonwealth Games. Esports has slowly garnered traction in India over the last few years, as playing video games has evolved from being just a casual time pass to a serious skill that can not only earn you money (by streaming or participating in tourneys) but also help your country earn laurels on global platforms such as the CWG or the upcoming Asian Games. In the latter event, esports has already been recognised as a medal sport. So, should India now recognise esports as a regular sport?
India on the global esports stage
India managed to win Bronze in DOTA 2 at the inaugural Commonwealth Esports Championships 2022, after defeating New Zealand.
Three games were featured in the tournament — eFootball, DOTA 2, and Rocket League. The Indian esports contingent reserved its berth for the last two games after emerging victorious in the South Asian regional qualifiers. While India won bronze in DOTA 2, the Rocket League team got ousted after losing to Canada 3-0 in a best-of-five series in the first group stage match.
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As mentioned earlier, esports will be recognised as a medal sport at the upcoming Asian Games, which will be held next year in Hangzhou, China, from September 23 to October 8. Earlier, at Asian Games 2018, esports was showcased as a demonstration title, where India’s Tirth Mehta won bronze in Hearthstone.
At the Asian Games 2022, India will be represented in five games — FIFA 22 (represented by Charanjot Singh and Karman Singh Tikka), Street Fighter V (represented by Mayank Prajapati and Ayan Biswas), Hearthstone (Shikhar Choudhary and Karthik Varma), League of Legends (Akshaj Shenoy (captain), Samarth Arvind Trivedi, Mihir Ranjan, Aditya Selvaraj, Aakash Shandilya, and Sanindhya Malik), and last but not the least, DOTA 2 (Moin Ejaz (captain), Krish, Abhishek Yadav, Ketan Goyal, Darshan, and Shubham Goli).
How India recognising esports as an official sport will help the industry
Ejaz, the DOTA 2 captain who led his team to a bronze win at the Commonwealth event, said that esports athletes “need their due recognition and support from our government.” He added that the Centre should “help us in providing better facilities, coaches, health physios and all other things which other sports athletes get, as getting a medal for the country need proper support.”
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FIFA 22 athlete Singh said that an official recognition “can lead to esports having a proper framework, facilities, and opportunities for everyone. This will automatically lead to the growth of the esports industry as well. More athletes would want to join in and want to represent the country at global stages.”
“It will definitely help the players get more exposure and all the support players need from the government and from their family itself,” said Street Fighter V athlete Prajapati. “Getting the right infrastructure and hardware is one of the most important aspects of preparing for the Asian Games. Players will show more dedication toward the games which will definitely give us top results in upcoming games too. We are already doing so much better and this would definitely be a big step for esports athletes.”
“The potential of Indian esports and our athletes cannot be ignored and its recognition becomes more critical before the Asian Games 2022, this will open up doors for investments and opportunities which will lead to training and skill development of our athletes,” said Esports Federation of India Director and Asian Esports Federation Vice President Lokesh Suji.
Rohit Jagasia, Founder and CEO of talent platform Revenant Esports, said that in order to make the industry more aligned, “There should be information shared and communication between the government and stakeholders who have been investing in the esports ecosystem in India, including athletes and organisations.”
“In order to have a healthy ecosystem, young athletes should also be given education in order to learn about the legal and financial nitty-gritty of esports apart from the basic necessities of training, financial support, as well as mental and physical well-being,” Jagasia added.