Page last updated at 08:10 GMT, Wednesday, 6 July 2005 09:10 UK

Pro gamers fight for recognition

Britain's Beckham on the virtual football pitch, Ahmad Kholwadia, explains why competitive video gaming should be considered a sport.

Ahmad Kholwadia
Ahmad Kholwadia first tried competitive gaming last year
Competitive gaming is a rapidly growing phenomenon that gets bigger and more popular each year, yet there are many sceptics out there who laugh at the mere notion that it can be classed as a sport.

People need to look at competitive gaming differently to football, rugby or tennis because you cannot compare it to physical sports.

Competitive gaming is a brand new sport, which may not challenge an individual physically, but there is no doubting its mental challenge.

Snooker and darts are classed as sports, but neither sport contains a physical challenge. So why cannot competitive gaming be classed a sport also?

Maybe it is the stigma still attached to gaming that portrays a dedicated gamer as an anti-social reject.

This may have been true 15 to 20 years ago but gaming has evolved past the stage of bedroom loners.

Nerves and skills

During a recent debate with a fellow gamer, I was told that it could only be classed as sport if people got paid or sponsored to play games.

Electronic Sports World Cup 2004
The Paris competition brings together the world's top gamers
For a privileged few, including UK Counter Strike team 4Kings (who will be representing the UK at the upcoming Electronic Sports World Cup in Paris), and world famous professional gamer Fatal1ty, this is already a reality.

Gaming, like any other sport, requires a lot of dedication to be able to compete at the highest level.

Training for a major event like the Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) involves practising with friends and other gamers (locally or online), or competing at smaller tournaments to build up competitive gaming experience.

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that playing from the comfort of your home and competing at a major event are two totally different things.

At home you are competing only against your opponent with nothing or very little at stake but at a major tournament you are competing against your nerves, pressure and a highly skilled opponent which has made many a gamer let the whole event get the better of him or her.

I experienced my first international event last year at the ESWC 2004 and unfortunately I was not prepared for the occasion.

The competition was very high and much better than all the local and national tournaments that I competed in before.

Love of the game

But the experience really opened my eyes to gaming and showed me that there are many people out there who are as dedicated to games as I am.

Screenshot of Pro Evo Soccer 4
Ahmad Kholwadia is the UK's Pro Evo Soccer champion
They all shared my love of games and spent a lot of their time perfecting their game but still managed to live normal lives with jobs, education, friends and a social life.

Now my second international event is the Nvidia-sponsored ESWC 2005 in Paris, where I aim to put my Pro Evolution Soccer 4 skills to the ultimate test.

Gaming should never take over a person's life but if you want to be a truly great gamer you must put in a lot of effort just like you would in football, rugby or tennis.

Before you attempt to compete at a major event, you must have a genuine love of the game. Start by competing against mates then try your skills at a local event.

If you are still interested then take it one step further and compete nationally and finally put your gaming skills to the ultimate test at a major international event.

At the very least, you will make some new friends, and who knows, maybe even some money.

Ahmad Kholwadia, aka Asian Hawk, is the UK's Pro Evolution Soccer 4 champion and is competing in the international finals of the Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) in Paris, which runs from 6 to 10 July 2005.

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