E-sports opened for the first time at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games on Monday as the demonstration sport kicked off three days of action at the Indoor Athletics Arena in Turkmenistan.
Ten National Olympic Committees featuring 56 competitors will participate in events featuring King of Fighters, Starcraft II, Hearthstone and Dota2 as the discipline makes its debut in an Olympic Council of Asia event.
Players had to go through regional qualifying events to secure spots at the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games and there was a buoyant atmosphere as participants from China, Pakistan, Philippines, Laos and elsewhere went head-to-head in front of a passionate crowd.
“This is a good chance for all of us in Asia, to have an event like this,” said Laos gamer Vongxay Nanthanakone. “All the people can come together, play, enjoy, compete and get prizes and we know each other and then we can be united.
“The games industry in Laos is quite popular but our government just started to support us four or five months ago and now we have the chance to make competitions, to get prizes and promote our players in our country. We’re at the beginning.
“We had a qualification competition in Laos last month, when eight players were reduced down to two and then we went to a South East Asian regional qualification. My friend went out but I had a lucky draw and went through.”
The Olympic Council of Asia is presenting e-sports for the first time in partnership with Alisports and the goal is to see the discipline feature at the Olympic Games in the future.
E-sports have already seen significant interest from participants and National Olympic Committees alike in recent months, with the growth resonating across social media platforms in particular.
“We established our e-sports federation just six weeks ago and within five days we had seven sponsors asking to work with us,” said Nasser Majali, the secretary general of the Jordan Olympic Committee.
“It has been setting our social media feeds alight in a way that no other sport has done. It’s incredible. We struggle to get sponsorship for many of the sports that we work with, but companies want to be involved in e-sports.”