The sight of usually four people huddled over their smart phones shouting instructions while trading supernatural blows, slaying dragons, and invading enemy bases is something that we come across all too often these days.
With the proliferation of mobile devices and technology being constantly upgraded within smaller and smaller hardware, the number of people getting into more than casual gaming is rising beyond anything seen before. This is also being helped by the increasing penetration of high speed internet into previously remote places.
While the gaming industry’s attempts to legitimize competitive gaming as a true sport had drawn flak from most quarters, over the past few years, the financial and commercial boom associated with the industry has made the establishment take notice.
Competitive video gaming or e-Sports is making its first ever appearance at a major multi-sport event this year at the ongoing Asian Games in Jakarta. Though tagged as an exhibition event—meaning medals won here won’t be added to the official medal tally—competitive gaming’s inclusion in the Asian Games alone is a step towards legitimacy.
The eSports competition will continue till August 31, featuring titles like Tencent’s Arena of Valor, League of Legends and Clash Royale; Activision Blizzard’s Hearthstone and Starcraft II and Konami Holding’s Pro Evolution Soccer.
India is also hitching a ride on the competitive gaming boat, sending a nine member contingent. While still news to the genre and still light years away from top Southeast Asian countries, the following is on the rise, with mushrooming ‘gaming houses’ and close to Rs400 Crore being invested in the last couple of years.
Closer home in Nagaland as well, the gaming culture among the youth, now a couple of generations old, has always been strong. This was never seen as anything productive by mainstream Naga society, but an uncanny rebellious streak among many Naga youths in the last decade has ensured that a gaming subculture persists. And it has been given even more impetus, courtesy the reasons cited before.
Meanwhile, the stigma associated with the gaming culture is a world-wide phenomenon, and particularly in places like Nagaland where career options are expected to be in line with accepted norms.
Furthermore, even as competitive gaming receives a boost towards legitimacy, debates continue to rage as to whether it is a true sport. E-gamers do not fit our traditional representations of an athlete, yet they undergo tremendous physical and mental stress, with the sport demanding 10-12 hours of gameplay a day as practice.
And while the gaming industry seems to be winning these debates now, there is still a long way to go. Social idiosyncrasies aside, the realities of making it big in a sport where only the top players in the world are able to live off of playing games also needs to be realized.
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