The outcome of the VALORANT Champions Tour 2021 APAC Last Chance Qualifier looked promising for the three Korean teams in attendance and unfortunate for everyone else.
Two of the Korean teams competing — NUTURN Gaming and F4Q — have already been to masters events, after all, and it seemed like a foregone conclusion that either of them, or DAMWON Gaming, would make it to VALORANT Champions as well. The rest of the tournament seemed almost like a formality.
But on the first day, something wholly unexpected happened. Global Esports, an Indian team and the sole South Asian team at the event, defeated tournament favorites DAMWON Gaming in their round of 10 matchup. It was an unprecedented upset, and one spearheaded by Ganesh “SkRossi” Gangadhar, one of VALORANT’s most rapidly-rising stars.
SkRossi’s journey into competitive gaming began when he received his first desktop PC at 16 years old. His first game was the popular MOBA Dota 2. Soon after, he began playing a first-person shooter called Point Blank (also known as Piercing Blow), which had just been released in India in 2016.
SkRossi quickly rose to prominence and joined a professional team named Wings. The team won the Point Blank National Championship three times, after which they were chosen to represent India at the Point Blank International Championship in Jakarta, Indonesia. SkRossi was only 18 at the time.
“That was my [first] big tournament, playing on a big stage,” SkRossi said of the experience. “Going there, my parents [didn’t] agree to it 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 clue. So I had to explain everything to them, and they were still worried and didn’t allow me to go. Then all my friends and teammates convinced them, ‘let him go, this is a really good opportunity, he’s qualified, and he has to represent his country.’”
Though Wings ultimately placed seventh at the international tournament, it served as an invaluable experience for SkRossi. He then knew what it was like to play in front of a stadium full of video game fanatics, competing with and against people whose skill he respected. It was a feeling, he said, that would push him to pursue this unorthodox career.
“That was the tournament where I actually felt like, ‘okay, this is what I should be doing,’” SkRossi said. “I should be competing at big stages.”
When SkRossi returned to India, he told his mother that he wanted to become 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 pursue professional gaming if he balanced it with his studies.
In 2017, Point Blank shut down in India, and Wings made the shift over to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. SkRossi then joined Indian CS:GO team BL4ZE Esports in 2019. It was the first time he played for an actual organization.
SkRossi is always rising
“After [Point Blank] was shut down, in CS:GO, there wasn’t much cash flowing from my side and my parents were still doubting whether I could make a living with this,” SkRossi said. “BL4ZE was my first org where I got my first salary.”
But despite SkRossi’s best efforts, BL4ZE Esports faced a rocky first year. For the rest of SkRossi’s time there, the team, other than a few minor tournament wins, fell short time and time again.
Then, in 2020, Riot Games released their newest tactical first-person shooter: VALORANT. For many players who had been struggling in their previous games, it offered the promise of a fresh start and a second chance at achieving greatness. For SkRossi, VALORANT provided an opportunity to be on even footing with the rest of the world.
“One of the main reasons I switched to VALORANT is because it gives you no more excuses,” SkRossi said. “Before, I had this excuse, like, ‘okay, people are ahead, they’ve been playing for a lot of years. In VALORANT, there’s no excuse like that. Everybody’s starting at the same time. I also loved the game because I started as a Dota 2 player. Point Blank, CS:GO … it’s all about shooting. When I saw that VALORANT also had abilities like in League of Legends or Dota 2, I thought it would be really interesting. So I immediately shifted to VALORANT.”
According to SkRossi, India’s PC esports scene, at the time was still developing. Mobile esports still reigned supreme in India due to the prevalence of mobile devices. VALORANT’s release, however, coincided with a huge event in Indian gaming: the Indian government banned PlayerUnknown’s Battleground Mobile.
“When PUBG Mobile was banned, all the content creators who had a lot of followers started playing VALORANT,” SkRossi said. “So then Indian audiences got introduced to PC esports, where before they were only about mobile esports. People got interested in the game, they started watching the game, supporting the game, and luckily I shifted at the right time.”
VALORANT and PC esports have been rapidly growing in popularity in India, and SkRossi is at the forefront of that boom. Global Esports have already proven, through their first-round upset victory at the 2021 APAC LCQ, that they’re not a region to be overlooked. VALORANT is a game of new opportunities, after all — and the entire Indian region has a chance to put themselves on the map now, too.
“Unfortunately we lost [in LCQ] but, overall, the experience was really damn good,” SkRossi said. “It showed all the other teams that we can also do it, that, ‘okay, this is not impossible, it is possible to go against the best teams in the world.’ We’re proud that we are the first ones to do that, to tell people that we can actually do it, and we can’t wait to do it again.”
Charlie Howard contributed to this article.