Souvik Wednesday, April 30, 2008 Bollywood
I've been away for almost three years now from the dingy and half-hidden cybercafes of North Calcutta where the teenage Counterstrike players spend their evenings battling each other. When I started playing computer games, it was the age of Road Rash, the terribly violent motor-racing game - I'm sure in some of the more remote parts, it still is. Games came relatively late to India. Even now the average Indian gamer has not managed to have a go on the Wii. The first gaming magazine Skoar! came out in 2003 and it has had a fair few hiccups in trying to bring out issues. The other gaming magazines which followed did not last beyond a few issues. Gaming forums like Kawabonka.com which were popular for a while have also seemed to have vanished into ether. I've just spotted a blog called http://www.gamersindia.com - pretty basic but at least it's aware of the launch of GTA IV.
I know I paint a bleak picture but i speak the truth. How is it that a country that supplies millions of software engineers to companies all over the world, has not produced a single noteworthy game or a game-designer? Speaking to one of India's promising game-designing talents, I was disheartened to hear that 'not much is really happening'. Skoar! often does a feature on Indian developers : the sad thing is, however, that we do not manage to graduate beyond 2-D games or at best very basic Wolf 3D or Doom style FPSs (remember the Bhagat Singh game - India's first attempt at a postcolonial game, though i wonder whether anyone else has thought about it in this way :-) ).
It's time for Bollywood to cash in on this market, i think. Not much of a moviegoer, i wouldn't be able to point out many Bollywood films that have a gaming potential. As I've always said, however, stories are the key to making a good game ... what the games made by the developers in India lack are good narratives! A pretty basic game made in Flash or some relatively less complex game-making software can be really interesting if it has a good story behind it. And add the expertise of technology, the production power of Bollywood and of course, draw on the existing storylines of an Abhishek Bacchan and Hrithik Roshan blockbuster like Dhoom 2 and you have your first popular Indian gaming blockbuster!
With no serious thinking about gaming beyond the odd cybercafe, India is missing out on a big piece of the action in the world of entertainment. Needless to say, that there is no sign of activity on the Game Studies front either. Or am I the sole representative - that too working in a university abroad ? Feel free to call this a rant or what you will but for me this is just a call to develop on a major potential area of investment, both culturally and economically. We have always been a ludic people , so why not now?
Oh yes, and just think about the market before you close this window.
'Literature is a combinatorial game that pursues the possibilities implicit in its own material [...] but it is a game that at a certain point is invested with an unexpected meaning' - Italo Calvino