Kings of Iron Fist: Pakistan’s Tekken conquest


In the realm of competitive gaming, where precision, strategy, and split-second decisions determine victory, there exists a narrative of triumph that transcends borders. Meet Arslan Siddique, popularly known as Arslan Ash, a name that has become synonymous with excellence in Tekken 7 and a beacon of hope for the Pakistani gaming community.

With an astounding four-time Evo championship under his belt, Arslan has etched his name in the annals of gaming history, capturing the world’s attention and propelling Pakistan to the forefront of the global esports stage.

But beyond individual accolades, Arslan’s journey signifies a larger phenomenon ― the meteoric rise of Tekken talent in Lahore and Faisalabad. These cities, nestled in the heart of Pakistan and each with its unique flair and fervour for gaming, have given rise to a community that thrives on competition, discipline, and unwavering dedication. As the world anticipates the dawn of Tekken 8, Arslan’s story and the burgeoning Tekken scene in Pakistan unravels and offers insights into the intricate tapestry of challenges, camaraderie, and aspirations that define this remarkable journey.

Unprecedented success

Arslan’s journey through the competitive gaming landscape is a story of relentless determination, marked by accomplishments that have redefined achievement. His journey from a dreamer to a four-time Evo champion has not only set his place as a gaming icon, but also serves as an emblem of the limitless potential harboured within individuals and communities. “I still can’t believe that I have won or accomplished all of this,” Arslan told The Express Tribune after winning the fourth EVO title. “It was my dream to do something that no one has done before, and I think this is exactly what motivates me. You need motivation to do something, and I worked hard for this. I am so glad that I have made history. I have achieved something great, everything is going well and I am very happy.”

The 27-year-old winner of EVO titles both in Japan and Las Vegas points out that Japan’s tournaments are notably challenging due to Japan and Korea being strong Tekken regions. “I think Japan’s tournaments are always difficult, because Japan and Korea are two of the best Tekken regions in the world, and since both countries are situated together, all the locals come on ground to play,” he said, suggesting that if Pakistan’s Tekken scene was strong, hosting a tournament within the country would allow more players to participate without the financial burden of travelling to places like the US, which is expensive.

He says that Japan’s difficulty is comparable to the US’s challenges and that after reaching the top 19 players, competing abroad becomes more feasible, and the overall tournament experience is similar despite regional differences. He shares that the most difficult moment in his EVO journey was EVO Japan 2019 when he struggled with his visa for Japan, reaching the venue at the last minute, sleepless and exhausted.

Following his victories at Evo Japan and Evo 2019, Arslan Ash was welcomed by Red Bull Esports, a global powerhouse in the esports realm, as their first-ever athlete from Pakistan. This partnership not only provided Arslan with essential resources but also played a significant role in his personal and professional transformation, contributing to his journey as a four-time champion in esports. Describing this collaboration, Arslan conveyed how it has propelled him to new heights. “Embracing the title of a Red Bull athlete was like stepping into a realm of unyielding support,” he says. “Evo witnessed Red Bull’s solid support ― from securing a PC to bolstering my spirit. This alliance didn’t just shape my career, but it transformed me at the core. A metamorphosis that even those around me couldn’t ignore. They sculpted me into a four-time champion. Without their support, this achievement would have been a mere fantasy.”

Lahore and Faisalabad – Tekken Hotspots

In Pakistan’s gaming landscape, Lahore and Faisalabad shine as Tekken talent hubs, capturing the fascination of enthusiasts and experts. Lahore and Faisalabad have nurtured exceptional talent and fostered a cultural synergy resonating within the Tekken community.

Arslan who hails from Lahore, explains why these cities shine as Tekken hotspots, “There are indeed many talented players in Lahore and Faisalabad,” he says. “The truth is that these cities have fostered an environment that nurtures and harnesses the innate skills of gamers, leading to a concentration of exceptional talent.”

As the successes of players from Lahore and Faisalabad continue to reverberate on the global stage, the question of the trend’s continuity and its impact on the future of Tekken in Pakistan arises. Arslan’s insight into this matter is enlightening. “The trend will likely continue, and the way to secure Pakistan’s position as a dominant region is to consistently win,” he says. “The Tekken community globally recognises Pakistan as the best region.”

