For those tempted to spend hours in front of a computer playing online games, there is reason to rejoice and do it even more! A 24-year-old lad from the sleepy town of Bhuj in Gujarat's Kutch district, has bagged a bronze medal at the Asian Games in an online card game.
Tirth Mehta created history in the country's Internet gaming arena by winning a bronze medal in an online cards game, under a newly-introduced eSports category at the Jakarta Games on August 31. A collective 30-card game, Hearthstone was one of the six selected games under the eSports category - introduced for the first time in the biggest multi-sports event of Asia.
Mehta, who defeated a Vietnamese player 3-2, played an aggressive match to recover from an early deficit of 0-2, by scoring a hat-trick in the 'best-of-five' match.
Hearthstone, developed and published by American video game company, Blizzard Entertainment, has garnered huge interest among online gamers from across Asia, including Japan, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, besides India. The game is a combination of chess and poker, requiring players to have core skills in maths and probability.
Even as awareness about the game and its penetration in India is limited, Mehta managed to qualify in the India qualifiers organised by the Electronic Sports Federation of India (ESFI). He went on to defeat players from Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the South Asian Qualifiers to make it to Jakarta.
The main event was carried out in a single elimination format, where losing a match resulted in elimination. Mehta defeated the player from Japan 3-2 to qualify for the semis, but lost to Hong Kong with a score of 2-3.
"It is a moment of pride for the entire nation, where online gaming is still considered a no-go area. Tirth's parents have been supportive in allowing him to pursue his dream to excel in gaming. He got his first computer with 512 MB RAM at the age of 8. Now he uses a sophisticated machine with a high-end graphics card and multiple Internet connections to stay online for about 15 hours a day. Tirth has proved that this, too, can be a rewarding career option," Daksh Mehta, elder brother of Tirth told BusinessLine .
Tirth has now set his sights on the Olympics and a gold medal in eSports. However, according to the Asian Games 2018 Organising Committee (INASGOC), eSports is still an exhibition tournament to 'test the market'. Hence, the medals won in these demonstration matches would not be calculated in the medals tally of the respective countries.
"However, this is a fight for gaming supremacy in Asia," President of INASGOC, Erick Thohir, said about the induction of eSports in the Asian Games.
A total of 18 countries qualified for the eSports tournament, which was held from August 26 to September 1 in Jakarta. These included Indonesia, Laos, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, China Taipei, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Pakistan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Thailand, India, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, and Iran.