In India, the general notion is that gaming is not a serious career.
Esports in India : From time immemorial, gaming is seen as a pass time. In the mid and late 2010s, a sort of gaming culture grew in India. With kids rushing to cyber cafes and gaming parlours to play with their friends to owning a gaming setup… everything has been like a revolution. The accessibility to the internet and data rates in the late 2010s has played a crucial role as well. Fast forward to 2020, it is March and a lockdown has just been announced in a majority of countries. Along with the lockdown came a huge void of traditional sports being cancelled. Soon, bookmakers saw the growth of gaming, and with it, a world of esports opened. For a younger audience, it was this lockdown that moved them towards gaming, and sponsors came in with tournaments. Globally, this gave the esports industry millions of young consumers.
The global esports market rose from $43 billion to $159 billion from 2019 to 2020 with the Asia-Pacific region having the biggest share. Even though the gaming industry often relies on consumer spending for revenue, one can not deny many found the time to play during the lockdown. Games have become more engaging and tournaments— more approachable.
There has been a huge shift from what was earlier a single investment business to a more lucrative one. Costs of in-game purchases are low, and people can easily afford them, generating more profit for the developer and distributor.
In India, the general notion is that gaming is not a serious career. In times when they plan to introduce esports in Olympics , and have had exhibition matches at the Asian Games level, it would be a little too 1990s to say this. There are esports athletes like Ankit Panth, who have over the years tried their level best to change this very perception.
Ankit Panth has been gaming since the age of 15 or 16, and is currently 31. A Redbull athlete, Panth is also the brand ambassador of Alienware and Intel. However, this journey has not been the easiest for him. He has time and again reiterated that he had to convince his parents a lot, and he had many bills to pay. Panth reiterated that he eventually realised that it was more than just the prize money he could earn by winning tournaments.
This common perception is the same mindset that Indian parents have towards gaming. Panth says, the only way to deal with parents is to make then understand and prove with your hard work that gaming and esport in India can be a career.
One such person is Almaaz Rehman. Just aged 16, Rehman wants to become a full-time competitive player. Rehman used to play the now banned PUBG Mobile at a competitive level. And before the ban on the game was ordered, he had started earning a stipend, too. “We were promised that if we get more trophies, the prize money would be ours. We won many small and mid-level competitions and my parents were more than happy supporting my career choice.”
Rehman says that over the course of the lock down, he had to work a lot on keeping his anger in control. Gamers are notoriously famous for having anger problems. “Stress bohot aata hai if you lose a match. Ranking aur points gir jaate hai…
Rehman says he has had sleepless nights thinking about a game that went bad and costed his team a win. “Mujhe lagta hai that it is very important for everyone to chill. I started meditating the moment I realized it was affecting me mentally.” Rehman’s mother also says that he was a docile child before he got into gaming. However, to live his dream in a field that already has a tarnished image, esports in India needs people like Panth and Rehman.
Kids who enter this field in their late teens or as young adults need to be monitored for mental health issues. Every career is a fine balance of both– parents’ acceptance, and hard and smart work, and Path seems to have found it. Rehman is on the same path.