The result of the VALORANT Champions Tour 2021 APAC Last Chance Qualifier looked promising for the three Korean teams in attendance and unfortunate for everyone else.
After all, two of the participating Korean teams – NUTURN Gaming and F4Q – had already been to Masters events and it seemed a foregone conclusion that one of them or DAMWON Gaming would also make it to VALORANT Champions. The rest of the tournament felt almost like a formality.
But on the first day something completely unexpected happened. Global Esports, an Indian team and the only South Asian team at the event, defeated tournament favorites DAMWON Gaming in their round of 16 matchup. It was an unprecedented excitement, and one that was at the forefront Ganesh “SkRossi” Gangadhar, one of VALORANT’s fastest rising stars.
SkRossi’s journey into competitive gaming began when he received his first desktop PC at the age of 16. His first game was the popular MOBA Dota 2. Soon after, he started playing a first-person shooter called Point Blank (aka Piercing Blow) that had just been released in India in 2016.
SkRossi quickly gained notoriety and joined a professional team called Wings. The team won the Point Blank National Championship three times, after which it was selected to represent India at the Point Blank International Championship in Jakarta, Indonesia. SkRossi was only 18 at the time.
“That was mine [first] big tournament, playing on a big stage,” SkRossi said of the experience. “I’m going there, my parents [didn’t] agree because for parents in India eSports is something they don’t understand too much. When I said I was going to Indonesia to play video games, they had no idea. So I had to explain everything to them and they were still concerned and didn’t allow me to leave. Then all my friends and teammates persuaded them: ‘Let him go, this is a really good opportunity, he’s qualified and he has to represent his country.’”
Although Wings ultimately finished seventh at the international tournament, it was an invaluable experience for SkRossi. Then he knew what it was like to play in front of a stadium full of video game fanatics and compete with and against people whose skills he respects. It’s a feeling, he said, that would drive him to pursue this unorthodox career.
“That was the tournament where I actually thought, ‘Okay, I should do that,'” said SkRossi. “I should compete on big stages.”
When SkRossi returned to India, he told his mother that he wanted to be an esports player. He explained it to her in terms of traditional sports — “It’s like [being a] Cricket player or footballer” – and agreed to only engage in professional gaming if it is compatible with his studies.
In 2017, Point Blank in India closed and Wings moved to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. SkRossi then joined Indian CS:GO team BL4ZE Esports in 2019. It was the first time he played for a real organization.
SkRossi always goes up
“To [Point Blank] was closed, not much money flowed from my side in CS:GO and my parents still doubted if I could live with it,” said SkRossi. “BL4ZE was my first organization where I got my first salary.”
But despite SkRossi’s efforts, BL4ZE Esports faced a bumpy first year. For the remainder of SkRossi’s time there, apart from a few minor tournament wins, the team consistently fell behind.
Then, in 2020, Riot Games released their latest tactical first-person shooter: VALORANT. For many players who struggled in their previous games, it offered the promise of a fresh start and a second chance at greatness. For SkRossi, VALORANT offered an opportunity to be on par with the rest of the world.
“One of the main reasons I switched to VALORANT is that there are no more excuses,” said SkRossi. “I used to have this excuse like, ‘Okay, people are ahead, they’ve been playing for many years. There is no such excuse at VALORANT. Everyone starts at the same time. I also loved the game because I started out as a Dota 2 player. Point Blank, CS:GO… it’s all about shooting. When I saw that VALORANT also has abilities like in League of Legends or Dota 2, I thought that would be really interesting. So I immediately switched to VALORANT.”
According to SkRossi, India’s PC esports scene was still developing at the time. Mobile esports were still dominant in India due to the proliferation of mobile devices. However, the release of VALORANT coincided with a major event in Indian gaming: the Indian government banned PlayerUnknown’s Battleground Mobile.
“When PUBG Mobile was banned, all content creators who had a lot of followers started playing VALORANT,” said SkRossi. “Then Indian audiences were introduced to PC esports, which previously was all about mobile esports. People got interested in the game, they started watching the game, they supported the game and luckily I made the switch at the right time.”
VALORANT and PC eSports are growing in popularity in India and SkRossi is at the forefront of this boom. Global Esports have already proven that they are not a region to overlook with their upset first round win at the 2021 APAC LCQ. VALORANT is a game of new opportunities, after all – and the entire Indian region now has a chance to put itself on the map as well.
“Unfortunately we lost [in LCQ] but overall the experience was really damn good,” said SkRossi. “It showed all the other teams that we can do it too, that ‘okay, that’s not impossible, you can play against the best teams in the world.’ We’re proud to be the first to do this, to tell people we actually can, and we can’t wait to do it again.”
Charlie Howard contributed to this article.