Three young Buddhist monks took the esports arena by surprise after winning first place in a Speed Drifters tournament in Thailand.
At the 2019 KKU Nong Khai Fair in Thailand, several competitors submitted to compete in the online racing game. Among the competitors were three novice Buddhist monks from Balee Sathit Suksa high school.
Speed Drifters is a mass multi online racing gaming by developer Garena publishing content for Southeast Asia and Taiwan. The game features cartoon-like characters, a variety of cars and bikes, and can be played on mobile or PC. Speed Drifters is recognized across the world for its fast-paced gameplay and is quickly rising in popularity in the esports realm.
Esports competitors were curious when three high school senior Buddhists entered the arena dressed in their Buddhist robes. The novice monks typically spend about twenty hours or more a week devoted to their religious studies. However, the students are also exposed to secular education as well to help develop other interests outside religious studies. The boys became acquainted with the mobile racing game in their computer class, and quickly became interested in esports.
Critics on social media became angry and criticized the novice monks for wearing their saffron robes. Viewers claimed that the outfits were, "inappropriate" and some commented how the robes made the win a religious statement. Although, Kokkiad Chaisamchareonlap, the champions' school academic coordinator, disagrees.
"The novices are just children, like other people their age that need to grow, develop their skills and explore their interests," Kokkiad explained. Many of the students grew up in impoverished homes and weren't exposed to the technology at an early age. The institution was happy to provide an outlet for the young Buddhists to perfect their skills on an otherwise lost talent.
According to Kokkiad the competitors wanted to enter the tournament so they gave them that opportunity, but they didn't expect them to win. It was a great surprise for the students as well as their academic advisors. In between their religious studies, the young men spent most of their free time practicing their skills to become game winning champions.
Despite all the criticism for the boys garb, they were not the only religious institution to enter the competition. Kokkiad remarked that the only reason the boys were targeted, was because they won the competition.