Friday, January 31, 2020

Pakistan's Arslan Ash Siddique Wins ESPN's ESports Player of the Year Award 2019

Arslan Ash Siddique from Lahore, Pakistan has won three top ESports awards, including Player of the Year award for 2019, according to In December awards, Aslan Ash won the Best Esports Player award under both the fan and ESPN choice categories. He was also the first-runner for Best Moment of the Year award in the fan poll. The nomination was based on his EVO wins.

Arslan Ash Siddique at EVO Japan 2019

Esports have risen to the level of other major international sports with multiple international tournaments. Esports leagues have sprung up in many countries including Pakistan. Esports Pakistan (ESPK) is a growing E-Gaming organization which organizes national esports competitions at its Gaming Arena at Royal Palm, Lahore.

Arslan put Pakistan on the esports map following his surprise first-place victory in Tekken 7 at EVO Japan 2019 and EVO 2019. Before October 2018, Ash, the Pakistani Tekken 7 phenom, had never competed in a major international tournament. Now, at the end of 2019, he is an international star and the only person to ever win the Evolution Championship Series Japan and its American counterpart in  Las Vegas the same year.

Arslan is not the only successful Pakistani esports competitor on the world stage. Karachi-born Pakistani Syed Sumail Hasan, 19, is the world's youngest video gamer to surpass $1 million in earnings in esports. In fact, he has earned $3.6 million so far as an international Dota 2 player, ranking him the 10th biggest winner in the world, according to website which tracks players' earnings. Sumail started playing Dota 2 at the age of 7. He now lives in a Chicago suburb as a permanent resident of the United States.

Syed Sumail Hassan

Arsalan Ash Siddique, 23 years old player from Lahore, Pakistan, caused a stir in Fukuoka Japan when he defeated world's top players to win EVO championship in February, 2019, according to Asahi Shimbun. In his victory speech, Arslan acknowledged many unknown Pakistani players who are also quite strong but could not join the competition because they could not get the visa to travel to Japan.

It wasn't easy for Arsalan to reach Japan to participate in the contest. He had to jump through many hoops and travel through several transit countries each of which made it difficult for him. When he arrived at Haneda airport in Japan,  he only had Pakistani rupees and no exchange would accept them. Hungry and tired he tried his luck at the food court but no one would accept the Pakistani currency. His next flight was from Narita airport an hour away by public transport. To travel he needed to buy a ticket but did not possess any local currency, according to SBS Urdu.

Arsalan Ash Siddique (Center)

Arsalan was exhausted and ready to give up his dream when he finally got through to his Japanese sponsors who helped him out. Needless to say he got no help from Pakistani diplomats through his challenging journey.

In spite of visa denials and other travel challenges faced by Pakistani players, the country ranks 25th in the world for players' earnings in 2019, according to  Ranked above Pakistan are  mainly rich industrialized nations from North America, Europe and East Asia. All South Asian nations rank below Pakistan. Players from India rank 63rd, Sri Lanka 98th, Afghanistan 108th, Bangladesh 115th and Nepal 123rd.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistani Esports Player Among World's Top Earners 

Mobile Game Industry in Pakistan

Pakistani Investors: Invest in Local Tech Startups

Invest in Pakistan Summit in Silicon Valley

Upwardly Mobile Pakistani-Americans

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan


Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistani game developers denied #US visa for #GDC #SanFrancisco make a game about it. Goal is to draw attention to issues faced by those attempting to travel into United States from #Muslim countries. Rejections way up during #Trump admin via @Polygon

Two game developers from Pakistan who were denied U.S. visas to attend the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco have made a game about their experience. The stated goal is to draw attention to issues faced by those attempting to travel into the United States from Muslim countries. Restrictions have been on the rise since the election of President Donald Trump in 2016.

Trying to Fly was created as part of the Global Game Jam, which took place Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, by Bisma Zia, Anam Sajid, and Ali Hamza. Both Zia and Sajid had previously been awarded scholarships by the Independent Game Developers Association (IGDA) to attend GDC. But, when they applied for visas to enter the U.S. for GDC in March, they were denied. Similar stories have played out over the past few years, impacting residents of Iran, Syria, and other predominantly Muslim countries.

“They wanted to make a game that would highlight their (and others) experience at the Visa interview process,” reads the game description, “and how such measures can directly have an effect on their future careers and lives. The bird represents the applicants dreams and aspirations for the future.”

The IGDA has made great strides in the past decade to support fledgling game developers around the world. Pakistan represents an emerging new territory for gaming, due in part to its surging middle class and the adoption of mobile technology. It’s also home to the Pixelart Games Academy, Pakistan’s first games academy.

The same weekend that the Global Game Jam kicked off, the Trump administration announced it would expand its travel restrictions in 2020. Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania will all have new restrictions put in place regarding access to visas.

Riaz Haq said...

#US #military likes violent #videogames. Over the past two decades, virtual games have had a dramatic effect on the military’s #education and #training programs, with the US Department of Defense spending US$4 billion annually. #Warfare via @ConversationUK

For some time now, the military has been using these games to train combat soldiers. Already in 1997, a US Marine General recognised that virtual games operate both on the body and mind and improve a soldier’s preparedness for combat. Consequently, he sent out a directive allowing the use of computer-based war games when training infantry troops for warfare.

