Two weeks before Esports player Ayan Biswas boarded his flight to Hangzhou to represent India at the Asian Games, he recalls a moment back home, which comically sums up the turnaround in his life.
“When I started gaming, my mom constantly scolded me, saying I was wasting my time. But now, before I came here, if they see me going outside or even if I am taking rest, she goes, ‘What are you doing? Why aren’t you playing?” said the 24-year-old.
Ayan, who also goes by his Gamertag, Ayan01, comes from the small town of Birnagar in West Bengal and is the son of a retired railway worker father and a nurse mother. He was/is one of two Indians competing in the Streetfighter: V event at the Hangzhou Esports Center on Tuesday.
While Esports players in India and across Asia were busy training for hours on in a day, Ayan could train only for three to four hours a day as his day job as a postman or Gramin Daak Sevak kept him busy.
“I got good marks in Class 10 and I took up that job since the eligibility criteria for that post was 10th pass,” explains Ayan.
Every day, Ayan takes a train at 9.30 a.m. and reaches the office at Bethuadehri in Nadia district an hour later. His job involves carrying mail from the sub-office to the branch office. Then from the branch office, he has to return the mail bag back to the original place before returning home in the evening.
“The job involves carrying normal letters that come to the post office, sometimes people send money (order) too,” he says. He admits Streetfighter: V, which is played with a joystick and a computer screen, is not the kind of game you can practice while on the move. So he uses his waiting time in his office to learn from YouTube videos and strategise plays.
“I have to sit for one or two hours at the branch office as my colleagues sort out the mail and money. During that time, I strategise and visualise. In the last month, I was watching the games of my competitors online,” he says.
Ayan earns around Rs. 15000 from his job at the post office but makes more (more than five to six lakhs) playing Esports. But he still doesn’t see it as one or the other.
“I like my job, and am dedicated to it. If you do something with full dedication, nothing can stop you. Look at me, I think no one plays Streetfighter in West Bengal. But I am here, in Hangzhou,” says Ayan, a Bachelor of Science student at the Netaji Subhash Open University.
Initially, Ayan had started playing Streetfighter: V out of boredom. And now, he has played his first offline game in an arena in what was his first-ever overseas trip.
“I haven’t played in arenas. It’s either my bedroom or some other lowkey place in Mumbai and Delhi,” he says. The experience of being part of the athletes’ village is ‘surreal’ for him. “The atmosphere is unique, I have been talking to different athletes,” he says.
Streetfighter, a Japanese fighting video game, is among the oldest games of its genre.
“As a kid, I played the video game version, so I wasn’t unaware of it. But around 2018, I stumbled upon Streetfighter: V and purchased it. I picked it up properly during the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Ayan, who intends to stream his fights in the future.
“I saw a video on YouTube that tournaments take place in different parts of the country and the world, so I decided to explore that option. I started without any goal in mind but slowly, I started beating my online competitors consistently. That’s when I began to take it seriously and now, here I am,” he adds.
Ayan started with a win in the Round of 32, but ultimately exited the tournament with two defeats. He hopes his presence at the Asian Games can influence more gamers in India to take up Streetfighter: V. “Streetfighter isn’t as popular as DOTA or Tekken or some other games. But I am sure the craze will increase after the Asian Games.”
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