Banned game PUBG among Asian Games' 8 eSports medal events
Like every other sport, there will be a national qualifier to get to Hangzhou — the Games will be held there from September 10 - 25.
CHENNAI: Last Wednesday, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) announced eight eSports titles that will be at the Asian Games as medal events. The presence of two of the eight titles, PUBG and Arena of Valor, have caused some confusion to Indian players because the games themselves are banned in India. Both PUBG and Arena of Valor were banned by the Indian government last year under Section A of the Information Technology Act. The government said apps like PUBG was a threat to India's 'sovereignty and integrity' when banning them with 116 other apps.
“(...) mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” the statement, put out by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), had said. Curiously, those two titles specifically say 'Asian Games version' so it may be an edition that may be available to play even in countries that have currently banned the apps.
But there is no clarity yet on what 'Asian Games version' exactly entails. "We are waiting for the official clarity in terms of what shape and the format this would be," Lokesh Suji, director, Esports Federation of India, told this daily. "This is for PUBG and AOV because both are banned in India. Let's wait for the official announcement. We will know our stance once that comes. Now, it will be speculation and I don't want to do that." That announcement will come from the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
While people in India cannot legally play PUBG, the game practically goes by a different name within the borders. It's called 'Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI)'. It debuted in India in July 2021, less than a year after PUBG was banned.
Like every other sport, there will be a national qualifier to get to Hangzhou — the Games will be held there from September 10 - 25. Suji and ESFI are 'working through the process of figuring out the national qualifiers for all the titles'. The best in India will likely have to take part in regional qualifiers from where the winners will advance to China.
One of those who has a chance of making the final eSports contingent is Tirth Mehta. Mehta, who went to the Asian Games in Jakarta, won a 'bronze' in Hearthstone, a card game. It wasn't counted towards the medals tally as it was a demonstration sport then. "Excited that it is one of the titles included for the Asian Games," he told this daily. "I have already begun my preparations and hope I can bag a spot in the side. Even if I myself don't feel all that confident I am pretty sure this is a great chance for one of us to bag a medal."
How do eSports athletes prepare before big events? Ankur Diwakar, who represented India in FIFA at Jakarta 2018, explained. "Different gamers have different strategies. The one I have already followed is simple. I don't play online matches every day. I do spend my time practicing free-kicks, penalties and so on but I do play matches only once every four or five days." The Mumbai-based 30-year-old also doesn't believe in live streaming his games on twitch. "That might mean other gamers might catch onto specific strategies I like to employ. I never stream my matches." His excitement level on FIFA being one of the eight titles is understandable. "Finally, I can tell my mom that I didn't waste my childhood playing the game. Just extremely excited."
The next challenge, though, is to qualify.
Titles (medal events)
Arena of Valor (Asian Games version), Dota 2, Dream Three Kingdoms 2, EA SPORTS FIFA branded soccer games, Hearthstone, League of Legends, PUBG (Asian Games version), Street Fighter V
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