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On the cusp of Esports history

Through rapid technology advancements and constant innovation, Esports’ transformation from a niche sub-culture to a global phenomenon has been a pleasant development.
Last Updated : 23 September 2023, 11:34 IST

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Esports gets underway on Sunday at the Hangzhou Asian Games. Out of the seven medal events, fifteen Indian Esports athletes will vie for top honours in four titles, namely Defense of the Ancients 2, FIFA Online 4, League of Legends and Street Fighter V: Champion Edition.

On the back of some stirring displays in the pre-tournament South Asia seeding event in Seoul, Indian Esports athletes look well-placed to clinch medals in the Asian Games.

20-year-old Charanjot Singh, who will be competing in FIFA, bagged a favourable draw by topping the South Asia seeding event for the Games held in Seoul. Karman Singh Tikka finished fifth. Both will begin from the Round of 32 on Sunday, Charanjot plays China's Liu Jiacheng while Karman plays AA Faqeehi from Bahrain.

“I have played in eight to nine international tournaments leading up to this and that might help in not letting the pressure get to me, Charanjot, an AIFF eTigers athlete, said in an interaction with DH.

“I will try and carry the same clear mentality as the seeding event. The aim is getting a medal but will try to have fun as well,” added Charanjot.

The hopes are high in both individual and team events, with the Indian League of Legends team putting up some cracking displays in the build-up.

Akshaj Shenoy leads a team of six, comprising of Samarth Arvind Trivedi, Mihir Ranjan, Aditya Selvaraj, Aakash Shandilya, and Sanindhya Malik.

On his team’s origin and strengths, he says, “One year after I joined the community, I made my own team. I began by scouting out good players who had a similar way of thinking. I showed them my team draft and they seemed excited," Akshaj told DH.

"Once we began, I realised that I have made a huge powerhouse. We have not lost a single tournament in the South Asian scene since. We have a huge amount of co-ordination and cooperation which other teams lack," Akshaj added.

Although Akshaj realises that his team has the capabilities to win gold, he also points out that it will not be easy going up against his gaming idols. As top seeds from the Central and south Asia qualifiers, the Indian League of Legends team are already through to the knockout stages, where opponent scouting will be critical.

“It is an honour, getting an opportunity to represent my country. We know there is a chance of winning a medal. It is a situation of idols turned rivals, so there is a large amount of nervous excitement, but we are aware of our prowess.”

“In a sense if you know what the enemy might pick, it makes things easier for you to play mind-games and gain an advantage. So opponent scouting assumes utmost importance, reveals the St Joseph's College graduate.

After securing direct entry to the quarterfinals, India's League of Legends team will begin their campaign against the winners of Group A on September 27.

India's League of Legends team for the Hangzhou Asian Games (L-R) Sanindhya Malik, Aakash Shandilya, Akshaj Shenoy, Mihir Ranjan and Samarth Trivedi.

India's League of Legends team for the Hangzhou Asian Games (L-R) Sanindhya Malik, Aakash Shandilya, Akshaj Shenoy, Mihir Ranjan and Samarth Trivedi. 

Credit: ESFI

Fifth-seed Mayank Prajapathi is one of two Indian representatives for Street Fighter V, along with sixth seed Ayan Biswas. Prajapathi reveals how he balances being a dad to a two-year-old, a freelance interior designer and an Esports athlete through the support of his family:

"My mother always supported me, she was the one who brought me my first PC. My wife also supports me a lot, she takes care of the baby when I am occupied and she also got me a new pair of headsets.

"I take care of the baby in the morning, do my own work after five and my practice sessions start from 10pm to 2 or 3am, and I tend to sacrifice my sleep," said the 33-year-old from Gurgaon.

On his preparations, Prajapathi has some tricks up his sleeve:

In July (Road to Asian Games), we played a lot of casual games. Although people don’t take these too seriously, you tend to pick up their habits and patterns. Watching videos of these players and how they play in certain situations helps a lot.”

"Another form of preparation is watching character specific things, watching videos and all the data. I pick characters that are technical to play and also prefer characters that are difficult."

"For any gamer, representing your own country in the game that you love is the biggest dream come true. My aim is to win medals for my country and perform my 100% and have no regrets," Prajapathi signed off.

In the Round of 32, Prajapathi plays Saudi's Rajikhan, while Biswas plays Vietnam's KHC Nguyen on September 26.

Darshan Bata, the captain of the Indian DOTA2 team, spoke of the significance of having Esports as an Asian Games medal event and the role of FITGMR:

"We all are really excited to be a part of it. The gaming community overall is very happy with what is happening. This is an eye opener for many people."

"You have to practice a lot, play for years to get this good. It will also spread awareness. FITGMR help us with coaching and strategy. They have also kept meditation sessions for us to clear our minds and reset after every win or loss."

India's team of Bata, Krish Gupta, Abhishek Yadav, Ketan Goyal and Shubham Goli have been drawn in Group A foer DOTA 2, along with Kyrgyzstan and Philippines.

Through rapid technology advancements and constant innovation, Esports’ transformation from a niche sub-culture to a global phenomenon has been a pleasant development. Regardless of the final outcome, the talent on display promises a bright future for Esports in India.

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Published 23 September 2023, 11:34 IST

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