“Which team do you want to join? The Knights of Order or the Crusaders of Chaos?” asked Anshumani Ruddra to the children eagerly waiting to play the game. They had gathered for the launch of his multiplayer game book, the Banana Republic.
At the event held at the Landmark bookstore, Citi Centre, the author handed over the first copy of the book to Kaushik Vishwanathan (an alumnus of IIT Madras).
Anshumani explained the concept of a game book and how to play with it. “Usually when we read a story it follows a straight path from point A to B. But, in a game book, at each crucial point there are many options for the reader, to decide the flow of the story,” he said.
After introducing the characters in the story, Anshumani along with Kaushik joined the audience to play the game from the book. The audience grabbed their chance to be knights and crusaders to help PRD Jhabvala and Chandrakanta Sisodia — the protagonists of the story, to save the world from the dangerous baboons.
Each time when the audience had to make a choice, volunteers from the two groups played rock-paper-scissors and the game moved ahead with the winning team's choice. The winners got gifts as well.
There was a brief interactive session at the end. Kaushik started the session with an amusing question, “What do you have against bananas?” The author's hilarious answer was that he had to make someone the villain and so he chose the bananas. To a question, he answered that the first step to figuring out a structure for the story is the important part in writing a game book, the rest is easy.
“I grew up reading game books. My idea was to bring out a multiplayer book which would make reading a group activity.”, answered Anshumani when a girl asked him why he wrote a game book instead of a simple story.
When asked about the curious names of the baboons — Onnu, Rendu, Moonu, Nalu and Anju; the Mumbai based author replied that he had lived in Chennai for eight years but had only managed to learn very little Tamil. So these names are chosen as a tribute to that.
The baboons in the story are framed based on the adage — a million monkeys on a million typewriters will eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare. A baboon in the story even wrote a tragedy named Hamacelllo — a combination of Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello.
Anshumani said that the level of involvement in the game books is higher. “Game books existed even before video games. I am just trying to revive this forgotten medium,” he said
To a question, he answered that he accidentally started writing for children. Author Anushka Ravishankar and the Scholastic Publishers had asked him to write for a children's story collection and that was how it started.
Banana Republic is a sequel to The Enemy of My Enemy, which is India's first multiplayer game book. Anshumani said that the third book in the series based on space adventure will be out soon.
Tahsin chacko, Regional Manager of the Scholastic publications, delivered the welcome speech. Anshumani presented a memento to Kaushik Vishwanath.