Pakistan isn’t particularly active in the esports circuit. There are several reasons for this – the poverty of the region, and travel restrictions to the West to name just a few. That said, there is a huge, and still unknown exception to this general rule – fighting games.
Pakistan has a surprisingly huge and extremely talented fighting game scene – and most of the fighting game scene didn’t particularly realise this until one man hit the international stage: Arslan Ash. The Pakistani Tekken master made his first big appearance on the international circuit at Evo 2019, where he ploughed his way through his opponents and established himself as one of if not the best Tekken players in the world.
He repeatedly and consistently defeated Korea’s Knee – otherwise known as the god of Tekken – and ultimately, several top Tekken players from Korea actually went to Pakistan to train with Arslan Ash and other players there. Arslan Ash single-handedly drew attention to the Pakistani fighting scene – and then, quite swiftly, Covid-19 put an end to the attempts of quite a few Pakistani players to enter the global stage.
Even in online tournaments, gamers in Pakistan suffered from lag and software issues – a common problem with fighting games in general. Especially Super Smash Bros was plagued by issues, while Tekken 7 did a little better than most others.
A prodigy in pain
Either way, Arslan Ash himself suffered as well – his main source of income had been tournament winnings, which due to travel bans, decreased significantly. As mentioned, all of Pakistan was essentially excluded from competitions, online or otherwise, due to their Internet quality, if nothing else. Pakistan has the second worst Internet connection quality in all of Asia, and ranks 90th in the whole world.
That’s a pretty huge disadvantage of course – and it pretty much puts an end (at least temporarily) to Pakistan’s expansion into the fighting games world. Arslan Ash has been actively campaigning to get more Pakistani players into the international circuit and to also promote the gaming industry in the country itself.
Several top Korean fighting games players have travelled to Pakistan before Covid-19 to train after Arslan Ash’s explosive appearance on the international stage, since the country boasts a somewhat unique playing style that there is currently not too much of a counter-technique to – at least not at EVO-level.
Arslan Ash describes the Pakistani style of play like this: “In Pakistan, players focus on small things which players from other countries don’t care about. They care about big moves, big damage. In Pakistan, I believe we care about small damage as well. I think that differentiates us from other countries and other play styles.” The fact that this technique is effective was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt when Arslan repeatedly humbled THE top player in the Tekken world – Korean player Knee.
No doubt, Pakistan will continue to create incredible Tekken (and other fighting games) talent, though it’ll likely be some more time before they can truly participate in the world stage again – between Covid and internet issues, it’s just not feasible right now.