Asian Games is just a few months away, are things fast enough for Indian Esports? Lokesh Suji might have some answers

Many countries that take part in the Asian Games already recognise Esports as a sport, however, for India, the case is a little different.

Lokesh Suji in a file photo.

Asian Games 2022 is just a few months away and the possibility of having Esports as an event are seemingly high for the Asia-wide event. Many countries that take part in the Asian Games already recognise Esports as a sport, however, for India, the case is a little different. In a parliamentary session that was held at the beginning of the month, a tabled answer presented by the then Sports Minister talked about the growth of Esports in the country. They also acknowledged that they know that Esports is different from Fantasy and online gambling, which is itself a big achievement. However, if that is good enough for the Esports scene in India, only time can tell. got in conversation with Lokesh Suji, Director, Esports Federation of Indian, and talked about his expectations from the government and what should happen in the run-up to the Asian Games.

The parliamentary session had a tabled reply about Esports and its inclusion in the Olympics. What do you expect in the near future?

You know, the good thing about the tabled responses is that they have clearly demarcated that Esports is different from gambling. Unfortunately in India, all of these big fancy fantasy leagues are considered Esports in India. The positive thing that has happened for Esports is that the Ministry of Sports has given that clarity. When you go and talk to other ministries, they often confuse it with playing a fantasy sport of rummy or poker online. That is a very good thing that the ministry has clarified. The good thing is also that they have acknowledged the growth of Esports in the country. 

What is getting better for Esports is that it might get included in the Asian Games. If India has to participate in the Asian games, things should start moving very quickly. I don’t have a time frame for all of this, but I think we have give and take a year for everything, whether it is the identification of the teams, players depending on the game title. It is only because game titles have not been finalised yet. But as and when they do get finalised, we quickly have to finalise that as well. 

There has to be set protocols to recognise esports as an official sport, and people have to be educated about esports as more than just battle royale formats if they have to consider the Olympics. How do you think ESFI could help in that? 

This change effectively has to come at the IOC level and the Indian government doesn’t have a lot of say in it. It largely follows what the IOC says. Having said so, if we look at other Esports organisations that are recognised by their respective bodies of their countries, there is nothing specific there also that says Esports would only include games like clash royale or games that don’t have guns or non-violent games. 

One thing that we need to understand is that people in the sporting world is slowly and gradually coming to terms with the fact that Esports is a sport. As and when the OC and OA recognise the same, gradually they will come to terms with it. Surely, this will not happen overnight, and there is no time frame to it. It took them time to recognise Esports as a sport, and it could take time for them to recognise and accommodate battle royale into esports and Olympics as well. It is a journey and the good thing about this journey is that we are moving at a comparatively fast pace from other sports who are still struggling to get into the Olympic movement.

Before Asian Games address this issue

Esports is a common field for all male and female athletes. However, in India, many female athletes face a lot of hate and toxicity. If the audiences’ favorite team loses because of a girl gamer, a girl gamer is faced with n number of abuses because she is a girl. However, boys are not subjected to abuses to such a great extent. Before we step into the world wide exposure, at home we need to address these.

Besides all of this, there is still an issue with the esports world– the inclusion of women and their acceptance in the industry. Do you think there should be a protocol for women’s safety in the esports world and actions against trolls who abuse them, should they be adequately reprimanded? 

Toxicity is something we need to address, not just in India, but worldwide. People don’t become toxic because they just want to be, but by virtue of where things stand, our Esports athletes have a very young audience and they are not that mature. They can just sit behind their screens, with a pseudonym. That is a problem, and is largely a cyberbullying problem. And in the case of female athletes, it is on the larger side because people cross the boundaries of language. Toxicity is always there. There is some sort of decency that should be maintained. It is not that everyone wants to abuse female players. There is only a certain number of people who have that mindset that they want to hide behind those names and identities. Checks and balances are there but it can not be that easy because we are a community of large numbers of players in India. This is something that needs to be addressed, and it is on top of our agenda, because for us even identifying who this person is, and then reprimanding him, we need a lot of support from the game developers also.

As of today, the game developers have the policy of reporting abuse, and the easiest way to do it is by reporting the person in-game. Thankfully, now that we have a lot of technology on our side, one can record the abusive player, along with his in-game name, and then just write a mail to the developer asking them to block the person’s ID. That is the best solution. As a federation, we will have a defined clause for this, and will definitely penalise the person under the law.

Sportslumo Desk

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