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Anshumani: ‘Getting back to gamebooks was to return to something from my childhood’ Photo: V Sreenivasa Murthy  

If science is the study of nature, poetry, which forms the other end of the spectrum, is not any different. Author Anshumani Ruddra stands where these two seemingly divergent streams meet.

He graduated an engineer, worked with theatre (he has worked with the Madras Players and on plays such as “Five-point Someone”), became an author and a screenwriter and is currently a game designer with Zynga- Studio I (India) — a social gaming company. A lot of his writings come under the speculative fiction genre including his short stories that have appeared in anthologies like “Seven Science Fiction Stories”, “Superhero” and “Bad Moon Rising”.

He has written many amusing books for children like “Dorje's Stripes” which is about a tiger whose stripes keep disappearing as the number of tigers on Earth keeps going down, a sequel to Jungle Book and what can be called one of India's few game books — “The Enemy of My Enemy” and its sequel — “Banana Republic”. He is currently working on two novels for adults, apart from the third part of his game book. He says a game book is where the reader can choose what the character does next.

According to him, speculative fiction is an umbrella term that applies to literature that explores the unavoidable question: “What if…?”. Ask him how he made the transition from serious writing to game designing and Anshumani says, “It was a natural transition for me because I've been playing games all my life and game play is all about probabilities and decision making. I was interested in game designing since my childhood when I used to design my own board games before moving onto video games.”

He has even authored a Karadi Tales audiobook — Cricketmatics that merges cricket and math so that kids can get over the aversion or fear to numbers, and scripts for animated shows. Anshumani believes that designing a game is also like storytelling. “I get my inspiration to design games from everything around me. I feel that every decision we take is game play, even if it's as simple as a decision to cross the road. Similarly, I think every conversation that happens is a form of storytelling, even if it's you describing a burger you had yesterday to a friend.”

But why did he choose to write a game book? “Game books are very old. In my childhood, we used to have games like “Dungeons and Dragons” which we could choose our way through. These evolved into a mixture of board games and books. Soon there were text-based game books. So for me, it was a return to something from my childhood.”

What do these game books and games try to tell those who play or read them? “Over the last 50 years, there has been a shift in how people perceive games in that games are now being considered a form of art. I think art is something that can move people. And nothing moves people like a good video game.”

Anshumani is keen on continuing his writing along with his career in game designing. When he was a full-time author, he conducted several workshops for kids on fiction writing and on science poems along with a colleague. They believe that scientists and poets are alike.

“Both are observers of the world and both interpret the world in their own ways, the poet – through his expression and the scientist – through his precision.”


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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 11:04:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/money-and-careers/lets-play-on/article2218652.ece

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