Earlier last week we at TechQuila had an exclusive opportunity to interview Ankit ‘V3nom’ Panth, who is one of the biggest CSGO players in the country and the founder of Team Brutality. Ankit started gaming in a café in the suburbs of Mumbai and now is a Red Bull athlete, being at the forefront of the esports scene in India.
We talked at length about his journey, breaking misconceptions of Indian parents on gaming, his association with Red Bull, and about his plans in 2021 in a post-pandemic world.
When we were searching for helicopters in GTA Vice City, you were getting into competitive gaming, so what were you parents’ reaction when you told them that you will be choosing gaming as a profession?
“To be very honest, I didn’t actually tell them that I’m going to take this as a profession. Because you know all those misconceptions were already there in their heads. Even if I told utter the word ‘gaming’, they would stop everything that I had and tell me to focus on studies, etc. So, I started in a way that I was practising in gaming cafes, whenever I could, whenever I could save money, and side by side I kept studying and kept doing whatever they wanted. Then after a certain point of time, when I started winning tournaments, that’s when I told them I can do it because I am one of the best in the country. But ultimately they are the parents, and without any achievements and proofs, they are not going to agree. That’s when I actually started collecting all these proofs, sense of achievements, and prizes like mousepads, keyboards, and some money. Then I started everything building from there.”
Do your parents understand gaming, or is it still ‘whatever’ for them?
“Now definitely they do, because I have been associating with lots of brands, and when I became a Red Bull athlete, that made a big impact on them. Because when you search for Red bull, you know you get lots of their global athletes in front of you.”
“So In India, they have signed KL Rahul, and in India cricket is a very big thing. So when my mother and relatives saw that my picture is somewhere next to him and that also in athletes of the same brand that is sponsoring KL Rahul, they realized that this is very big. Then the BBC World interview, so my uncles and all have done MBA, so they watch these international news channels, so when I came on that, that was an eyeopener for them that an average student suddenly coming on world news and playing in the big leagues and being known in the country that’s when they started researching about the gaming and eSports.”
When you started gaming, then did you had any backup plan or anything like a Plan B?
“I come from a very humble background where being graduated and getting a job was the priority, my dad did it, and I was hammered that you have to do an MBA, you have to become an Aeronautical Engineer, that you have to become this and that. But I was not interested in all that, I told them this is what I can do, this is my passion. I can work hard in this and yes, you want future security, I’ll give you a graduation degree. I was kind of made a balance where they were happy, and I was also happy. My achievements were giving them the assurance that even this can be taken as a career, while side by side I was passing with decent grades, so if this fails then I can get a job. So when you have are passionate enough and you are working hard, then things place into places.”
“I know convincing parents for a passion that is not known is very difficult. When you say that you want to become a cricketer, they have Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, then when you say you want to become an actor, you have Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan, but when it comes to gaming you don’t have a figure to refer to, and that’s the problem that I faced.”
But now people have you to fill that role. If someone wants to get into gaming, they can refer to you.
“I’m glad that you said this, but this was the problem that I faced, if I had been able to clear these misconceptions then it would have been easy for me, and if parents won’t have their answers, then they are not going to allow you to pursue your passion, so I could connect all these dots and I knew the struggle, I knew the passion of getting that first mousepad, first keyboard, first monitor, and saving for upgrading RAM and graphic card. You would not believe that for my PC, I have to save for around 6-8 months, then also the configuration I wanted was for INR 25,000, then my dad said no my budget is just INR 20,000.”
Now you have one of the best rigs one could ever imagine for.
“Well, this happened in the last two years when I became a brand ambassador of Red Bull and other several brands, then played some tournaments and won some of them, news channels started covering us. All of these things together, helped me to survive this tsunami of misconceptions.”
So, we know that you started the team ‘Brutality’ with Aakash ‘RiX’ back in 2008, but what’s the story behind ‘Brutality’? How did you come up with the name?
“When I was in my late teens we formed team ‘Brutality’, and I was just talking with my friends and Rix was there, so I was a very aggressive player in the game, and whenever I used to get a kill, I used to tell them that look this is a brutal kill, so when we were deciding to form a team, and then we were discussing on the name, so my aggressive play style and my habit of using that word every time, that’s how the name game. Being a teenager that kind of vibe was there in the name, so we were enjoying the vibe of the name ‘brutality’.”
What was your parents’ reaction after your first win?
“So after winning a tournament in Chandigarh, we got an INR 20,000 cheque while we were expecting the second prize, INR 10,000. But when I told my mom about this, and I was expecting some appreciation but what I got was don’t lie you stole this money from somewhere, we don’t want that kind of money.”
We all know how much India is infatuated with Cricket and Bollywood, and we have often seen cricketers and actors sharing their crazy fan moments. Have you ever had a similar ‘crazy fan’ moment?
“I had lots of crazy fan moments, and I remember two or three of them. One of them was in Delhi during Red Bull M.E.O., so the meet-up was going on and suddenly one guy came and touched my feet, and I had no words at that moment because I have never experienced it, at that moment, I was like people respect me, that was the moment when my parents were totally surprised, that you’re actually doing something otherwise people are not going to touch my feet for sure.”
“Then the other one was in Mumbai when a parent and son come down, the dad spoke to me for 15 minutes and he told me that his son is a big fan of Messi, Ronaldo and now he’s a big fan of yours, I can’t compare myself to these legends but my name coming in line with these legends is a very big thing for me, and then he said that he had an image of gamer that they use foul words, that they are aggressive but after talking to you I don’t mind my son becoming a gamer, and I’m glad that he’s taken you as his role model. Those two-three words made me very proud and happy.”
