China Secures Historic First Gold in Esports At Asian Games In Hangzhou

In a momentous achievement for the world of esports, China clinched the inaugural gold medal in the discipline at the Asian Games held in Hangzhou.

China Secures Historic First Gold in Esports At Asian Games In Hangzhou

In a momentous achievement for the world of esports, China clinched the inaugural gold medal in the discipline at the Asian Games held in Hangzhou. The victory came in the fiercely contested smartphone multiplayer battle game “Arena of Valor,” eliciting jubilation from fans in the global epicenter of esports.

Esports, a domain where competitive video gaming takes center stage and participants can amass substantial prize earnings, marked its debut as a medal event in this edition of the Asian Games. The move underscores the gaming industry’s fervent bid for inclusion in the Olympic Games.

Competing for a total of seven gold medals across a diverse array of titles, teams and individuals alike are vying for supremacy in games ranging from online soccer to multiplayer battle arenas.

Inside the state-of-the-art Esports arena, organizers orchestrated an immersive experience akin to a futuristic dystopian gameshow, complete with dazzling lights, thunderous music, and live commentary. As the Chinese team was introduced, the several thousand fans in attendance, many brandishing multi-hued light sticks, erupted in support.

“China must win!” echoed the players in a huddle on stage, triggering another surge of enthusiasm from the spectators, setting the stage for the “Arena of Valor” final.

In the Asian Games iteration of “Arena of Valor,” a smartphone game developed by a subsidiary of Chinese tech giant Tencent, teams of five players strategically select “heroes” to navigate the virtual realm of the game. They collaborate with teammates to dismantle the opponent’s stronghold.

A vanquished base translates to a set secured, and two sets equate to victory in the best-of-three contest.

With fingers flying across their screens and millions of fans tuning in from home, players communicated via headsets as their in-game avatars clashed on oversized screens above the stage—an image that may seem unconventional to traditional sports enthusiasts.

Following a closely contested opening, China asserted dominance, ultimately clinching a 2-0 victory, sending fans into a frenzy.

Earlier, Thailand secured the Games’ first esports medal by triumphing over Vietnam to claim the bronze.

Post-medal ceremony, Chinese player Jiang Tao expressed, “I feel excited and happy. I feel we all performed really well.”

An exuberant and bespectacled Xu Bicheng chimed in, “I feel so happy and excited.”

While some social media users voiced reservations about including esports in the Games and affording it airtime on television, many embraced the development.

“I am so touched and very proud, especially when I see the e-sports project being recognized on such a stage,” said Yvonne Yu, a spectator who has engaged with the game for approximately seven years.

“I stopped working and watched CCTV’s e-sport broadcast, almost bursting into tears,” wrote one user on Weibo, referencing the state broadcaster’s coverage of the match. Though not live, the broadcast was historic, given recent governmental caution regarding gaming.

China’s cyberspace regulator announced last month that individuals under 18 should be limited to a maximum of two hours per day on their smartphones, leading to a drop in tech company stocks. Simultaneously, other government departments have extended support to esports.

For instance, the state-run China Media Group established a National E-sports Development Research Institute earlier this year, emphasizing esports’ potential contribution to the country’s “digital economy,” a vision championed by President Xi Jinping.

Furthermore, authorities in Hangzhou allocated 4.586 billion yuan ($627.50 million) for the construction of the esports venue, according to official records.

Serkan Toto, founder of consultancy Kantan Games, noted, “The position of the Chinese government on gaming is ambiguous. The government seems to be torn between regulating and restricting mobile and PC gaming on the one side and supporting events like esports tournaments on the other side.”

China boasts the world’s largest esports market, both in terms of revenue and fan base. In 2022, the market generated $445 million, accounting for 64.8% of the Asian esports market. China boasts 400 million esports enthusiasts, the highest number globally, as per data from leading Asian video game market analysts Niko Partners.

The next aspiration for esports is a more formidable one – securing Olympic recognition. Several players and managers on Tuesday advocated for this transition.

“Even skateboarding, breakdancing, rock climbing is in the Olympics, so why not esports?” questioned Wong Kang Woon, Team Manager of Malaysia’s esports team.

“Esports players are not just sitting on the chair. They even sweat. You can check on their heartbeat. There is sports science involved.”

“We cannot be putting esports into a negative mindset. We need to move into a positive way. Every sport, even football, starts from gaming, start from fun and then onto high performance sport. Esports in future will be towards that.”