E-Sports: The Playing Arena For The Millennials, Gen Z And Gen Alpha

E-Sports: The Playing Arena For The Millennials, Gen Z And Gen Alpha

by Ritu Bhandari - Saturday, February 6, 2021 12:08 PM IST
E-Sports: The Playing Arena For The Millennials, Gen Z And Gen AlphaE-Sports has been acknowledged as an emerging industry by the Government of India.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has been a great facilitator of e-Sports with its requirements of social distancing, staying at home and restrictions on going out.

In a rapidly digitizing world with short attention spans, it is desirable to find innovative, engrossing and advanced means of entertainment.

e-Sports, a hybrid of online and real-world sport, is an evolution and derivative of popular sport. e-Sports helps bridge the gap between a silent spectator watching say, a game of cricket and a highly engaged user watching and playing the game with renewed vigour, focus and attention.

Widespread proliferation of smart phones, broadband internet connections, digital platforms and digital payments has led to exponential growth in e-Sports user base to more than 100 million in India.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a great facilitator of e-Sports with its requirements of social distancing, staying at home and restrictions on going out.

Moreover, India is a young country with a median age — 27.9 years in 2019 — resulting in a rapid adoption of e-Sports. Nearly 61 per cent of India’s population is expected to be under the age of 35 in 2021, who enjoy the adrenaline rush that e-Sports offer.

e-Sports is a sunrise sector which has the potential to generate significant tax revenues, attract foreign investments as well as promote a rich sporting culture in India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Mann Ki Baat address aired on August 30 2020, recognised the vast potential of the Indian gaming industry, applauding the contributions of Indian innovators and application developers.

The recent Aatmanirbhar App Challenge also recognised gaming as a category in which development of indigenous applications are to be encouraged and celebrated.

There has been an ongoing misconception in certain sections of governance and public, equating e-Sports with gambling, betting or wager.

Gambling and betting, which are games of chance, are State subjects under Entry 34 of List II of the Seventh Schedule. Due to this situation, several states have taken upon themselves to regulate e-Sports differently.

If we dig deeper into the manner in which e-Sports is played, we realise that e-Sports is predominantly a game of ‘skill’. e-Sports are digital sports played by individuals or teams of individuals against other matching sets of opponents, requiring mental and physical agility and skills to perform and win.

This is a wide industry, with many different types of entities offering their products and platforms via websites and mobile apps.

Judicial courts in India including the Supreme Court have clarified that the format offered by e-Sports such as Fantasy Sports platforms, has a preponderance of skill over chance and, therefore, ruled that this format qualifies as ‘games of skill’ as the users require considerable skill, judgement and attention.

Significant research, analytics, data engineering of player statistics is needed to select the virtual team, which involves analytical ability and decision-making skills.

Moreover, the entry fee is nominal and cannot be topped up to up the stakes.

In Asian Games 2018, e-Sports was included as a demonstration sport. India won the bronze medal in this category. The 2024 Summer Olympics, taking place in Paris, are purported to include demonstration e-Sports events.

Organisers have announced virtual and connected events that will run prior to and alongside the physical ones, with the idea to engage fans and spectators in the lead-up to the Games.

Many universities in the USA are promoting e-Sports through scholarships to attract talented players who excel in digital gaming.

Meanwhile, the unilateral actions of various state governments have created confusion in the minds of potential investors who are otherwise looking at e-Sports in India as a sunrise industry.

This could impact e-Sports users’ interests of transparency, operator integrity and varying standards of fairness from state-to-state. There are instances also of unscrupulous operators who lure users with games of questionable legality.

All in all, a consistent central law or direction is required to homogenise the expectations and experience of the various stakeholders in the industry at a national level. The draft NITI Aayog guidelines on regulation of online fantasy sports platforms in India, are commendable and a step in the right direction, that can provide the right regulatory framework for the industry to grow and thrive.

NITI Aayog should consider defining fantasy sports as a specific sub-category, within the umbrella of e-Sports. The idea should be creation of a uniform national-level safe-harbour for e-Sports to enable the implementation of a single national policy for the industry and bring clarity to regulators, operators and consumers alike.

Advertising of e-Sports should be fair and truthful, in compliance with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) standards and must not imply winnings are assured.

The guidelines should ensure that all e-Sports formats remain skill-driven. Promoting self-regulation is the go-to regulatory mechanism for e-Sports. The self-regulatory organisation would establish an independent grievance redress mechanism to handle consumer and user complaints against e-Sports firms as well as any disputes that arise between or relating to these firms.

The ‘perception’ about the e-Sports industry needs to change as an area of skills and knowledge. As long as these platforms do not advertise e-Sports as a means of livelihood or as sure-shot winnings and the public is aware that there is a possibility of losing the entry fee, people can enjoy these digital sports as another new-age, innovative and fun activity to be indulged in along with the real-world game, a sign of the changing times.

The author is Head of Research, Smahi Foundation of Policy and Research. She is based in Mumbai.

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