Esports: Will India make it an Official Sport?

Esports has been recognised as an official sport in many countries across the globe, including Pakistan. Is India going to be next in line?

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"Esports could potentially outrun Cricket in India"

In January 2021, Pakistan recognised esports as an official and regular sport.

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Fawad Hussain, even tweeted:

“If you are interested in video games, get ready, and new opportunities are waiting for you.”

Now that Pakistan has made this step, many wonder whether India will follow.

What is esports?

Electronic Sports Federation of India (ESFI) Director Lokesh Suji explained that “esports could potentially outrun Cricket in India”.

However, the country still lacks the right mentality to promote competitive gaming as a sport on its own.

Lokesh Suji defined it as the vastest sport in India, and further explained the main differences between esports and casual gaming by saying:

“Esports is a sport recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

“Esports is solely dependent on your own skill.

“You cannot win in a video game competition of FIFA (a video game series based on football) by chance. You need to have the skill to win.”

Games like Teen Patti, Rummy, Poker and Fantasy Sports are considered igames by Suji, as they are more chance-based titles.

Competitions can be online and offline.

The games are multiplayer games, where you “form up teams and compete/play online”.

The most common video game genres associated with esports are:

  • Real-time Strategy (RTS)
  • Fighting
  • First-person Shooter (FPS)Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)

Some games that can be classified as esports are Defense of the Ancients (DOTA2), League of Legends (LoL), CounterStrike, Call of Duty, FIFA, Hearthstone, Starcraft and Vainglory.

These tournaments are broadcasted both online and on TV and have commentary as well.

India is home to some of the world’s best players and even won the Bronze Medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta, in 2018.

Why India still fails to recognise it as a sport?

Many obstacles got in the way, putting off its recognition as a real sport.

The first issue is the social stigma. In India, there is still a huge confusion between esports and gaming.

Suji explains:

“Comparing our esports athletes with people playing fantasy sports or rummy is where the problem germinates.”

Athletes and any other involved party must pay a 35% entertainment tax, instead of the sports tax, which is 20%.

On this matter, Suji added:

“This itself hampers the growth of Esports in our country in a significant manner, as players don’t get the benefits of sports quota like other sports.”

He also urged the Government to recognise esports as a real sport to increase parental support, as a “lot of talent dies early due to lack of parental support”.

The ESFI is a non-profit organisation established to promote the growth of esports in India.

ESFI is preparing for future tournaments including the Asian Games 2022.

It is also an official member of the International Esports Federation (IESF), Global Esports Federation (GEF) and Asian Esports Federation (AESF).

The NGO is also working closely with other National Esports Federations of South Asia and even plans to launch the South Asia Championship, which will give athletes more international exposure.

Competitive gaming looks to be heading in the direction of being recognised as an official sport, however, there are still obstacles.

Manisha is a South Asian Studies graduate with a passion for writing and foreign languages. She loves reading about South Asian history and speaks five languages. Her motto is: "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."

Image courtesy of: gddcindia's Instagram and esfindia's Instagram