The inaugural Commonwealth eSports Championships is set to take place in Birmingham, England, on August 6 and August 7. Although this is not an official Commonwealth Games 2022 medal event, the eSports Championships will have its own medal and branding, which is a remarkable step forward in bringing eSports into the limelight. Three games will be featured in the tournament — eFootball, DOTA 2, and Rocket League. The Indian eSports contingent has reserved its berth for the last two games after emerging victorious in the South Asian regional qualifiers.
The DOTA 2 team will feature five players. Along with captain Moin Ejaz, the squad will comprise Ketan Goyal, Abhishek Yadav, Shubham Goli, and Vishal Vernekar. Ejaz will also lead a team of six eSports athletes at the 2022 Asian Games, which got postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic to 2023.
In an exclusive interview with ABP Live, Ejaz, popularly known by his gaming avatar “NO_Chanc3” in the eSports circuit, discussed how he entered the world of eSports, climbed up ranks, and what a captain must do to ensure a win for the team.
Q: First things first, how does it feel to lead your country to the first-ever Commonwealth eSports Championships? Are you more excited, or more nervous?
Ejaz: Both, I guess… [laughs] Excited because I am going to represent India, but I will also have to face very good teams from around the world.
Q: Can you tell us what inspired you to get into eSports?
Ejaz: When I was seven to eight years old, my father bought a PC for his work. I started playing games on that and then I eventually came to know about DOTA. I started playing a lot of it. A friend of mine, from Kolkata, took me to a LAN event. I have never been to a LAN event before, and it was very new to me, to see people from around the country gathering together to play games.
There, I saw how people respect good players. That’s what motivated me to become a good player.
Q: How can one gain recognition as a good gamer?
Ejaz: So, you need to get better at a game that you like playing, by grinding and increasing your ranks and levels. This is how a lot of people can get to know about you. This is actually how I got picked up by good teams to play DOTA. That’s how my journey started.
Q: In India, eSports is not really a common career option. What did your family think when you told them you wish to be an eSports athlete? And, now that you are representing India on the global stage, what do they have to say now?
Ejaz: Earlier, eSports wasn’t really considered a career option at all. However, things have evolved a lot over the years. Now, you can actually earn a good amount of money and build a career out of playing games professionally, if you commit 100 percent to it.
My parents were very happy and excited when they got to know that I will be representing India at the Commonwealth Championships.
Q: Speaking of earnings, what sort of compensation can someone expect when they turn pro like yourself?
Ejaz: For DOTA, if you’re very good in this game, if you get picked up by an international team, or even in India if you’re doing really well, you can get a salary of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakhs.
Apart from the salary, you will also get a winning amount if you emerge victorious in tournaments. If you keep performing well, your salary will keep on increasing.
Q: When you entered the pro circuit, what sort of challenges did you face?
Ejaz: When I started playing professionally, some six to seven years ago, there was no proper organisation or even a proper team that was active. So, back then, you sort of had to build a team from ground up, combining five random players. Once we started performing well, we got a lot of sponsors, and a lot of opportunities to play for specific organisations.
In the beginning, I was approached by a popular Indian team to play for them. Eventually, a lot of people came to know me, and I started finding more players to play with. Then, I got picked up by a team called Neckbreak. Eventually, I started jumping from one team to another, until I found the right group of players to team up with. It took me nearly two years to create a perfect team to play with.
Q: What do you think of your team going into the Championships this year? Also, as a team captain, what sort of a role do you have to play? Is it an easygoing role, or one that required extremely high focus?
Ejaz: Since we don’t have a proper coach or a proper organisational structure in place as of yet, I kind of have to focus on everything.
As a team captain, I have to create strategies and plans on how to play the game. During a game, if any of the team members are unable to perform, I have to talk with him and discuss what we can do or what changes we can make.
Q: So is it the captain’s role to primarily carry the team?
Ejaz: Everything is pretty much on me right now. Other players need to focus on their own gameplay and how they can improve their own game. For me, I kind of have to look at what else we can do with the players, or how we can change the gameplay or play style as needed.
Q: How do you guys train?
Ejaz: We mainly play online. We use Discord as the main medium of communication and there are other teams on the platform who are looking for gamers to play matches with.
We practice from 2pm to 6pm everyday, and then we would watch our replays and discuss how we can improve our gameplay. After the team session is over, some players can decide to work on their solo games to get better with more practice.
Q: Going into the championships, do you guys have any strategy in place particularly designed for specific teams?
Ejaz: Well, it’s very hard to device strategies right now, as all the teams who are participating in the championships have so far only played with other players from their country or region.
Usually, in team games, players can be from any country and there’s generally a mix-and-match of different players from different regions. However, at the Commonwealth eSports Championships, all players in a team will be from a specific country only. So, we don’t yet know how all the team members are going to play together. Since we have not seen them play before, it’s very hard to strategise for each team.
So, we have created our own play style, and we will stick to that hoping to come out victorious.
Q: When it comes to eSports, is it all fun and games? Or is it a very high-focus scenario?
Ejaz: We have a lot of fun… outside the matches. But when matches start, we all become very serious and focussed.
Q: If someone wishes to become an eSports athlete like yourself, what sort of games should they play? Can you give us an idea of how to enter the pro circuit?
Ejaz: It depends on what game you love to play. You don’t need to force yourself to play something just because some title is more popular. Just play the game that you love, but commit 100 percent to it.
There’s a leaderboard, or a ranking system, for almost every game out there now. So, as you grind and climb ranks, you will get noticed by more organisations and good players — that’s pretty much how you get into good teams.
Q: From Commonwealth to Asian Games, eSports is now getting a lot of recognition across the world. Do you think this will popularise eSports as a serious segment?
Ejaz: Earlier, in India, people didn’t know what DOTA 2 was. But, now, I think people are more aware of games such as DOTA or Valorant or other popular eSports titles. Even PUBG, or BGMI, has seen a lot of popularity recently.
Q: You have been playing professionally for nearly seven years now. How do you think the attitude of people has changed towards eSports as a whole?
Ejaz: Earlier, people weren’t sure if they could make a career out of eSports. But now, with more recognition, there’s a general understanding that if you are really good, you can actually make a career out of playing games.
Q: Finally, any advice or tips for budding eSports athletes out there?
Ejaz: Just give you 100 percent. Also, I have seen a lot of people mess up due to their egos and bad attitude. If you keep a positive mental attitude then you can go far in the eSports circuit. Because, what I have generally seen is that when someone has a bad attitude or a big ego, it’s very hard to play with that person. This is actually why most people don’t get picked up by good teams.
You can listen to the full interview on the latest episode of Tech It Easy by ABP Live Podcasts below: