Esports: What separates online game competitions from gambling, fantasy, common and actual cash video games

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Esports video games are played for competitiveness, fun & recreation with sportsmanship, and not for money.

Esports is a sport recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA). We won a medal in Asian Games’2018 and esports will be a medal sport in Asian Games’22. It’s only in India that people confuse esports with fantasy, rummy, teen patti, RMG, online gaming, betting, and gambling; this confusion is detrimental to the growth of our sport. For the reasons better known to them, we wonder, why they want to be even closely associated, connected, and or linked with esports. Just like any other sport, esports is also a sport, would you ever link these ‘igaming” apps with sports like Kabbadi, Badminton, or cricket? It’s so demeaning for our esports athletes to be looked upon or compared with people who are involved in these igaming apps.

Electronic Sports (esports) are organized “video game” competitions; online and/or offline; for video game genres of traditional sports (football, cricket, etc.), multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), real-time strategy (RTS), fighting & first-person-shooter (FPS); tournaments that provide both live broadcasts of the competition and cash prizes to competitors.

Esports video games are played for competitiveness, fun & recreation, with sportsmanship, and not for money; even if there is no prize money, people will/still play games like FIFA21, Free Fire, etc. Esports athlete competes purely on his talent & skill to determine performance/outcome just like any other sport, and not dependent on any luck ‘or’ chance. Esports is also device agnostic. In fantasy, the outcome depends on the performance of the third person and you have no control to affect the performance or skill of this third-person just like horse race betting; hence carries a decent amount of chance. Teen patti, rummy, poker, gambling, betting, online gaming is purely chance-based. Largely the sole purpose of playing these (igaming) is money. Also note that competing with each other for casual or hyper-casual games is not esports; also, if you are casually playing a game of candy crush, fruit ninja against the machine, that’s also not esports.

The video games are played by kids/youths aged largely from 14-22 years whereas “igaming” the target audience is 26-55 years. Esports is predominantly a physical competition of speed of reactions on the device, your hand needs sync with your mind and should complement each other. Just like any athlete, esports athletes have trained their body and visceral reactions in the competitive environment. Esports involves physical multitasking of 2 or more body parts such as fingers/ hand, mouth/speech, eyes/ sight, and ears/sound.

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Esports athlete’s skills like dribbling and throwing a ball as ingrained into the physicality of the sports do require similar deep internalization while making such moves on video games. Passion, physio-psycho-technical, practice with perspiration & perseverance are the ingredients for a professional esports athlete, just like any other traditional sports athlete.

The esports community wants and requires esports to be recognized by the government “as a sport” in India and not to be distantly linked or associated with the fantasy, rummy, poker, gambling, online gaming, RMG activities; so that esports/esports athletes can be nurtured just like any sport so that we can win more medals for the country and make India proud. ESFI got bronze in Asian Games 2018 and we are confident we will make India the powerhouse for esports.

In recent times the government is also opening up for esports, in 2019, SEPC along with ESFI conducted an international esports championship under the aegis of the Ministry of Industry & Commerce. This was the Indian Government’s first esports championship. Recently on 4th Feb 2021, the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports tabled its reply (unfortunately due to paucity of time, Hon’ble Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju ji could not read out the replies) in Parliament to the starred questions that they identify “e-sports is an emerging platform for the youth population in the country.” and also clarified that “e-sports is different from gaming or igaming and gambling, etc. as former is skill-based while latter are chance-based”.

Lokesh Suji is the Director of Esports Federation of India. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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