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The Keyboard Warriors: Outlaws Who Are Gaming for Glory of India at Asian Games

A few told them to stop. Now, a billion cheer for them. This is the story of Indian gamers at 2023 Asian Games.

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Mayank Prajapati is a 33-year-old working professional, an established Esports athlete, a husband, and a father to a two-year-old son.

His age and societal estimation, however, did very little to make his embarrassment inconspicuous, when he recalled a specific incident from fourteen years ago.

Start New Game – The Beginnings

  • Know Your Warriors: Mayank Prajapati

A few told them to stop. Now, a billion cheer for them. This is the story of Indian gamers at 2023 Asian Games.

Now an established Esports athlete, Mayank Prajapati still gets embarrassed whilst recalling an incident from 2009.

(Photo: Sourced by The Quint)

“2009 was the time of arcade gaming shops thriving in India. There was one such shop near my place that I frequented. I bunked my tuition classes to spend hours at the shop. My mother was oblivious, but my father caught me red-handed at the shop. I got slapped right there, in front of everyone, and then another round of proper thrashing ensued after reaching home,” Mayank recalls, during a conversation with The Quint.
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Mayank is now preparing to board the flight to China, wherein he will represent India at the 2022 Asian Games in Street Fighter V.

Albeit, life was not supposed to find him at this juncture, for after the humiliation of getting slapped in front of peers, he decided to stop gaming altogether.

The embarrassment was so huge that I could not dare to visit the arcade again. I stopped gaming totally, got enrolled in an interior designing course and decided to dedicate my time to academics.
Mayank Prajapati, Street Fighter V Player

So, how did his gaming career rekindle? Only after a few boxes were ticked.

“I got back to gaming around 3-4 years later. By then, I had a degree and was earning fairly well by working freelancing gigs, so my parents did not have any issues,” he says.

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  • Know Your Warriors: Akshaj Shenoy & Abhishek Yadav

Around the time Mayank was rekindling his Esports career, Akshaj Shenoy and Abhishek Yadav, now 21 and 22 respectively, saw their careers nearly coming to an abrupt conclusion before even commencing.

Abhishek, India’s star DOTA 2 player, who has already won a bronze medal for his nation at the Commonwealth Esports Championships, recalls tempestuous tales from teenage times:

A few told them to stop. Now, a billion cheer for them. This is the story of Indian gamers at 2023 Asian Games.

Abhishek Yadav had his computer confiscated by his parents.

(Photo: Sourced by The Quint)

A cousin introduced me to the game. I was initially uninterested, but it soon grew on me. At one stage, I got so engrossed that I would spend hours playing DOTA 2. Naturally, academics had taken the back seat. Out of rage, my parents confiscated my computer.
Abhishek Yadav, DOTA 2 Player
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Akshaj, who happens to be the captain of India’s League of Legends team, shares a story along similar lines.

A few told them to stop. Now, a billion cheer for them. This is the story of Indian gamers at 2023 Asian Games.

Akshaj Shenoy was told to do physical exercises instead of gaming.

(Photo: Sourced by The Quint)

My parents were initially very skeptical, because gaming has always been treated like a taboo in India. They used to tell me ‘Why do you have to game in your free time? Why can’t you pick another hobby, or do some physical activity?’
Akshaj Shenoy, League of Legends Player

Eventually, both athletes came to a truce with their parents.

Akshaj was allowed to game, so long his hours spent on it wouldn’t result in a deterioration of his grades. Abhishek, meanwhile, had to bury his head in books for the next seven months to get his computer back.

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Pause Game – Essential To Have a Plan B

With ‘Esports’ being a nascent term in India, and gamers still struggling to establish themselves as athletes; Mayank, Akshaj and Abhishek have all formulated a ‘Plan B’.

I design and game simultaneously. It is extremely difficult – I have to take care of my baby till afternoon, then work on my freelancing gigs till evening, and practice my gaming till late night. I can barely catch four to five hours of sleep daily, but it is what it is.
Mayank Prajapati
A few told them to stop. Now, a billion cheer for them. This is the story of Indian gamers at 2023 Asian Games.

With two jobs and a kid, Mayank Prajapati is surviving, if not thriving, on four hours of sleep.

(Photo: Instagram?mikeyrog_yt)

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Akshaj, still adhering to the ‘game till grades are good’ command, says “I recently completed a triple degree in economics, sociology and human relations, and now I want to pursue an MBA in HR. The gaming scene is developing rapidly in India, but it is still not at a place where I can sacrifice everything for it. So, I have decided not to compromise on academics.”

Rather, he has been working on a genius way of incorporating the two, during his bid to build his own League of Legends team.

A few told them to stop. Now, a billion cheer for them. This is the story of Indian gamers at 2023 Asian Games.

Having built his own team at 21, Akshaj Shenoy hopes his communication and persuasion skills will come in handy during his MBA HR lessons.

(Photo: Sourced by The Quint)

“I had to approach players when building this team. I told them my plans, got them aligned with my vision and gained their trust. It took a lot of convincing to get the best players on board. I feel this experience will come in handy when I pursue my HR course," he feels.

Although Abhishek is pursuing a BBA degree, his plans are slightly different. “I don’t think I can ever work in a corporate environment. I am just not made up for it. But I am studying business administration, so if gaming does not work out in the long run, I can start a business of my own,” he says.

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Resume Game – All Out Attack in Asian Games

Parents of Akshaj and Abhishek, once sternly against gaming, will closely follow all developments in Hangzhou, hoping their children will return with medals.

Mayank, who lost his parents to COVID-19, knows that he will have their blessings, and the support of his wife – who, despite having very little knowledge of Esports – has been a consistent source of support and motivation since 2009.

Ahead of departing for China, he says:

Representing India at the Asian Games will be overwhelming for us gamers. We might have travelled all around the world and have won a lot of tournaments, but representing the nation at a tournament this big is something every single athlete dreams of. And here we are, a bunch of gamers, who are living the dream.
Mayank Prajapati
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Up against them – a flock of ‘enthusiasts’ who, despite being good enough to represent a nation of 1.4 billion at an international event, are having to cling on to day jobs and degrees as Plan B – will be nations who are battle-hardened in gaming.

That, however, does not deter the trio,

A few told them to stop. Now, a billion cheer for them. This is the story of Indian gamers at 2023 Asian Games.

Despite being up against much stronger opponents, the Indian gamers claim they are not going to China to barely make up numbers.

(Photo: Sourced by The Quint)

“We know that we will be up against countries who have nurtured Esports for decades. We also know we are under huge. But we did not come this far for pressure and stronger opponents to bog us down,” Akshaj iterates.

“After our Asian Games campaign, Esports might finally be seen as a viable career option in India. Parents might finally understand gaming does not mean wasting time,” Abhishek adds.

Mayank concludes: “We are not going to China to just have fun. We will be going there for medals, not to make up numbers.

The keyboard warriors are now AFK, till we welcome them with GGWPs in a few days.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Gaming   Asian Games   eSports 

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