For Rupangi Gupta (25), Travian is not just an online game. It’s a war to which she’s surrendered 300 days of her life.
In the Travian world, Gupta is a strong player — she owns nine virtual villages and an army of close to 13,000 virtual troops. So good is she that she even broke off from her ‘confederation’ to kill an ally. “He deserved it,” she says dismissively. “I might be killed because of this, but I have a strategy in mind.”
You can almost hear evil laughter echoing in the background as she details her plan to launch an eight-hour attack on a player from the South Pacific region. If things go as per plan, he will wake up in the morning to find himself ‘dead’.“The rule of the game,” says Gupta conspiratorially, “is to trust no one. But, make others trust you.”
Whether it’s flash-based games like Play Auditorium, or console and PC games like World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto, or browser-based social games like Scrabble on Facebook, more Indians are discovering the joys of online gaming.
“There are two kinds of players,” says Anand Ramachandran (35), creative director of animation and interactive media at A Bellyful of Dreams Entertainment, a production house. Ramachandran, whose love for games dates back to the early days of Nintendo, owns every console available and has played most PC and console games. “There are casual gamers, who typically play free online games that don’t require too much time. And then there are hardcore gamers who spend hours playing online. These games cost money,” he says.
But for Avinash Bali (28) and Nikhil Singh (26), game reviewers at the Tech 2 website, the money is the least of their concerns. Bali plays for the kill. He thrills at the thought of being able to be the bad guy in Infamous or Fable 2, beating his ‘enemies’ to pulp.
And the chance to smash cars in Need For Speed and Burnout is probably why he chose his profession.“Gamers often have to make very tough choices, and their actions always have repercussions,” he says. “It’s a lot like real life.”
Singh pays a subscription fee of $15 (Rs 750) a month to play Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft (WoW). “MMORPG players are more mature,” jokes Bali. Singh adds wryly, “Yes, there’s a lot less killing.” WoW involves several gamers from around the world, playing each other in real time. There are virtual cities where players can interact and talk in what can only be defined as MMO lingo, replete with gerunds and cusses.“You create a community and chat while discussing strategy.” says Ramachan-dran. “You play with those who match your skills and thinking — you watch their backs, they watch yours,” he says solemnly. There’s always the option of ‘trolling’ those you don’t like. Trolling, explains Singh, is what bullies do. “You have it in for someone, so you purposely spoil it for them — you beat them up, lead them astray…”
The best place for such bonding, outside of a game, is a gaming forum like www.GamingIndians.com started by avid gamer Sameer Desai. Since 2007, the forum has grown to over 4,000 members, who trade notes, games and consoles.
It’s an indication that Indian gamers are finally finding a common identity and are, in the real world at least, recognising their ilk. So what if they go ahead and kill each other in their next face off.