HANGZHOU, China: Thailand claimed the first eSports medal awarded at the Asian Games on Tuesday, winning a bronze in a playoff against Vietnam in a mobile phone game at an event that will be closely watched by Olympic officials.
Esports was a demonstration tournament at the Jakarta Asian Games five years ago but is a medal event in Hangzhou for the first time, adding weight to the video game industry’s push for a spot on the Olympic programme.
Teams and individuals are battling for a total of seven gold medals across a range of titles in Hangzhou, including online football and multi-player battle arena games.
The tournament has drawn crowds to the Hangzhou Esports Centre since Sunday, underlining Chinese fans’ enthusiasm for eSports despite local rules limiting children’s gaming time.
On Tuesday, they cheered on five Thai gamers — Sorawat Boonphrom, Anusak Manpdong, Chayut Suebka, Vatcharanan Thaworn and Kawee Wachiraphas — as they beat their Vietnamese counterparts 2-0 in a best-of-three match for bronze in Arena of Valor.
Developed by a subsidiary of the Chinese tech giant Tencent, Arena of Valor is a multi-player battle arena game hugely popular in Asia.
With a soundtrack of ear-splitting music and live commentary, the players sat in line in their teams on a fluorescent-lit stage under big screens streaming the game-play for fans.
The players tapped their small screens furiously and communicated with teammates via headsets throughout a contest that stretched to nearly 40 minutes.
“We feel excited and great,” said Bangkok native Boonphrom after the win.
The 30-year-old turned professional a decade ago after first getting into gaming when he was five.
“The feeling is good, so good.”
In the gold-medal event on Tuesday evening, hosts China defeated Malaysia 2-0, also in Arena of Valor.