The momentum established by triumphant players from these cities has not only solidified Pakistan’s reputation but also laid the groundwork for an increasingly bright future. As the trend perseveres, doors to new opportunities, sponsors, and investments are poised to open wider, casting a favourable light on Tekken’s growth and development within Pakistan. The influence of Lahore and Faisalabad’s Tekken prowess is poised to cascade through the nation’s gaming landscape, carving a path for even greater success and prominence.

The Pakistani training approach

Amidst the arcade screens’ neon glow and the competitive fervour, a distinct training ethos thrives within Pakistan’s gaming community. Rooted in determination and molded by the desire to conquer, this approach is evident as Lahore and Faisalabad players elevate the nation’s standing in the global Tekken community. The Pakistani training approach is marked by unconventional techniques and unparalleled dedication, setting players apart and shaping both their gameplay and unyielding spirit.

Arslan’s insights provide a window into the core of this training philosophy. “There isn’t a particular training technique that’s unique,” he says. “But I think the motivation of Pakistani players sets them apart. Many Pakistani players, like me, come from less-privileged backgrounds. When they play the game, they can’t afford to lose, because that means losing points and resources they can’t easily replace.” The belief that each match is not just a contest but an opportunity to safeguard one’s resources, develops a profound sense of determination and makes them push their limits relentlessly.

“Hence, they play with the determination not to lose,” says Arslan. “This mindset is not there in other countries due to the availability of resources. Quite simply resource constraints contribute to their strength.” The fusion of circumstance and ambition pushes the players to perform beyond expectations. The scarcity of resources, which might be viewed as an impediment, has in fact transformed into an unexpected advantage, fostering a hunger to succeed that transcends the confines of the virtual arena.

Their training goes beyond technical drills, encompassing the mindset of a warrior or a fighter who plays not merely to win but to assert their existence and potential on a global stage. This approach isn’t just about learning combos and frame data – it’s about translating life’s adversities into a force that propels them forward, creating a legacy of exceptional gamers and stories of triumph that reverberate through the gaming world.

When it comes to the qualities that set Pakistani Tekken players apart from their global counterparts, one striking characteristic shines through ― a fearless willingness to take risks. Arslan explains that this distinctive trait distinguishes Pakistani players from those in other regions, who often adopt a more conservative style of play. “Pakistani Tekken players are known for their willingness to take risks, which sets them apart from players from other regions who tend to play more conservatively,” he explains. “We embrace unpredictability in our gameplay, which can catch opponents off guard. We’re more inclined to take calculated risks, especially when facing adversity. This unique approach contribute to our success on the competitive stage.”

Delving deeper into the realm of competitive gaming, Arslan acknowledges the paramount significance of perseverance and discipline. “I follow a strict routine, starting my day around 10 am by going to the gym,” he shares. “I’ve transformed my routine to include physical training and gameplay practice. Discipline isn’t just crucial for Tekken, but for anything in life. It’s a critical aspect of excelling in any sport, including Tekken.” He emphasises on the holistic connection between mental and physical well-being, and believes that optimal performance can only be achieved when the mind and body are finely tuned.

Sponsorships and the Rise of Pakistani Tekken

Pakistan has emerged as an unexpected powerhouse in the realm of Tekken. The mastery of Pakistani players in this competitive fighting game has garnered international recognition, propelling them onto the global stage. However, despite their prowess, these players often grapple with a unique set of challenges, particularly when it comes to securing sponsorships and participating in international competitions.

Danyal Chishty, the CEO and Founder of Baaz, a burgeoning Pakistani esports organization, sheds light on the dynamics at play. Baaz recently made waves by hosting “Takedown,” a monumental international gaming tournament held at the Lahore Expo Center. Beyond event management, Baaz is setting its sights on a groundbreaking multi-part documentary highlighting the achievements of Pakistani Tekken players.

Chishty reflects on the exceptional talent pool within Pakistan, stating, “In my opinion, Pakistan is currently the best region in the world for Tekken right now. Our players have been training away from the spotlight for over a decade at this point, and it’s only come to the world’s attention how great our players are after their recent victories overseas.”

