Has e-sports in India benefitted from Kerala’s football World Cup obsession?
A few years ago, Brazilian footballer and Puskas award-winner Wendell Lira shocked the world when he quit the game to become a professional FIFA gamer! Such is the allure of electronic sports (or e-sports), a global phenomenon which involves playing video games at a competitive level. Even renowned football clubs like AS Roma and Manchester City have jumped on the bandwagon and formed their own official e-sports squads.
In 2017, a global tournament for a game called DOTA 2, had a prize pool of `1,68,74,37,382—which is almost 24 times more when compared to the `7 crore that top-tier Indian cricketers officially receive from BCCI annually.
Presently, in an attempt to tap into the World Cup euphoria that has engulfed flex-totting Malayalis, an e-sports organisation called LudusPro recently wrapped up the Kerala-qualifiers of the biggest FIFA e-tournament in India.
“We hope to provide an ecosystem for pro gamers to help them build their skills. Even though e-sports is still in its nascent stages in Kerala, our FIFA All-Stars Showdown, featuring rewards worth `4.5 lakh, has generated a fair amount of interest in the region,” shares LudusPro co-founder Abhishek B.
For many of us, video games, like books, are an escape from the harsh realities of life. Although gaming would seem isolatory to the uninitiated, MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games require intense interaction to create strategies.
“When done right, gaming can improve social interactivity, impromptu decision-making, and the ability to strategise. All of which are skills that can be put to good use in real life,” claims Jathin Arshad, a Kochi-based professional gamer and verified streamer on Twitch.
With cash-winning apps equivalent to PlayX, popular gaming lounges like Woot, and e-sports events across Kozhikode, Kollam, and Thiruvananthapuram, professional players seem to be finding more opportunities. This year, MTV showcased U Cypher Championship, India’s first televised e-sports tournament.
“Unlike a few years ago, the taboo around competitive gaming is slowly fading,” shares Kerala-based startup Immortal Gamers’ co-founder Nikhil P. He concludes, “It’s easier to find major sponsors for gaming events. In fact, the World Cup edition of our upcoming two-day FIFA tournament (IGFC) is being held at Lulu, one of India’s biggest malls.”
Gaming has been seeping into the socio-cultural aspects of our lives for decades. One of the planet’s biggest toy brands, Pokemon, is based on a ’90s game.
The pop-culture influence of 8-bit games from the ’80s such as Super Mario Bros is insurmountable. “The type of video games will change over the years, but it’s obvious that e-sports is here to stay,” states 22-year-old Kochiite Nihal M P, a National-level FIFA gamer.
IGFC World Cup edition starts on June 30.