China, Africa and esports participation

 By Ijeoma Okigbo

Ashgabat, September 2017

Back in Nigeria, while we play online video games for leisure and recreation purposes in Africa, the rest of the world have taken the event also known as E-sport to a whole new level.
 In Asia, electronic sport or eSports is serious business and are being staged as professional competitions.

According to the Wikipedia, eSports is form of competition facilitated by electronic systems, particularly video games; the input of players and teams as well as the output of the eSports system are mediated by human-computer interfaces.

The earliest known video game competition took place in 1972 at the Stanford University featuring a game known as spacewar.

The game, however, began to evolve and lots of game titles started to emerge. 

The 2007 Asian Games in Macau, China was the first notable multi-sport competition including eSports as an official medal-winning event alongside other traditional sports, and the later edition of the Games have always included eSports as an official medal event or an exhibition event.

The sport which is featuring as a demonstration sport in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Art Games (AIMAG) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan's capital is organised by Alisports, the sports arm of Chinese online retail giant, Alibaba Group.

Over 12 players from 10 countries are participated in the eSports event of four popular computer games, which are Hearthstone, StarCraft II, Dota 2 and the King of Fighters XIV.

The eSports general manager Ivan Wong said that the idea behind the sport was to catch the young minds.

He said the company, which is also major sponsor of the Olympics Games is working on featuring the eSports at the Games.

"Alisports focus is mainly the young lads, having the same target audience and this group of people will grow to be the most valuable customers in the future.

"At the moment, we are trying to see how the sport will be entered in tournaments around Asia and work on various logistics before we move to the Olympics," Wong said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese delegation in the games appeared to dominate in the sport, winning gold medals in the Heart of Stone, Star Craft and Dota 2 games.
Wong, however, said that the supposed Asian kings are not the best in the sport.

"China is not super good in eSport. There are countries that are stronger than China like the United States, Sweden and Korea.
"Maybe China has their own place in Asia due to their population, because the eSport market is big and there are good players in China.

“To an extent, the good internet condition in China helps the development of the sport. However, countries with poor internet connection can still develop their own eSport industry," he added.

However, Oleksandr Oliinyk, who works with Starladder Group in Ukraine, though the group is in partnership with the Chinese company, has a different view on why Chinese are good in the sport.

"We believe Chinese players have a better reaction to eSport because they spend more time on computer games.

"Reaction is your level of concentration. Remember, there is an action and then re-action.

"The action is when the opponent tries to use some tactics against you while reaction is your quickness in countering the move created by your rival. Though the action can be a fake strategy, you have to decide as soon as possible.

“The Chinese just think alot faster. Maybe it is not true but we believe this and quick thinking is what you need in this game," he said.

Oliinyk also said that high level of experience may not really matter in the sport adding that a young lad may defeat a well experienced old gamer.
"The experienced old guy will understand the game better but may not be able to do anything against the young man who doesn't understand the game but has a better reaction.

"He (young lad) just clicks on the keyboard and frags (kill) you. You cannot catch him and soon you are out of the game.

``This is called physical memory. When you can remember which buttons to click and in which order," he added.

Meanwhile vice president of the Alisports Group Liu Yong said the organization is willing to give assistance to African countries interested in the game.

He said countries like South Africa, Morocco and Egypt had participated in the 2016 World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) Africa and Middle East qualifiers in Dubai.

"If the local Olympic committee in any country in Africa is interested in developing eSport industry, we will be glad to offer technical support, equipments and platforms to help organize
eSports events.

"We have an eSport event called WESG. All African gamers who want to join eSports events can register online for the competition as well as offline events,’’ Yong added.