Despite their global successes, Tekken players from Pakistan often face sponsorship challenges. Chishty acknowledges the shifting landscape, noting, “Slowly, the sponsorship hurdle is starting to dwindle because a lot of Pakistani players are getting picked up by overseas esports orgs. Brands and sponsors are starting to realize the upside for having Pakistani players represent their org.”

However, a significant obstacle remains in the form of visa limitations. Chishty highlights the difficulties Pakistani players encounter when attempting to compete internationally: “The biggest issue stems from how difficult it is for our players to obtain visas to compete internationally. Due to the inherent weakness of the Pakistani passport and the current political fragility within the country, visas are incredibly difficult to come by.”

Chishty believes that resolving the visa issue could be a game-changer, opening doors for economic opportunities and increased sponsorship. He emphasizes that Pakistani players don’t require extensive investment but rather a chance to showcase their talents on a global platform.

As a potential sponsor, Chishty underlines the importance of understanding the esports landscape and building sustainable engagements. He asserts, “The only way to keep esports/competitive gaming growing is to keep your audience engaged by building storylines and building these players as recognizable and supportable brands, akin to traditional sports.”

In a world where Tekken players from Pakistan continue to defy expectations and conquer international tournaments, the role of sponsorships takes on a pivotal significance. As Chishty’s Baaz and similar initiatives champion the cause of Pakistani esports, the potential for a new era of recognition and support for these talented athletes looms ever larger on the horizon.

Arslan’s impact and future prospects

In the realm of competitive gaming, some individuals transcend from being mere players to become legends shaping the game’s history. Arslan’s journey from obscurity to iconic status and his vision for Tekken and esports is inspiring.

“Certainly, there has been an increase in interest and participation in Tekken and other fighting games in Pakistan,” he says. “Major tournaments like EVO Japan attracted a significant number of Pakistani entrants, reflecting the growing enthusiasm for esports.” Arslan’s triumphs have not only elevated his own stature but have also ignited a fire of competitive spirit across the nation which signifies a burgeoning community that’s eager to engage on the global stage, marking a significant shift in Pakistan’s gaming landscape.

As the gaming community continues to grow, Arslan acknowledges the broader implications. “As the community expands, more people are becoming interested in making gaming a career,” he says. “This growing interest not only contributes to the development of esports in Pakistan but also attracts more attention from sponsors and investors.”

Looking ahead, Arslan’s vision for Tekken in Pakistan is laced with optimism. “I believe the future for Tekken in Pakistan is bright,” he says. “My advice for aspiring players is to approach tournaments with the intent to gain experience and do their best, rather than worrying too much.”

Tekken’s evolution: Looking forward with Arslan Ash

As the sun sets on one chapter, another dawns with the promise of fresh horizons and uncharted territories. Arslan, has not only carved his name into the annals of gaming history but also stands poised at the precipice of a new era ― the dawn of Tekken 8. As Arslan Ash and the Tekken community anticipate the arrival of Tekken 8, Arslan’s shares his thoughts about the impending transition. “I feel exactly the way I felt when I won the first title,” he says. “I am extremely happy and have set a benchmark for all players, and I can call it a target.” Despite achieving unprecedented success, Arslan remains acutely aware that his achievements have set a precedent that comes with its own set of expectations and challenges.

“I am excited for Tekken 8 because I will have to work hard again and redo everything that I accomplished in Tekken 7.” As he embarks on this new chapter with determination and enthusiasm, Arslan is not just set on victory, but on sustaining his competitive edge in an ever-evolving landscape.

As Tekken’s evolution continues, the community’s growth remains a focal point for Arslan. “My plan is to establish affordable and economical arcade centres where people can come and play.”

In the backdrop of these ambitions lies the underlying challenge faced by Tekken players in Pakistan. “The primary challenge we face is acquiring visas,” he says. “Despite our talent, many players struggle to obtain visas, which becomes a major issue that the government could potentially address.” Apart from the dearth of resources, especially arcade centres, bureaucratic hurdles encountered in international tournaments hinder the progress of talented players, highlighting the need for systemic support to enable them to compete on a global stage.

As Arslan looks forward to Tekken 8 and beyond, his aspirations extend far beyond individual victories. “In the remaining five or 10 years, I aspire to build a strong legacy that is challenging to surpass or break,” he concludes. His journey that transcends the virtual world has shaped a narrative that will resonate for years to come.

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