METRO PLUS

Let the CYBER GAMES begin

AS YOU read this, nine young Indians are honing their skills with mouse and joystick, chipping a second off here and there, as they practice day and night, pitting their skills sometimes individually, sometimes as a team, playing popular computer games such as FIFA Soccer; Warcraft, Half-Life Counterstrike, and Age of Mythology. It's all work and all play at the same time.

The nine are the national finalists in India of the third World Cyber Games — the Olympics of the computer games arena — that are to be held in Seoul, South Korea, between October 12 and 18. They will compete against 600 other young people from 55 countries for prize money of around Rs 175 lakhs ($3,50,000) sponsored by the Korea-based computer and entertainment company, Samsung.

They took part in preliminary rounds held over recent weeks by Samsung India in Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, and Mumbai, and at each of these venues, over 10,000 hopefuls hotly competed at the computer consoles.

Locations such as the Megabowl in Bangalore and the National Science Centre in Delhi's Pragati Maidan saw traffic jams for two days as hundreds of kids who had registered on line turned up at their allotted slots and took turns at the bank of PC terminals. The youngest participant was a five-year-old from Delhi.

Computer games have become one of the most lucrative, fastest growing sectors of the entertainment business. And it seems, while mummy and daddy were looking elsewhere, the Indian youngster has staked a corner of this territory.

Smart companies such as India Games Ltd. have been making games in response to the global hunger for software to go with games machines like Sony's PlayStation or Microsoft's Xbox.

These machines are not too thick on the ground here, but that's no problem!

Most Indian youngsters are able to find PC versions of the same games. You can always go to a cyber caf� or use the home or office PC when no one's looking. And with the new generation of mobile phones coming with special, enhanced LCD colour screens, locating a "lite" version of these games that will fit comfortably on the limited memory of the cell phone is no big deal (the big deal and big bill comes when you try to play wireless with others, as the phone's cash-o-meter in the SIM card keeps running).

Last week, Intel, the biggest guys in the chip making business, announced they were soon to launch a special processor fine tuned for gaming. Almost every PC vendor who sells here includes a few games as freebies when you buy a multimedia home machine.

How will our desi talent measure up against international talent in Seoul? These are India's best young gamers who will go to Seoul for the World Cyber Games. Half-Life counter Strike: Rahul Rhoira (Mumbai), Karan Kapur (Mumbai), Lalit Nangia (Pune), Jenil C. Patel (Mumbai), and Deepak Mallic (Pune). Age of Mythology: G. Sreenath (Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh). FIFA: Vaibhav Sharma (Pune). Warcraft III: Nickunj Bansal (Chennai).

Meanwhile it's clearly time to say that computer games are far too important to be left to adults. This is one arena where age tells. So move over granddad, and let the experts take over as the cyber games begin.

A. VISHNU

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