Old Friends, Old Games: No One Lives Forever 2 in Kolkata

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Subhayu Mazumder is easily one of my oldest friends. We started in the same section at kindergarten, continued together throughout our schooldays and then went on to read English Lit together at university. We don't meet often but he's one of those people you have on your thoughts even during a random bus ride through this busy city and then, out of the blue, he's on the phone nattering away at breakneck speed, providing unnecessary explanations and spewing ideas (with which you might not always agree but then again, there's no deterring him). Together with Sanjay Banerjee, we had started our school's first (arguably) literary wallpaper, 'My Back Pages'  and had those many adventures that only extremely curious and creative (or so I'd like to think) teenagers can possibly have. Looking back now, they seem other lives, other videogames.

So Subhayu wanted me to write an article on gaming for The Times of India and I said I'd bite. Readers of Ludus Ex will know that I've been doing everything I can to push the importance of games research to the Indian academia, the videogame industry and the policymaking gods. The article itself needed a Kolkata focus so after saying the usual and making my case about the potential of gaming here, I remembered another old friend. A virtual one this time - Cate Archer from No One Lives Forever 2. NOLF seems to have disappeared even from the second-hand markets as Emil Hammar was telling me when we were in Bergen last month. NOLF is the only videogame I know with a direct Calcutta connection. So this is an excerpt from what I wrote:

Unknown to most gamers, this is the first Indian city (arguably) to have been featured in a major gaming title. Cate Archer, the British spy famous for her Bond-like skills and her lipstick spycam, comes to Calcutta in the 2002 videogame No One Lives Forever 2. For the first time in videogames, the gamer (a.k.a  Archer) can move around the bylanes of Kolkata and fight corrupt policemen and goons. Archer is sent to Kolkata to meet someone with the unlikely name of Balaji Malpani  and will have to pay a local the handsome sum of forty rupees to be given a city tour before she can start taking out the operatives of the criminal organization H.A.R.M. Archer then travels to Siberia, Japan and Greece to fight super-soldiers and Soviet troops.

Cate Archer in the bye-lanes of Calcutta

NOLF 2 has not had a sequel to date but from what the reviews  of the gameplay testify, Calcutta was a great game setting and one would hope that after the Cate Archers, the James Bonds and the Assassin’s Creed heroes would make the city their next stop.  So here’s raising a virtual glass to more videogames and a healthy gaming culture in Kolkata.

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