Esports becomes medal event in Asian Games, but challenges aplenty for India

In an ideal world, every eSport should be approached the way individual sports are approached. However, given that eSports in India is still in its infancy, it is unrealistic to expect a comprehensive support.

Anand Krishnaswamy January 13, 2021 10:58:33 IST
Esports becomes medal event in Asian Games, but challenges aplenty for India

Representational image

In what can be considered a landmark event for the gaming industry, the Asian Games in Hangzhou that is scheduled to be held in 2022 will include eSports as a medal event. These medals earned from eSports events will be counted towards the final medal tally of the various countries taking part in the games.

While the 2018 edition of the Asian Games held in Jakarta included eSports, these events were only exhibition ones and as such the medals were not considered a part of the final medal tally.

Given this decision by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) to make it a medal event, the big question that comes to mind is what eSports will be featured and how many of these medals can India win?

As of today, there is no official list that confirms the exacts for the eSports that will be included in the Asian Games. In 2018, a total of six esports were featured - Arena of Valor, League of Legends (LoL), Hearthstone, Starcraft II, Clash Royale, and Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (PES 2018). These games are popular across the world, PES 2018 possibly being the only game that could raise a few eyebrows as it is sometimes considered a less popular alternate to the FIFA franchise of football-based video games.

The second important question is, how many medals are likely to be won by Indians at these eSports events. In 2018, Indian Hearthstone player Tirth Mehta won the bronze medal. Hearthstone is a digital card-based game. Indian players also qualified for Arena of Valor, LoL, Hearthstone, Clash Royale, and PES 2018 in the exhibition event in Jakarta.

Esports becomes medal event in Asian Games but challenges aplenty for India

The Asian Games in Hangzhou that is scheduled to be held in 2022 will include eSports as a medal event. Representational image.

Since 2018 there have been a few changes. For starters, the game Arena of Valor has been banned in India under section 69A of the Information Technology Act. However unfortunate the ban, for the world of competitive eSports, it is likely to make little difference as the Indian team had a rather poor showing last time around. The team qualified for the Asian Games by default as they were the only team registered under the South Asia bracket. All the other teams qualified under other qualification brackets. Indonesia, which was the other country within this bracket, gained a direct qualification as they were hosting the games. The Indian team was defeated in the first round.

The other eSport that could result in medals for India is Clash Royale. In 2018, Karan Manganani of India just fell short of securing the bronze medal.

The Indian government is unlikely to back down from their decision to ban Arena of Valor despite it being a medal event. After claiming the fourth position, Karan Manganani claimed that the lack of support from the government hindered the achievements of the players.

In an ideal world, every eSport should be approached the way individual sports are approached. There is a need for the country to send a support team along with the players. This support team should include medical staff, psychologists, coaches, and analysts.

Given that eSports in India is still in its infancy, it is unrealistic to expect a comprehensive support. The challenges are not purely monetary, there is a fundamental lack of qualified coaches for most eSports today.

Heading into the Asian Games in 2022, it would be more realistic to expect that the players will be provided with the basic support, such as a team principal or manager who is there to take over the logistics in a bid to ensure that players are allowed to focus solely on performing at their peak during the event.

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