Ankur JauntyTank Diwakar is a well known face in Indian eSports. Said to be one of the most versatile gamers in industry, he has mastered various games. He won the Tekken tournament at U Cypher even though he mainly plays FIFA. Now he will be representing India at Asian Games. We talked to him about his challenges and what motivates him.
So tell us about when you started gaming.
JauntyTank: I have been playing professionally for the past decade. Mostly I play FIFA which is my main game. In my childhood days I used to play Winning 11. I started from that because I used to like the gameplay better than that of FIFA. Then FIFA got the official rights and the graphics back then look pretty decent enough so I started playing FIFA professionally after 2006-2007. 2007 was my first step in the scene where we used to attend all these college events.
What was your big break? When you got the recognition?
JauntyTank: It was basically in 2010. That time I won an event in the KC College. It was not just a college event; people from all over India came. That’s where I got to know that we had so many players across India. So when I won that I started to travel across different cities in India. I also represented different cities. I played for Mumbai, I played for Pune, played for Delhi. Gods of Gaming was another big milestone back then. I got featured in Mumbai Mirror and that was a big deal. That was the only medium when we had no social media back then. I would say that Gods of Gaming has been the biggest milestone for me back then.
You played Tekken at U Cypher. Was that the first time you were playing Tekken at the competitive level?
JauntyTank: Legit this was the first time I played Tekken in my entire life. Originally it was FIFA for which I was contacted. They wanted all the pro gamers in the first season as it was the inaugural season. Later on they would have auditions and competitions for selection. So they wanted the guys whom they already knew at a very good level. But then they had some licence issues for FIFA. Then they moved to PES. So for that I took a break for FIFA which cost me a lot of championships. I was concentrating on PES for odd couple of months. After that I got to know that the shoot got delayed. And the next (PES) title was released. So they had no intention of putting money on the older version. So that also got cancelled and then later on they had a tie up with Bandai Namco. The person who was in coordination with me told me that I had two months and told me to let him know if I could make it. It was a very bold decision because at that time I was at my Prime in FIFA and I was winning almost each and every tournament that happened. I won the ESWC as well. So it was a pretty big decision since Tekken was something I had never played before and I had no experience in the fighting community. I had just played a fighting game once, that too Street Fighter in those Arcade things when I was a kid.
People knew that I love taking challenges so they wanted me to take this up. The moment I started playing I realised that it was all about memory. I mean obviously skill is involved. But you need to memorize the combos and the moves. Also, reflexes are an important part. I would give the credit to FIFA for giving me the reflexes. So I could somewhat relate this to Tekken as well. After playing for a week I gave them a call and told them that I would play Tekken at U Cypher. I didn’t know what the competition level was or anything. I just signed the contract and I was like, “Ok, let’s do it “. So after that I used to train 12 hours everyday. After that I reached the maximum CPU difficulty. So after that I decided to play online against real players. Luckily, I had a few friends due to FIFA and a few friends abroad. And they were good at Tekken. There were guys from Korea, there were guys from Japan, there were guys from Iran. They helped me out to understand the frame data of it. In fighting games it’s all about frame data and I used to do all that mathematics. It was a completely new experience and completely new challenge for me, which reminded me of my initial days in FIFA. I was loving the whole process. I was excited to see how it would turn out in front of pro players. My first match (at U Cypher) was against the best player in the industry and it was killing me from inside. I was opening the whole set of U Cypher and that too against the guy who had been playing this game for 20 years. But I won that by 3-0. That was something that gives me another kick to it.
How was your experience at U Cypher? Was it what you expected?
JauntyTank: Initially the process took a little longer than expected. The shoot got delayed due to some reasons. But the moment I stepped into U Cypher that treatment and everything was superb. There were proper arrangements being done, there were proper vanities. There was proper respect being given to the gamers which we always crave for.
We used to shoot for about 15 hours a day. But you cannot consider it a downside because ultimately we are not actors or something. The best part about U Cypher was that they asked us to keep it real. We were not given a script or anything. Everything that was created was created on the spot. So the experience was pretty good. I would love to do another season, but not as a player this time.
Would you go for Tekken tournaments again in the future?
I want to but I think that was enough for me. I would give 10 on 10 to the fighting games community because it is not an easy community to be in where people are not being recognised for what they do the best. In India the fighting in community is not that good as compared to other games , but the Talent we have in terms of fighting games is crazy.
You’ve qualified for the Asian Games. Was there any difficulty you faced in the regionals?
JauntyTank: Maldives. They are some tough chaps to beat. I don’t know how we manage to play and dominate them. But in terms of their gameplay, their game sense, in terms of their execution and composure, they were so good and organised. Actually, when playing against them I learnt in game. This is another thing I would give to Tekken. I actually started learning within the game.
In Tekken if you are getting beat down you need to rethink your strategy. So against Maldives I learnt a few elements like what he was doing and I did it better. That is why I think i and my fellow mate won that.
Esports as of yet is not a medal game at Asian Games. So what motivates you? Representing your country?
JauntyTank: Obviously that is the biggest pride that any Indian can get. But basically it is for me, it is for the people I know, It is for the country I belong to. I have never been the guy that goes for medals. If I were that guy I would have retired by the age of 25 or 24. Because the time we had faced and hardships we had faced in those days were tough. We had actually struggled for 500 rupees back in those days. We all love medals in our cases but I cannot actually describe the kick that I get tp represent my country.
Very few people know about this but I used to play district level football in Mumbai. I met with a bike accident and I couldn’t play football anymore. Back then I had a dream to play real life football and represent India. After that (the accident) I had a good rest period of 6 to 9 months. I started overthinking. I used to play FIFA. That’s when I decided to take gaming a little seriously. I had to prove it to myself that I could do something for my country.
I didn’t want to just represent India. This is what has been happening in the FIFA scene. People go to tournament and come back after the first or second round. They just see India like we see Ireland in cricket. So if I am representing India I want to achieve something. I want the guys who I am competing against to remember the country’s name. This is the first time that something like this is happening and I am glad that India has made it through to the main stage.
Where do you see Indian esports in the future? Do you think it will be as big as it is in Europe or America?
JauntyTank: This was a question asked by someone to me back in 2014. And I remember I said, “At the level we are right now, we are 6 to 7 years behind”. We are still trailing in terms of organisations, players and the exposure, which is the main thing. But I’ve seen that after 2016 there has been a massive rise in 2017 and a bigger rise in 2018. We are still not at par with them but we are closing the gap. I would say only two or three percent of the world population is well educated about eSports.
Earlier in India even dance was treated like video games are treated now. Then they created dance reality shows and dancing in India evolved. So I would say it is a collective effort which is required for gaming to progress.