Since its explosion across the countrys socio-cultural landscape over a decade ago, Computer Network Gaming has left a lasting impact on the lives of Pakistani youth growing up in the 21st century. From its earliest beginnings as a small cult phenomenon taking root in seedy internet cafes, network gaming has more or less become the mainstay of how todays tech savvy youth are expected to socialize and form a healthy hobby around.
Easy to access and with a relatively small learning curve, computer gaming has reached a point where it can be seriously considered to rival youth participation in more traditional outdoor and sporting activities. With Murphys law providing, smaller, faster and cheaper computers to the masses, the image of pubescent pre-teens and adolescents sitting in their rooms glued to their computer screens has become a mainstay of even middle to low-income households across the country.
Gone are the days of the age-old fascination with expensive sporting kits. That sports bag with gloves, pads, squash rackets and hockey sticks. Instead its all about expensive computer keyboards and state of the art headsets all sought to gain a competitive edge on what is now termed as eSports across the world.
So far this phenomenon has been the mainstay of network gaming cafes and off-hour computer labs within schools and colleges across the country. The very idea of network gaming has for more than a decade revolved around a set of computers wired together in a single premises with one of them often dedicated as the host server.
This, however, has changed dramatically with the advent of the Pakistan Gaming Lounge (PGL). Developed and hosted by ICT giant PTCL, PGL offers Pakistans first online servers dedicated to promoting and organizing eSports within the country. Featuring international tournaments, discussion boards and numerous other helpful resources, www.GamingLounge.pkoffers a unique platform for the countrys gaming community to socialize and interact on.
This move towards an online, cloud-based platform highlights an important step in the development of eSports within the country. Located within PTCLs state-of-the-art data centers, PGLs servers are geared towards providing a completely lag free gaming experience, accessible from any computer with an internet connection.
With a dedicated team of moderators ever-ready to help, competitions across this platform are ensured as being fair and without the presence of the usual profanity and bullying characteristic of this genre. Acting as digital referees the team at PGL can be further seen as bringing a form of organized regularity to some of Pakistans most popular computer games. These include the highly popular First-Person Shooter (FPS) games Counter-Strike Global Offensive and Call of Duty that have more or less defined the style and culture of eSports within the country uptil now. By promoting other multiplayer games such as Minecraft and Team Fortress the service further aims at introducing other popular titles to the Pakistani public, further broadening the scope for eSports within the nations gaming community.
The vast potential of this platform can be easily gauged from the response it received during a live pro-gaming competition that took place at the Centaurus Mall in Islamabad quite recently. Hosted on PGLs online platform the live event featured intense rivalries within a highly contested tournament amongst the twin cities top gamers. In itself, it presented an exciting opportunity to help boost the profile of Pakistans burgeoning gaming community, providing a unique and much-needed platform for them to socialize and compete on.
Participants at this event could be seen wholeheartedly taking advantage of this rare chance amid considerable enthusiasm. Headset in place and mouse in hand, the scene itself presented a stark image of how far the very concepts of socialization and hobbies amidst our youth have changed in just over a decade into the Digital Age. Perhaps most surprising was the interest showed by spectators for whom a heated competition unfolding in Virtual Reality proved just as exciting as any Real sporting event.
By creating greater awareness for such kinds of eSports in the country, events like these offer an exciting chance for young gamers to participate in a growing and increasingly popular global trend. Further promoting and broadening the scope for eSports within Pakistan allows the countrys small yet growing gaming community to better represent itself and compete on a larger regional or even international scale. Perhaps the day is not that far when donning the green uniform of Pakistani sports-teams will hold just as much importance within the arena of eSports as it does now for more conventional sporting competitions.
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