Forsaken, how the 'hidden gem' of Indian esports was caught cheating | Euronews Tech Talks

Forsaken, how the 'hidden gem' of Indian esports was caught cheating | Euronews Tech Talks
Copyright LUSA
By Alice CarnevaliKaspersky
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In 2018, the Indian esports team qualified for an Asian gaming competition, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the underdogs of the esports arena. During a crucial match, the admins stopped the game. Forsaken, one of the Indian players, was caught cheating. This is his story.

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“We all stayed together because it's a team sport, so we needed to be together to improve. The mental pressure is immense. If you have to succeed in any sport, you need to be tough,” said the Indian player Sabyasachi Bose, also known as Antidote, talking about his experience in esports.

Electronic sports or esports are competitive video games and have developed into a huge industry in the last 20 years. Just like traditional sports, professional esports players follow regular training schedules, participate in international championships, and deal with sponsors to make a living out of their passion. 

League of Legends, Call of Duty and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) are among the most famous esports around the world. Just consider CS:GO: it was launched in 2000 and in May 2023, it reached a record 1.8 million worldwide players. 

Back in 2018, Antidote was a professional CS:GO gamer for the Indian national team. Together with his mates, they reached the CS:GO Asian Championship, a dream-come-true moment in the history of India's esports career.

Yet, something went wrong. Forsaken, Antidote's teammate, was caught red-handed, overturning his and his team’s destiny forever. 

A new chapter for India's esports

In 2018, the Indian esports organisation OpTic Gaming decided to enhance India’s performance in the digital sports arena. To do so, they organised a boot camp in Bangalore, bringing together the most talented CS: GO gamers in the country. 

The final selection had five players including Antidote, and Nikhil Kumawat, also known as Forsaken. 

Nikhil Kumawat, AKA Forsaken
Nikhil Kumawat, AKA ForsakenEuronews / Kaspersky

"Forsaken was one of those hidden gems. One of those players that came with an unnatural amount of skills," said Siddarth Nayyar, esports entrepreneur at AFK gaming. 

Yet, in the esports world, there were some suspicions. “Other people were saying he was fishy, but we didn't have any concrete evidence to kick him out of the team,” said Antidote. 

Despite the doubts, Forsaken was an asset to the team. “We picked him because he was really good at the technical aspects of the game. He was brought in for his brains more than his reflexes,” said Prashant Prabhakar, OpTic operations partner.

The esports scandal

It did not take long for the OpTic team to start achieving results. The team passed the Hyberaabad qualifications, dominated in the Extremesland tournament and ultimately got to the Asian Championship of CS:GO in Shangai, China. 

They could not believe it. “It was really exciting because you could just see their eyes light up. They were like: 'Oh my gosh, we're in a new place and we're about to just showcase what we're made out of'," Jesal Parekh, former global development director at OpTic India, said.  

After a challenging game against Malaysia, the underdogs faced Vietnam in a crucial match. They were halfway through the map when the admins paused the game. Forsaken was caught red-handed: he had been using a previously installed cheat without telling his teammates.

Just like using doping in sports, cheating in an international esports competition comes at a high price. It undermines the team's legitimacy, reduces the number of sponsors and changes the lives of many people, teammates included. 

All of a sudden my achievements were gone, everything I had earned as a player.
Sabyasachi Bose, AKA Antidote
Forsaken's teammate

After months of silence, in an interview with AFK gaming,  Forsaken explained: “I was confident in my decisions, I was confident in understanding of the game etc but was never confident in my aim so to compensate for that lack of confidence in aim I chose the wrong path”. 

He even added: “I would probably delete the day when I first played Counterstrike. Nothing good has happened to me since the day I started playing this game". 

Hacker Hunter: Next Level is brought to you by Tomorrow Unlocked, the cyber immunity channel from Kaspersky, in collaboration with the Euronews Tech Talks team.

Additional sources • Producer: Marta Rodriguez Martinez

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