Since you have been playing on PC for so many years, I would like to know your take on this long-running PC vs Console debate.
“I don’t play much on console, so I frankly don’t have any idea about it. But in general, in India, I don’t see much happening in terms of console happening. But I want it to happen because gaming is not just a PC or mobile, when PC, Console, and mobile come together is the gaming. The progress in India is very slow, and I hope it starts picking up pace, so people who are good at console gaming can also join the tournaments and compete for the title of best.”
You mentioned mobile gaming, which many PC gamers don’t even take into consideration. What’s your thought on that?
“Yes, you can do a lot more on a PC game, but it’s not feasible for everyone. I respect all these three platforms because for me gaming is not just PC or mobile, it’s all unified.”
“So if you only have a mobile and you are just playing mobile games, then you’re going to like it for sure and in India, you have to understand that everyone cannot afford a PC, but one can afford a smartphone, the internet is almost free in the country. They won’t get you a 1L-2L PC just for gaming but they’ll definitely give you a smartphone because why you go out for tuitions, you go out for school or college, so they want to keep a check on you, and then you can also play on your smartphone, that’s why you have seen a growth in mobile gaming space because every kid now days has a smartphone, but for PC you will have to convince your parents a lot and then also you might get a PC.”
You have been a Red Bull athlete since 2018, so how did it happen?
“I’ve been working with Red Bull for more than 3 years unofficially, they used to send me cans to keep me energized during my practice sessions and games. I have been touch in with them and they have been very kind and sweet throughout this journey.”
“But this athlete thing came as a surprise, I was not expecting it. Once I started researching the Red Bull athletes, they had almost all the top personalities of the world, and I thought this is very difficult. But suddenly one day I got a call from them and went to their office, and I had the contract in my hand.”
“That was the best day of my life to be very honest because once you become a Red Bull athlete you will understand the true meaning of what that hashtag is to you.”
“They support you in so many ways that you can’t even count it on your fingers. I have access to the world’s top eSports athletes, and I can clear my doubts from KennyS. These are the things that no other brand can do for you. Now one of my passions is DJing, and the entire DJ kit was given to me by Red Bull, and now every Saturday and now I have started playing, and I never expected a brand to do such things for an athlete.”
“So I keep telling people, work very hard if you want to become a Red Bull athlete because you once become a Red Bull athlete you’ll see life in a very different way which you never would have imagined.”
“I tell you what, we have something very special planned for 2021, which will make all the Indian gamers very very happy.”
You have started streaming recently, so was it planned, or was it something spontaneous that just happened this year?
“Streaming started when you know lots of fans came to me and when they started asking me lots of doubts and every month I have to travel a lot, for different events so it was tough for me to meet them at different places but I knew streaming can one of being ways to connect with fans and I also started to be active on social media, to connect with the fans.”
How was your experience with Fall Guys, after playing competitive CS Go for so many years?
“Fall Guys is a pretty chilled out game, so when I want to chill I play Fifa, WWE, Fall Guys, and many many other games, and now I’m going to play Cyberpunk. I even play these games in between tournaments so that I don’t get bored with anything.”
Watched your recent Valorant streams, so did you find it better than CS GO?
“I am loving the game but I won’t say it is better than CS GO. I have always said every game has its own charm, I love CS, its special and I love Valorant also. So, my team wants to play Valorant right now, so I’m learning Valorant right now, earlier my team wanted to play CS, so I practised CS. So these games are team games, not solo titles so whatever the team wants, I have to learn that.”
“Both the games are unique in their own ways, and I have seen Valorant picking up quite fast comparatively.”
What are your thoughts on Red Bull R1v1r Runes National Finals which took place recently?
“Red Bull R1v1r Runes was for Dota 2, and in the ecosystem, we are telling people that Red Bull is giving you a chance to clear the misconceptions. Red Bull has given you a platform, which we didn’t have in my time, but we still kept trying and working hard. But, now it’s your time to make it big.”
Will you be there at the Red Bull M.E.O. Season 3 Cricket World Championship National Finals happening next Sunday?
“There are going to be four Red Bull athletes and four mobile influencers and finalists. So this weekend is going to be a power pack one and even if you’re doing something then I would suggest getting some time for it and watch the Red Bull National Finals because it is going to be a great one for sure.”
What are your plans for 2021?
“My plans are to improve my skills, to learn Valorant, then how to be a good streamer and also with Red Bull, try to have more tournaments and meet-ups so that we can build a good eSports ecosystem in the country so that everyone can fulfil their dreams.”
So you’re on a mission of clearing the misconceptions of Indian Parents.
“That’s the grassroots problem. We don’t see lots of gamers coming out of our country. In India we have lots of talent but when it comes to convincing parents it becomes very difficult and they had to let go of their passion, and it’s not just limited to gaming.”
“This is what I have also witnessed when I was playing in cyber cafes and that’s my mission- to get rid of these misconceptions and help budding gamers by not only convince them by talking but also with my achievements and my performance, that you can still become a professional gamer or you can be anyone without compromising on ethics and your values.”
Red Bull M.E.O 2020 India World Cricket Championship National Final will be taking place along with top sports personalities, influencers & pro-gamers on 13th December. Riyan Parag, Mira Erda, Tania Sachdev, Ankit Panth, Samay Raina, Yashraj Mukhate, Scout And Mortal will be competing in the event.