When Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “ye wo PUBG wala hai kya?” in response to a concerned mother’s question in a conference with parents and students, the young teens in the audience hooted in support and roared with laughter. While it was really endearing for me to see him acknowledge the presence of an online game, one thing I realised, was that this game is definitely impacting the youth of this country, so much so, that even the Prime Minister knew about it. PUBG Mobile, like so many other online games, is becoming an integral part of our youth’s culture, and has begun offering some really interesting and out-of-the-box career ideas.
These games are a part of E-sports, an industry that has been booming in the United States of America and China ever since 2010. They are team-based, or solo competitive gaming in titles like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), Fortnite, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty and FIFA, among other games that are live-streamed on Twitch, YouTube and other platforms. I remember when this new mobile game came onto the scene in 2018 called PUBG-Mobile. It was a unique, multiplayer, battle-royale experience that required minimal equipment to play. All players needed was a smartphone, and an internet connection. I was intrigued, and curious when I saw it for the first time. I played the game once or twice, and had fun. Little did I know that this game would go on to be played by over 50 million people in the country in the next two years. I too have never stopped playing, and have become part of a global community that plays this game. With cheap internet connections and inexpensive smartphones sold all over India now, people join in everyday. Likewise, games like Fortnite, CS: Go, Call of Duty, Free Fire have expanded, and have created large user bases of their own in India.
Today, these games have competitions all across the country, with teams uniting and playing for prize pools as high as Rs. 1 crore. The gaming has also led to the creation of a new career: streaming. Young streamers like Mortal and Dynamo have used YouTube as their streaming platform for PUBG-M, and have more than 5 million subscribers each. Newer streamers are evolving and joining the industry every day. One of India’s most successful YouTubers, CarryMinati has a gaming channel of his own with more than 6 million subscribers.
Streaming gets you money through two primary channels: ad revenue and SuperChats, which enable users who wish to donate money to streamers do so via YouTube. Another revelation in the Indian Gaming Community came, when international E-sports organisations like Fnatic and Team SoloMid or TSM invested in the E-sports scene here, and now have their own competitive teams and content creators. Indian teams are collaborating with new international organisations from USA and Europe, and get duly paid for their performance and work. E-sports have also led to the creation of newer jobs like sports-casters, the commentators of these games.
One of the biggest changes in the way people saw this industry, came when Mumbai hosted Dreamhack, a festival for online gaming enthusiasts for the first time in 2017. The turnout was amazing, and thus began the growth of this industry in India.
E-sports was widely talked about again when it was included as a medal event in the 2018 Asian Games and India won a bronze medal. In August 2019, Bhubaneswar hosted the FIFA U-19 qualifier esports tournament that saw a participation of over 130 players. Today, India has turned into a favourite destination for game organisers across the world. This can be justified by the sheer existence of big gaming events such as All India Open Esports League, Inter-school technology event organised by Exun Clan, NSG Championship, PUBG Mobile India Series, The Tekken World Tour, and ESL (Electronic Sports League) India Premiership in the country. Gamers like Saransh Jain, Sujay Arasu and Sidd Chandhrana are some of several young players that have represented India in tournaments across the world in FIFA. Some of the other most reckoned names are Ankit “V3nom” Panth who plays Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Krish “Moon” Gupta who plays DOTA-2, and Aditya “Spammy” Singh in Fortnite. The industry is growing at a rapid pace, with more talent joining in every day, and more companies looking to invest in this sector. In 2010, India had a meagre 25 game developers, and today the number stands at 250. This industry in India, is estimated to be worth Rs. 8000 crore in revenue, and has an unlimited storehouse of potential.
One thing I must clarify though; there is a huge difference between gaming, and e-sports. Gaming is considered more of a casual activity, whereas E-sports requires skills and training. You are no less than an athlete; the playing pitch is simply very different from all traditional indoor and outdoor sports. E-sports is a professional sport which involves salaries and specific pools of prize money, not to mention nearly 17-18 hours of practice every day glued to your consoles and mobiles. An e-sports gamer practices and hones his skills for hours in-order to perfect his movements on the keyboard while simultaneously coordinating with team mates. Quoting Akshath Rathee, Managing Director of Nodwin Gaming, one of the biggest companies of the Indian E-sports community:
“In a typical e-sports game, a gamer clicks the mouse approximately 80-400 times and presses around 9 keys on the keyboard with his left hand 400 times in a minute. He is in an environment where his total responses are over 1,000 times a minute. The physical performance required from an e-sports athlete is not doable by any casual gamer.”
The sport is tough, and to put it into perspective, the Olympics have been in talks of introducing E-sports into their list of sports soon, which shows just how serious the sport is. The Asian games have had some of these games as a part of their line-up, and it won’t be any surprise if the Commonwealth games and the Olympics bring these as official international sports too.
While it does require a lot of dedication to become a successful E-sports athlete, playing these games just for leisure is also a whole lot of fun, and an amazing way to relieve stress. These games have become a support system for a lot of us during the lockdown, myself included. Even if someone is looking to make a career in this, they must know that it is an extremely volatile and tough industry to break into, and requires a LOT of dedication. One of India’s most successful PUBG-M streamers, Mortal has also repeatedly mentioned how important it is to primarily focus on getting your basic education and degrees sorted, before venturing into a field like this. That being said, India’s E-gaming culture is expanding and positively growing day-by-day, and if you’re looking for an unconventional fun new career, E-sports and streaming is an epic choice for you.