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Jakarta Post

E-sports provide solace for Indonesian sports fans during COVID-19 quarantine

  • Ramadani Saputra
    Ramadani Saputra

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, April 8, 2020   /   04:10 pm
E-sports provide solace for Indonesian sports fans during COVID-19 quarantine The Indonesian national e-sports team competes against the Philippines in the final round of Mobile Legends during the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games at Filoil Flying V Center in Manila, the Philippines on Dec. 8, 2019. The Philippines won the gold medal. (Antara/Sigid Kurniawan)

For avid soccer fan Hagi Pradita, the 2019/2020 season of the English Premier League (EPL) was the best chance for his beloved club Liverpool FC to lift the nation’s most coveted league trophy once again, after having suffered a long dry silverware spell on the sport’s home turf.

So, when the league was postponed indefinitely last month as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hagi was downcast as he knew very well that his team just needed to secure two more victories to come out as English soccer champion.

“I miss watching soccer and I really wanted to see Liverpool win the EPL this season. It has yet to win the league in 20 years,” the 25-year-old told The Jakarta Post earlier this week, noting the last time Liverpool won the then-First Division title was back in the 1989/1990 season.

At the time of the league’s postponement, Liverpool had secured 82 points from 29 matches. The team only needed to play nine more matches to complete the entirety of the 2019/2020 season.

To soothe his yearning for his club’s physical appearance, Hagi took matters into his own hands and played the popular soccer simulation game Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) as his favorite team. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing him and most other workers around the world to work from home for the past three weeks, Hagi said that spending down time playing the video game version of his team at least gave him a measure of solace.

Hagi is not alone in this struggle, more and more people are turning to video games or flocking online to play collectively, which provides a sweet escape from the dead-end feeling that most have experienced during this extended period of self-isolation.

The Jakarta administration announced on Tuesday that it would impose large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) beginning on Friday, three weeks after it introduced a myriad of physical distancing and de facto quarantine measures on its people. The city is currently the national epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.

For many people, PES and other such games categorized as electronic sports (e-sports) have given them an outlet to kill the boredom and cabin fever that they experience as a result of the quarantine and physical-distancing measures.

An active e-sports player, 23-year-old Muhammad Pratama said he spent hours upon hours playing his favorite games during the quarantine period, something that would have been impossible before the work-from-home policy was imposed.

“Normally, I play two to three hours in a day, but now during this quarantine I can play from morning to evening or even up to the next morning,” he told the Post this week. “While working from home, I usually take about 15 minutes to play a game while [I work on] my project. So, after I finish one, I play another game before I continue [onto another project].”

A variety of games has become Pratama’s source of entertainment during self-isolation, from mobile games he plays on his smartphone like Mobile Legend and Call of Duty, to PC-based games such as Rocket League, Overwatch and Defense of the Ancients (DotA). He also plays sports games like FIFA 20 on his Playstation 4 gaming console.

As his fellow online gamer friends come from various age groups, Pratama said he even set up a schedule to play with each group virtually.

“If I play with friends my age who also have to work from home, we usually play from maghrib [evening prayers] until midnight. But if we’re strong enough, we continue until dawn,” he said.

“Whereas with the younger players, most of whom are my brother’s [high school] friends, we play in the afternoon.”

Quarantine measures and self-isolation have become the norm around the world as means to contain the spread of COVID-19, pushing the number of users of gaming service platforms up at an unprecedented rate.

PC gaming service Steam, for instance, recorded a new high in simultaneous user numbers, with 23.5 million users coming online all at once on March 30, AFP reports.

Professional sporting competitions have also made use of the quarantine measures to explore the expansive world of e-sports and engage with their fans. The world’s premier motorcycle competition MotoGP organized its first virtual race featuring top riders like Marc Marquez on March 29.

The race, which was eventually won by Repsol Honda rider Alex Marquez, managed to attract 3 million viewers, with “more than 2.5 million interactions [...] made with content related to the Virtual Race,” according to information collated from the MotoGP website.

The resulting enthusiasm for the Virtual Race helped spawn a second Virtual Race, due to be held on April 12.

The NBA has also jumped on the e-sports bandwagon by organizing a basketball tournament for its players to be played exclusively on NBA2K, a basketball simulation game, during quarantine.

Played on the Xbox One video game console, the tournament features 16 real NBA players including Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls’ Zach Levine, according to an NBA press release.

The winner of the tournament will have the opportunity to donate US$100,000, the tournament’s grand prize, to a charity of their choosing that supports the mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic.