Tirth Mehta, one of the eSports athletes who representedIndia for eSports titles at The Asian Games 2018 won in Hearthstone and came back to India with a Bronze Medal. He’s been playing competitive Hearthstone since quite a few years now. Here are the major international tournaments he’s participated in so far –
- Thailand Major 2016 (Thailand)
- IESF World Championship 2016 (Indonesia)
- Thailand Major 2017 (Thailand)
- Hearthstone Championship Tour 2016 – Southeast Asia Summer preliminaries
- Hearthstone Championship Tour 2017 – APAC Playoffs (Thailand)
We interviewed him and got to know about his phenomenal journey in becoming a Professional eSports athlete or Hearthstone and his experiences at The Asian Games 2018! Let’s begin.
How was your experience at The Asian Games 2018?
First, I was sceptical of how the eSports athletes will be treated at the event. But once we arrived, everyone treated us there just like any other sportsperson. All volunteers were really working their heart out without hesitating and I felt really good to see them being happy to work at The Asian Games.
We stayed at the Athletes Village, where other sportspersons were staying at as well. We dined in with them, got to meet them in the campus and the whole village was set up really well with large rooms, greeny all around and excellent food. Overall the experience was really good and their welcoming nature was something I’ve never really seen at other events.
How was the organisation of the eSports tournaments being held at The Asian Games 2018 compared to other tournaments you’ve played in the past?
I’ve been to other international tournaments as well. I competed at the Official Hearthstone Championship 2016 & 2017, IESF World Championship which was held in Jakarta, Indonesia as well. The accommodation and everything was really good at these past events but the organisation was definitely superior at The Asian Games 2018
They had places where the athletes could hang out, as well as specific cafeterias for the players. The volunteers took special measures to ensure a comfortable stay – they even translated the official terms to our national language and treated us really well.
You’ve been a part of history. You were the first one from India to win a medal for an eSports title at the Olympics and inspired many aspiring eSports athletes. How do you feel about this achievement?
That has been my goal since the start of my competitive eSports career. I didn’t just want to win for myself. I wanted to win for my country. I wanted to show the parents and aspiring eSports athletes that they too can compete & showcase their talent to the world. India has a lot of talent with some having more talent than me.
I have been trying to convince many of my friends who are great players to participate in tournaments, but they often have issues such as their parents not allowing them, them not having a passport, and other issues. I hope with this inclusion of eSports at The Asian Games 2018 and my achievement, people will start believing in eSports. Hopefully, our talented players would start participating in tournaments & qualifiers and represent India on an international scale!
How did you get into Gaming? What’s the story behind your career?
Since my childhood, I started playing console games like everybody else. I used to play games like Contra, Mario and others with my brother and cousins. I was relatively decent at these games as well. Later on, I became interested in Chess. My father has been a competitive Chess player in his childhood and I was really into it. This made me like strategic games more.
In college, my friend introduced me to Dota. That game instantly took me away and I changed my focus from Chess to Dota. I stopped competing in the local college events but Dota required a decent internet to play competitively online and a decent team. I didn’t have access to these things, so I started to look for single-player strategy driven games where I could showcase my skills and not worry about having a decent internet connection.
At that time, Hearthstone was in Beta. I started looking for keys and got one. I was instantly hooked to the game and never looked back. I started playing in Online Tournaments since the very first month I started playing the game. I have been competing in Hearthstone tournaments since 2014 and still do participate in them on a regular basis – this is very good practice for major tournaments participate in.
How were your beginning years as a competitive Hearthstone player?
My starting years were quite decent. Hearthstone requires a good startup so I started competing in smaller $5 tournaments. Hearthstone requires some investment to buy in-game cards so those smaller tournaments helped me a lot to get those cards and have them ready to play in matches.
In 2015, I participated in a major tournament and that was the turning point of my competitive career. I participated in the ESL Legendary Series 2015. The prize was $1500 USD with a trip to California on the line. I reached the finals but unfortunately, I was forfeited. My internet connection was unstable and I wasn’t able to compete in the finals. I lost that opportunity but it opened doors to many others.
I played with a class that was not so popular at that time, but I performed really well with it. I was picked up by TempoStorm.com for writing their Meta Snapshots as they call it. I have been writing them since 2015 now. Since then I’ve participated in many major tournaments and my journey has been great.
What were the struggles which you had to go through during your journey of becoming an eSports athlete?
The first issue that almost every Indian player faces is their parent’s acceptance. Fortunately for me, my parents have been very accepting and supportive of my eSports career. They always believed in me & trusted the decisions I made for my career with proper thoughts and consideration. They never doubted me and never thought that the game I’m playing is only for timepass.
Once the money started rolling in, they were quite confident that I have some talent and will be able to pursue even greater accomplishments. It wasn’t just my parents and my brother who supported me but my entire family was really supportive of my gaming career and this was a huge plus for me.
Apart from that, the issue was mostly timings and the internet connection that I had. I didn’t have a good internet connection and often I would disconnect from the game. Back then the game didn’t have a reconnect option and I lost several tournaments because of this. The timings were basically such that I had to play during the night. Most of the tournaments were held during the United States timezone and they would be organised to be held around 2 AM in the night in India. I had to wake up at 1 AM and start practising, then play in the tournament for well over 12 to 14 hours which ruined my sleep schedule.
Those were the main issues I had but other than that I am extremely happy and fortunate to have such a loving and caring family who always supported me.
How did your parents react to your unfamiliar choice of choosing eSports as an actual career in India?
When I first started, I wasn’t really playing full time. I was focusing on my studies more and played 3-4 hours every day. Even back then I still participated in tournaments and got decent results from them. I didn’t really tell them that I was playing Hearthstone and competing in tournaments, but they did know I was playing other games. Once I showed them that this is what I have been doing and accumulated a decent amount of prize money and had some interviews of me on other websites, they felt really proud that I’ve been doing something productive even in my free time of playing games.
That felt really good. They have been supporting me ever since and love to talk about how I have been doing in recent tournaments & always encourage me. And when I won the Bronze Medal at The Asian Games 2018, they were really happy and had tears of joy in their eyes.
What would be your message to the aspiring eSports athletes of our country?
First suggestion from me would be to have a backup plan. I think for now going all-in into gaming isn’t a viable choice. In other countries, players just drop out from their school or college and pursue eSports but that is something that’s not really possible in India right now because we don’t the resources they have to sustain ourselves.
They should focus on their studies while competing in any tournaments they can get their hands on. They might think that “I am a new player and the tournaments will have players much better than me, I can’t beat these good players” but competing in tournaments they could surprise themselves on how good they really are. That is my second suggestion for them.
Once they start competing in tournaments it should mostly be just uphill from there and keep gaining experience. India definitely has some talent and our players can surely compete on an international scale.
Even with all the struggles that players have to go with, eSports is still a very viable choice in India. What would your message be to the parents of children who want to choose eSports as a career in India?
My message to them would be to let their children have certain times allowed where they can play the game and compete. But I think the parents should believe in their children and give them a chance to prove themselves – everybody deserves it.
Situations have improved quite a lot in India. The Internet has gotten much better & reliable for streaming which allows players to interact with others. Content creation can also be a part of someone’s eSports career it’s a great choice. There are many opportunities to pursue in the eSports industry.
This is just the beginning. The Asian Games 2018 too had eSports as a demonstration sport. Many Asian countries are relatively high in terms of eSports recognition but India is really lacking behind in this. Hopefully, after the Asian Games 2018, recognition of eSports will improve in India and parents would consider allowing their children to play eSports titles and prove themselves.