The FIFA World Cup finished about a month back. For many video gamers of Kolkata and the suburbs, though, in some ways, the World Cup happened last weekend. From August 8-10, Lalani e-TECH City, one of India's largest IT and mobile retail chains, played host to Game-O-Thon, the largest gaming meet in eastern India. And the games of choice were FIFA 11, FIFA 14, Need For Speed, Cricket 07 and Counter Strike. The first four are one-on-one games while the last one is a team game.
Umang Lalani’s dream of starting a gaming meet in this part of the country with a standard to match those held in Delhi and Mumbai prompted him to start Game-O-Thon last year. Gaming as a sport is huge in many countries outside India. In India too it is gradually attracting a huge interest amongst the youth. There were no major tournaments for gamers in eastern India till Game-O-Thon happened. And going by statistics, it’s already a huge hit: last year, there were 500-odd participants; this year, the number shot up to 1000 plus. It was a pleasant surprise to the organisers, who have promised to hold the tournament at a much bigger venue from next year.
The first two days of this year’s tournament saw competitive gaming among amateurs, with trophies, certificates, prize money and goodies for the winners, while the last day, August 10 was reserved for professionals to pit their wits cross-country as well as across nations. For one, national champion Santanu Basu All three days, the venue was chock-a-block with enthusiastic gamers.
Participants as young as eight years old came to Game-O-Thon to show their skills. Asmita Banerjee lost to an older opponent but was more than happy for the experience and promised to come back stronger next year. Eleven-year-old Adarsh Shah created quite a flutter in a Cricket ‘07 match-up, when against an older gamer he had a rare perfect over, hitting six sixes in six balls. A virtual Yuvraj Singh indeed!
Santanu Basu of Howrah is the top online football gamer in India. The
27-year-old engineer was the only one from Bengal to represent India at
the Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games in Incheon, South Korea in
2013. One of his goals in the 2012-13 FIFA Interactive World Cup league,
an annual virtual football league played out through the FIFA series of
football computer games, and which is organised by FIFA (football’s
world governing body) in association with EA Sports and Sony
PlayStation, in the persona of the Manchester United star Robin van
Persie against Real Madrid, was ranked sixth best in the world, the
topmost an Indian football gamer has reached. And that was after
competing against 2.5 million gamers from all over the world! Till date,
he has represented India 21 times in FIFA Online competitions, starting
with the 2009 Asian Indoor Games. In 2013, he won the won the Indian
edition of the FIFA championship. Last year, he bagged a sponsor as
well. Tt eSPORTS, the gaming arm of Taiwanese computer hardware
manufacturer, Thermaltake, made Santanu its first formal contracted
gamer in India. And to think that his entry into the world of gaming was
just an accident, literally! Once, while in school, he broke a leg and
as a result, was confined to bed for six months. With nothing better to
do, he started fiddling with the computer and got hooked on to gaming.
Since then, there has been no looking back. The gaming wiz also has his
name in Limca Book of Records for playing without a break for 24 hours.
Santanu is ranked number one in India, and 41 in the world.
Santanu with his gaming rig at home
FIFA 11 was won by Jeet Saha. For the 23-year-old MCom student this was the second consecutive FIFA 11 title. According to him, “I used to practice a lot till last year, but I don’t get so much time these days.” But that was good enough to defeat Suvadip Kolay for the second consecutive FIFA 11 title. He is more of a virtual footballer. “I played a little football in school and I get a similar thrill from virtual football.”
The other football game, also a one-on-one, was FIFA 14, the latest version of the FIFA series. The FIFA series of games are the most popular among virtual football gamers. Twenty-seven-year-old Tanmay Dey won the crown this time. Comeing an unlucky second was Abhisek Mondal, who lost in a tie-breaker. Tanmay got into gaming in 2003, just after his Madhyamik exams. And it’s been football all the way. The FIFA 11 winner, Jeet Saha also plays only football online.
Need For Speed, Cricket '07, Counter Strike
Both the car racing game, Need For Speed and Cricket ’07 also proved to be very popular. The only team game, Counter Strike was a rousing affair too. Counter Strike is one of the most popular first person shooter video games. It involves two teams of combatants, one of terrorists and the other of counter-terrorists, trying to outdo each other. Since it is a team game, a lot of shouting of instructions and warnings to rivals are involved, and all these made for a very exciting affair. Finally the team Foul Play lived up to its top billing and won the final round, defeating LOD (Legions of Doom).
Winners Tanmay Dey (left) and Jeet Saha
An exciting beginning
The huge number of participants (more than a doubling of participants, in fact, from last year) who packed the venue this year is proof of the growing interest in video games in eastern India as well. Video gaming is increasingly being recognised the world over as a sport in its own right. There are professional players, exclusively devoting themselves to gaming, and huge amounts of prize money are involved. And interest in playing video games has other advantages as well. As the champion Santanu Basu said in an earlier interview, “Then you will have more animation companies, more creative industries, more investment. Out of three internet users in India, one is a gamer. That’s why we have companies like Electronic Arts and Taiwan’s Thermaltake, who I work for, setting up offices and hiring programmers and testers… There’s more to this than just playing games.”
Rightly said. And as far as Game-O-Thon is concerned is concerned, things would be getting more exciting from next year. Besides the bigger venue (and consequent higher number of competitors who can be accommodated) there will be top professional gamers from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore for the pro section, which would make the tournament a great learning opportunity for many as well. So all serious gamers, start practicing in all earnest for some serious action!
Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv