Next Story

A console that cheers

While not everyone could afford one, the game centres in every neighbourhood took care of that. Photo: K K Mustafah

While not everyone could afford one, the game centres in every neighbourhood took care of that. Photo: K K Mustafah  


As with most fads, video games caught on a bit later in India. The author tracks the trend of online and video gaming in Chennai

We’ve come a long way since Pong took the world by storm in 1972. Although it wasn’t the first video game — that honour goes to Computer Space, released a year earlier — it was easier to understand, as people had never seen the likes of it before.

As with most fads, video games caught on a bit later in India. In the early 90s, youngsters wised up to the charms of 8-bit games: who (above a certain age that is) can say they haven’t played Super Mario Bros, Contra or Duck Hunt at least once in their life? Then the PC brought games like Claw, Wolfenstein 3D, Need for Speed, Road Rash and Max Payne right into homes. It was with PlayStation 2 that gaming consoles really took over. While not everyone could afford one, the game centres in every neighbourhood took care of that. More often than not, the rooms would be lit only by monitors; bombs and gunfire would go off with abandon and no one would even flinch at the sound. The players were lost in the world of first-person games like Grand Theft Auto, Metal Gear Solid and Call of Duty.

An avid gamer for 18 years now, Sonny CK recalls, “I have spent entire weekends and sleepless nights on LAN gaming. I’m not even going to include the insane amount of money spent on all this! Our more recent gaming parties include a PS3 with four wireless controllers and a 72 inch projector screen. We order in pizza and game all night, and have the best no-nonsense times of our existence,” he says, adding that he still has all his old consoles and gaming PCs.

While these first person shooter games seem to be the most popular among those who take their gaming seriously, there’s a whole other tribe who stick to sport games. Even India’s top gamer, Santanu Basu, is a champion FIFA player, representing the country in several international events. As a youngster playing God of War, Prashanth Swaminathan was so taken in by one of the characters, Kratos, that he made the name part of his email ID. “I find those games monotonous now,” he says, despite the fact that better technology, storylines and graphics have helped extend gameplay up to 400 hours. Perhaps it’s a personal preference, as he adds, “I don't like gaming alone. A group of people on FIFA or any other multiplayer is epic when compared to single player action games.”

Others, like 19-year-old Shyam Vasudevan, go for games like Assassin's Creed: “It has a mythological twist, which is fun.” But his favourite too is FIFA, as it's “super realistic” and is more relevant to him as he follows the sport. Preethi, a doctor, uses her Wii console to play tennis as there are no courts near her house. “It gives me the closest experience to playing the actual sport,” she says, confessing that she’s quite addicted to it now.

Although Dr. Suruchi Rubina Kishi does not play multiplayer games, she does love watching. “One of my best friends met her significant other while playing Counter-Strike, so even though it’s a different medium, the camaraderie is quite strong,” she says.

For lawyer Karthik Jayakumar, it’s the trash talking that is most entertaining. “It’s supposed to be unethical, but it is pretty common,” he says, adding that it’s especially fierce when one person in the team messes up. He also watches a lot of games on twitch, and likens it to how an aspiring cricketer would watch Sachin Tendulkar bat. “It allows us to interact with the legends of e-sports often. We get to learn so much from them for free and it improves the way we think and the way we game,” he says.

Last year, Karthik and his team participated in Digital Wars, an online gaming event, and made it to the round of 16. “We hope to go further this year. League gaming feels pretty much like any sport, except that we don't exert as much physically. The mental exertion is on an entirely different level though! Strategies are paramount and it's very important to coordinate well with your teammates.”

Lokesh Suji founded Indian League Gaming last year to create a structured format for dedicated players. “We’ve already organised league tournaments for League of Legends and COD and the response has been great. It gives our gamers a chance to showcase their skill. It has also become a spectator sport, and it’s just a matter of time before it becomes mainstream,” he says, adding that corporate sponsorship will go a long way in bringing out talent. There’s also a lot of prize money involved at the international level he says: last year, for the Dota 2 World Championship, the prize pool was a whopping USD 11 million.

There’s no doubt about it: pop culture glorifies the gamer. Has it now become a means of social validation to identify oneself as a gamer? Preeti says, “It could be, but I’d also like to get to know other gamers among my peers. It was never nerdy, at least not in our country.”

Sonny says that it’s not about how the world identifies them, but about how they identify themselves. “The positive feeling one gets when we win something in a game is what keeps the rest of the day ticking,” he explains.

In her book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, Jane McGonigal says, “A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we’re good at (or getting better at) and enjoy. In other words, gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.” Saravanan, a game designer, reiterates this, saying, “They inspire us, make us think strategically and quickly, multitask with accuracy and most of all, teaches perseverance, especially when it comes to a level that seems impossible to cross!”

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 22, 2018 8:54:28 PM |