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Home > Smart Living> Innovation > This non-profit aims to protect the rights of e-sports players

This non-profit aims to protect the rights of e-sports players

The eSports Players Welfare Association hopes to arm players with legal guidance to navigate a career in professional gaming

By 2025, the number of e-sports players in India could easily reach 1.5 million and the number of teams could expand to 250,000.
By 2025, the number of e-sports players in India could easily reach 1.5 million and the number of teams could expand to 250,000. (iStock)

With e-sports set to enter the Asian Games next year and India itself estimated to have around 150,000 professional players and 60,000 teams, industry experts have set up a welfare organisation that aims to ensure players don’t get a raw deal from tournaments and sponsors.

The eSports Players Welfare Association (Epwa), a non-profit founded by  Mumbai-based Ritesh Nath and Delhi-based Shivani Jha in August, hopes to be able to ensure this. Nath has expertise in the field and as an independent sports consultant; Jha looks at tech policy, with a niche interest in e-sports. Together with volunteer legal and e-sports experts, they hope to plug the gaps in player knowledge of the nuances of contracts and dispute resolution.

Also read: Ready Player 1: How e-sports athletes get in shape for game day

They are offering two kinds of membership: free, and at a nominal fee of 299 a year. For the fee, e-sports players or streamers can access services such as legal advice and dispute resolution. Non-paying members may not get access to legal and career advice but will receive updates on Indian e-sports, monthly tournaments, free webinars and key policy updates. Jha, director at Epwa, says close to 5,000 e-sports players have already signed up.

This comes at a time when eight medal e-sports titles—Arena Of Valor Asian Games Version, PUBG Mobile Asian Games Version, Dota 2, League Of Legends, FIFA, Hearthstone, Street Fighter V and Dream Three Kingdoms 2—are set to be included in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. According to a report published in June by the global professional services company EY, India has around 150,000 professional e-sports players and 60,000 teams. By 2025, the number of players could easily reach 1.5 million and the number of teams could expand to 250,000, the report notes, adding that the industry  will need constant regulatory support.

Globally, e-sports is so big that universities and colleges in some countries even pay scholarships to players, though an Associated Press report in March noted that 90% of such scholarships in the US go to male athletes.

India, too, has agencies to handle e-sports players and talent. The numbers they manage, however, are limited. Epwa hopes to offer guidance to all players on their professional, legal and contractual rights. “There is no players’ body. The idea was to come up with an association that helps us understand their problems and then we could accordingly work in reverse,” says Jha. “There is nobody to give them legal advice. Some of them are also not aware of the rights they have when they enter into contracts, which are the framework of any engagement.”

A man plays a computer game at an internet cafe in Beijing on September 10, 2021. Globally, e-sports is so big that universities and colleges in some countries even pay scholarships to players.
A man plays a computer game at an internet cafe in Beijing on September 10, 2021. Globally, e-sports is so big that universities and colleges in some countries even pay scholarships to players. (AFP)

With e-sports set to enter the Asian Games next year and India itself estimated to have around 150,000 professional players and 60,000 teams, industry experts have set up a welfare organisation that aims to ensure players don’t get a raw deal from tournaments and sponsors.

The eSports Players Welfare Association (Epwa), a non-profit founded by  Mumbai-based Ritesh Nath and Delhi-based Shivani Jha in August, hopes to be able to ensure this. Nath has expertise in the field and as an independent sports consultant; Jha looks at tech policy, with a niche interest in e-sports. Together with volunteer legal and e-sports experts, they hope to plug the gaps in player knowledge of the nuances of contracts and dispute resolution.

Also read: Ready Player 1: How e-sports athletes get in shape for game day

They are offering two kinds of membership: free, and at a nominal fee of 299 a year. For the fee, e-sports players or streamers can access services such as legal advice and dispute resolution. Non-paying members may not get access to legal and career advice but will receive updates on Indian e-sports, monthly tournaments, free webinars and key policy updates. Jha, director at Epwa, says close to 5,000 e-sports players have already signed up.

This comes at a time when eight medal e-sports titles—Arena Of Valor Asian Games Version, PUBG Mobile Asian Games Version, Dota 2, League Of Legends, FIFA, Hearthstone, Street Fighter V and Dream Three Kingdoms 2—are set to be included in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. According to a report published in June by the global professional services company EY, India has around 150,000 professional e-sports players and 60,000 teams. By 2025, the number of players could easily reach 1.5 million and the number of teams could expand to 250,000, the report notes, adding that the industry  will need constant regulatory support.

Globally, e-sports is so big that universities and colleges in some countries even pay scholarships to players, though an Associated Press report in March noted that 90% of such scholarships in the US go to male athletes.

India, too, has agencies to handle e-sports players and talent. The numbers they manage, however, are limited. Epwa hopes to offer guidance to all players on their professional, legal and contractual rights. “There is no players’ body. The idea was to come up with an association that helps us understand their problems and then we could accordingly work in reverse,” says Jha. “There is nobody to give them legal advice. Some of them are also not aware of the rights they have when they enter into contracts, which are the framework of any engagement.”

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Legal advice is not the only area of concern. Navigating a career in e-sports is not easy. Nor is access to the right tools and resources. Epwa’s team includes Amar Ratnam, a former professional gamer with some knowledge of player concerns. Other consultants include shoutcaster (or commentator) Zerah Gonsalves, a gamer herself, and e-sports influencers who can help build engagement and a community.

Gnana Shekar, who has worked with Team Tamilas, a Tamil Nadu-based e-sports team, in the past, says many new and young e-sports players can find it difficult to understand the fine details of a legal contract. Organisations like Epwa could fill that gap. “If that is the structure and idea behind it (Epwa) and if they can help more gamers and their queries, that is great.”

There are many agencies that already handle e-sports players and talents in India, says Shekar, who is now chief marketing officer at the Chennai-based Skyesports, a leading Indian e-sports organisation. “(But) the fact that they have former and current gamers in their team is a good approach. If you want to do something for gamers and e-sports players, you need their insights.”

Also read: How Indian gamers are making big strides in international esports

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