Asian Games landmark for e-sports fires Olympic dreams

8 months ago 59

NEW DELHI – E-Sports’ debut as a medal event at the Asian Games starting this week will change attitudes and be a promising step towards Olympic recognition at last, gamers and experts say.

Gaming was a demonstration sport at the 2018 Asian Games but gold medals will be up for grabs this time in Hangzhou in seven different games – EA Sports FC, PUBG Mobile, Arena of Valor, Dota 2, League of Legends, Dream Three Kingdoms 2 and Street Fighter V.

For Mayank Prajapati, India’s medal hope in the Street Fighter game, the Asian Games opening on Saturday will mark how far he and e-Sports have come as he recalled how his father would beat him for playing video games.

“I played my first game in the late 1990s at an arcade machine at a market with the two rupees I had,” the 33-year-old said. “It was my first exposure with Street Fighter and I fell in love with the game.

“I got addicted and often lied to my parents, saying ‘I am going for tuition’, but spent hours playing.”

Now a 3D designer, he remembered how his father once tracked him down out playing video games at night.

“I got a lot of scolding... I think I got beaten up,” laughed Prajapati.

His tale is a familiar one among gamers from different countries.

Kim Gwan-woo, who will represent South Korea also in Street Fighter V, said: “My parents absolutely hated me playing video games. But I think they will be very happy if I actually win a medal.”

South Korea, together with hosts China, are expected to be the dominant force in e-Sports at the Games.

There will likely be bumper crowds at the futuristic-looking China Hangzhou E-Sports Centre – a far cry from players slinking off to dingy arcades against their parents’ wishes.

Its inclusion at the Games is a milestone in its quest for recognition as a “real” sport, said Professor Kang of Shingu College, who was one of the first generation of Korean professional gamers.

Lokesh Suji, vice-president of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation, also called the Asian Games a significant step t...

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