Tekken is a 3D fighting game that has been around for much of the genre’s history. It is a game that relies on strong footsies and movement. The strongest players in Tekken have often hailed from Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Arslan Ash, a Pakistani player, made his global debut at EVO Japan where he beat a leading player known as Knee. Knee is the only player in the world that can utilise all 45 characters in Tekken in a tournament effectively; that kind of hard work has earned him three EVO titles and the moniker “Thanos.” He is undisputedly one of the strongest players in the world.
Arslan Ash’s victory against Knee put Pakistan on the map for Tekken. It was clear that his gameplay was refined, but there was no record of him ever playing against Korean, Japanese or American players. This lead Pekos and Chikurin, two of the best Japanese players, to go to Pakistan and find out about this scene. For the first time, Pakistani Tekken showed up on YouTube. Heera Malik playing Steve, Awais Honey playing Akuma and Hassan Naruto playing Hwoarang showed up on Chikurin’s stream. These players obliterated the two Japanese visitors. Chikurin and Pekos are in the top five Tekken players in the world, having traded blows with Knee and beaten the best Korean players. After watching Pekos and Chikurin lose to the Pakistani players, the fighting game community started paying more attention to Ash’s home country.
The fighting game scene in Pakistan developed in anonymity due to nation-wide censorship. Like China, Pakistan has banned all Google services, including YouTube, and the government employs severe censorship techniques on other online services. Combined with slow Internet speeds,online gaming in Pakistan is near impossible. Most people still go to actual arcades where PS4s are turned into gaming cabinets with sticks and buttons. Due to this isolation, Pakistani tournaments had virtually no recording, and their players did not engage in streaming.
At EVO 2019 in Las Vegas, Arslan Ash beat Knee twice to crown himself as the best Tekken player in the world. Fighting game tournaments use a double elimination system. This means that each player would have to be defeated twice to be knocked out of the tournament. After losing once, the player is sent to the losers’ bracket. After three days of playing in the pools, the top eight play each other in the finals. Arslan beat Knee in the top eight and in the grand finals.
The Tekken World Tour Finals are one month away. Two of the Pakistani players featured in Chikurin’s stream are vying for their place in the brackets. Awais has already beaten Knee at the FV Cup 2019, and Malik has found a sponsor. The future of Pakistani esports is looking very bright going into the Tekken World Tour Finals. If a Pakistani player takes home the trophy, it could encourage more Asian players to participate in esports.
Nilesh "Nile" Khetrapal is a member of the fighting game community and a music producer. An international student from India, he is in the United States for the first time. Nile has been a staff writer with Champlain Arcade since its debut.