Another Keynote Lecture: Videogames in India

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2014 started with yet another visit to Delhi. I was invited to be part of the keynote panel on Indian videogaming, together with Dr Padmini Ray Murray from the University of Stirling. It was great to be back at JNU and I had some productive discussions, especially with the team from the University of West Virginia and Siddhartha from the JNU team. It was a pleasure to meet Dr Lyle Skains after over three years now (we met in Bangor in 2010) and to skype with Dr Astrid Ensslin about LOTRO MOOC and its relevance to higher education. Dr Sandy Baldwin of UWV spoke on how his team played out (pun intended) Samuel Beckett's Endgame  within CounterStrike 2 and the artistic and philosophical implications of such theatrical interventions in the game-world. Dibyoduti Roy impressed me with his take on the experience of the quotidian in videogames. I felt that he has something new to contribute to how we think through gameplay. His colleague, Kwabena, spoke on WoW but I was more interested in what he had to say about gaming in Ghana (and in other African countries) when we had some time to chat over coffee. At the JNU end, I liked a paper on postcolonial representations in videogames  - something I've worked on recently (for my paper at Bergen). Sid, who was presenting the paper, focused on Far Cry 2 and Assassin's Creed and pointed at racial and imperial stereotypes made by Ubisoft. I did come to Ubisoft's defence though, as I seriously believe that the Ubisoft games are mostly fairly nuanced and good at problematising issues.  I shan't use this space to go into a sustained argument on this but I am happy to defend my position, any time.

I am getting into the habit of writing my conference reports rather late and as such, my memory plays tricks with me. The highlight of my stay was my meeting Quicksand, one of the most 'thinking'game developers I've met in India so far. These are the guys who made Meghdoot, which Murray describes thus:

Meghdoot: Using new technologies to tell age-old stories is a project that will be based around a prototype of a game Meghdoot that was developed in the first phase of the Unbox Fellowship. Meghdoot draws on features of Indian culture such as gestural movements from Indian dance in gameplay and is inspired by using narrative structures drawn from Indian mythology, making a conscious choice to move away from Anglo-Saxon linear sequences in the game's design and deploys an aesthetic that is inspired by Indian heritage artefacts but does not resort to usual tropes of the exotic or the oriental. Meghdoot will fall into the increasingly popular category of ‘serious art game’
I left Quicksand after making them promise that they would visit Calcutta and that some of the bylanes in Chitpore would feature in their next game (about which, mum is the word). Time to get away from fun and games and back to work.

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