Over the past two decades, virtual games have had a dramatic effect on the military’s education and training programs, with the US Department of Defense spending US$4 billion annually to develop and integrate computerised war games into the curriculum of every war college in the US. These games prepare cadets for battle by simulating the use of automated weapons.

In fact, a recent recruitment drive by the British Army targeted gamers, with one of their posters reading: “Are you a binge gamer? The Army needs you and your drive.”

The goal of the military is to vanquish its enemies using violence. But what happens when the same training platforms migrate into our homes? And how do they affect the citizens who use them daily?

Home schooling
First-person shooter games have become permanent fixtures in the private sphere, allowing millions of citizens across the globe to participate in virtual wars from the comfort of their living rooms. Indeed, around 2.2 billion gamers regularly sit at home, many playing action-packed war games, which fuse virtual boot camps with special operations aimed at eliminating enemies.

Read more: Fortnite World Cup and the rise of the esports industry

A 2015 report suggests that in the US alone, 80% of households have a gaming device and over 155m citizens play games, many of which are extremely violent. And unlike the passive consumption of other forms of violent entertainment, such as television or movies, participants in these games assume an active role. The games invite citizens, many of whom are children, to step through the screen and become virtual protagonists in the exercise of violence.

In fact, there is a striking resemblance between the games on our children’s computers and the real operation of automated weapon systems using networked information and technologies to annihilate targets, which are often located thousands of miles away, in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq.

Describing the use of computer simulations in the military, Michael Macedonia from the US Army Simulation Training and Instrumentation Command explained in an article that it “proved to be a smooth transition for younger generations of soldiers, who, after all, were spoon fed on Nintendo and computer games”.

Riaz Haq said...

MrSoomro, Leading Gamer in Pakistan, Announces Initiative to Introduce eSports as Academic Subject in Pakistan

MrSoomro, one of the top gamers in Pakistan, today announced that he is leading an initiative to introduce electronic sports (eSports) as a subject of academic study to Pakistan. Other countries, such as the Philippines, already have college programs devoted to eSports. The move comes as eSports have been gaining traction as a serious activity and business throughout the Arab world in recent years. With over 250,000 followers on social media, MrSoomro has the social capital to influence thinking about gaming in Pakistan as well as throughout the region.

“The moment is here for Pakistan to embrace eSports as a legitimate area of study,” said MrSoomro. “The trend is well underway internationally, and we would be wise to follow suit. eSports is not just an activity, though of course it can be fun. eSports is a business, so learning about it relates to corporate and sports management study that’s a potential contributor to the economy of Pakistan.”

Indeed, according to, eSports are at a turning point in the Arab world. As the site noted, “The Arab world is leaving its mark on eSports. There are Arab players at the top of every game, including Lebanese ‘Dota2’ player Maroun ‘GH’ Merhej.” Merhej plays with Team Liquid (together with Amer “Miracle” Al-Barkawi, the Jordanian/Polish gamer) and ranks in eighth place worldwide in terms of earnings. He has won over $3 million from 36 tournaments. Media exposure for eSports in the region is also on the increase, with Meltwater News, which tracks media coverage, stating that over 4,000 news articles have been published on the subject regionally in 2020 so far.

The 22-year-old MrSoomro likes to play PUBG Mobile, though he is also preparing himself to move into more competitive environments. He maintains a presence on social media on Facebook and an active YouTube channel.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan to Legitimize #Esports by Granting it ‘Regular Sports’ Status. Pakistan has a very high rate of success in international esports. Top #pakistani players winning world competitions include Syed ‘Sumail’ Hassan and Arslan Ash. via @esportsobserved

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Fawad Hussain, revealed this week that a memorandum has been signed between the Pakistan Sports Board and the Pakistan Science Foundation that will see esports receive a “regular sports” status. He also encouraged those with an interest in video games, tweeting “If you are interested in video games, get ready and new opportunities are waiting for you.”

The announcement follows an interview where Hussain promised to aid investors and players in their esports ventures. He also announced that the ministry would be offering certifications in animation and game development in institutes across the country to encourage the youth to be part of the industry. In addition, he also revealed the first national esports tournaments in collaboration with Waqar Zaka – a popular internet personality in Pakistan. The tournament is set to begin in March and will have private sponsors so as to avoid government bureaucracy from affecting the operations.

While interest from the government will certainly do a lot in legitimizing esports in Pakistan, the country has had a love-hate relationship with video games in the past. In July of 2020, the nation unbanned PUBG Mobile after the game had been banned for a month after a case of suicide. The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) labeled the game as “addictive, wastage of time, and poses serious negative impact on physical and psychological health of children.” However, despite its minimal presence in global conversations, Pakistan has a very high rate of success in international esports. This includes Syed ‘Sumail’ Hassan’s win at The International in 2015 and Arslan Ash’s domination of the Tekken circuit in 2019.