Commonwealth Games: 'An education in what esports actually is'

By Baldeep Chahal and Manish Pandey
Newsbeat reporters

  • Published
Hargun SinghImage source, Contributor handout
Image caption,
Hargun says the rise of Playerunknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) has fuelled the growth of esports in India

"I feel like an athlete representing my country."

For Hargun Singh, the captain of Team India's esports team, the Commonwealth Games is a significant moment.

Competitive gaming is being included as a pilot event at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, though it will have separate branding, medals and organisation.

But there are hopes that esports could become a part of the full programme by the next Games in 2026 .

"This will definitely grow much bigger and bigger in the future," the 19-year-old tells BBC Asian Network.

Hargun feels esports was seen as "taboo" in the Commonwealth Games "because you don't really move around as much" as in a traditional sport.

"But you need to constantly practice for five hours straight, your brain is constantly focused and mental energy is being used."

Media caption,

Dan loves playing FIFA and wants to compete

Data from the Commonwealth Games Federation suggests that 16-24-year-olds are more likely to watch esports tournaments (32%) than traditional sports tournaments (31%), with 44% watching live streams of video games.

Gaming or studies?

In Asian countries, Hargun feels families may not support kids wanting to be part of the esport world.

"You need to balance your studies, play eight hours of the day and study well which can put a lot of pressure on your brain. And constantly staring at the screen," he says.

From his own experience in India, his parents were initially against him being involved in esports even though his grades didn't drop down much.

"But when I won my first big tournament, they were like: 'let's give him a chance'," he says.

"And it's been pretty good after that. They've been really supportive."

Image source, Hargun Singh
Image caption,
Hargun used to play football until he broke his leg and started playing video games

He also feels the margin for error in esports is smaller than in "normal sports", and it should be given greater respect.

"I feel like we put the same amount of hours during the practice [as normal sports]."

Featuring at the Games will be a "huge way forward for people to understand that it's so much bigger than they think it is", according to Shoubna Naika-Taylor, co-founder of the Coventry Crosshairs esports team and lecturer in esports at Coventry College.

'Creating heroes'

"A lot of people think it's just teenagers playing games in their bedroom. But what we've developed is more like a community," she says.

She hopes people "will realise there is a career behind this".

"How do you define sports?" she asks.

"Does it have to be physical? In that case something like snooker can't be classified as a sport."

"Every time something new comes up there will be criticism," she says, adding that she hopes the Games will provide an "education of what esports actually is".

Chester King, chief executive of British eSports and vice president of the Global eSports Federation, says: "You can be any shape, anybody can have disabilities, and you can be playing together as the same team.

"Being a parallel pilots event at the Commonwealth Games. It just identifies what a great global activity this is."

"We want to create heroes. You want to be recognised."

The Commonwealth Esports Championships are due to take place at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham on 6-7 August.

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