A new year brings new resolutions and any budding eSport athlete would have made a commitment to themselves to make 2022 the year they reach the peak of their talent. This year is also the big year of the Asian Games, and the first edition where eSports will be recognised as one of the main medal events. This means one thing and one thing only- it is time to level up.
All athletes harbour dreams to represent their country and now, eSport is no different. The Asian Games and the Olympics (Paris 2024) are now officially hosting eSports, at par with traditional sporting events like track & field, football, hockey, swimming, etc. The run up to these games are going to be chockablock with tournaments, some official qualifying events and many others satellite tournaments that players will participate in to get much needed practice.
While all of the above is well and good, there is one major issue here. There is no real game-plan as far as eSports is concerned in India. Players are at their wits end to understand the official journey to qualify to be India’s athlete and there has been no official news to confirm the selection process. This opens the field up to malpractice. eSports in India has always been rife with fake competitions, where winners instead of being given a winners cheque get ghosted. Innumerable instances of shoddily hosted events and mismanaged tournaments has made it difficult for competitors to trust the organisers and the overall structure of eSports games in India.
While the overall space in India is still quite unregulated, athletes would do well to arm themselves with an EPWA membership. eSports Players Welfare Association is an independent not-for-profit entity that is trying to bring some sense to an otherwise chaotic space. They have been lobbying for better recognition of players rights and we have on good authority that they have already taken to task a few organisers that went foul on the winners’ prize purse.
What is an EPWA membership? First and foremost it works as an insurance against malpractice in the competitive gaming space in India. If a player is unsure of a tournament, or the agreement that they are asked to sign by various orgs, as a member, they can get the document vetted by EPWA to ensure their rights are protected. Secondly, if a member finds themselves at the wrong end of tournament malpractice, EPWA would immediately take over the case to bring the organisers to task and for them to deliver on their promises.
EPWA membership has two levels of Gold and Silver membership. A Gold member can expect EPWA to assist them in the legal nature of their misadventures in eSports and has a nominal fee of 299/- rupees for a year. The minimum an athlete must avail of is Silver membership which is free. This ensures that at any time an event happens where an athlete needs assistance from EPWA, they are already a member and can expect the organisation to back them. If the services require them to be a Gold member, they can immediately upgrade. In addition to supporting the players and lobbying for better structure in eSports in India, EPWA is constantly holding workshops and events to help their members becoming better athletes. In addition, they have committed to making eSports a safe space as far as mental health is concerned. They are hugely advocating against gaming addiction and help counsel members to balance their life while still remaining competitive.
A players welfare association in eSports is unheard of before, in fact no where in the world has anyone been able to successfully launch a players organisation. While we may not have a lot of things going very well for Indian eSports in terms of structure, we must take pride in the existence of EPWA and its ability to band together, an otherwise fragmented community. So, while 2022 may be your year of reckoning, make sure to suit up and truly be ready with your very own EPWA membership.