Sumit Negi, 15, was so eager to participate in the 48-hour non-stop online gaming fragfest BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) in Delhi a fortnight ago that he arrived at the venue a day earlier. “I spent the last night here,” said Negi pointing to his allotted station, “and this is exactly where I will spend the next two nights”.
Unknown to the world, gaming enthusiasts spend sleepless nights in a parallel world saving humanity from alien attacks, building empires and winning world cups and grand slams. When bored of blasting away grogs with precise button clicks in their solitary rooms, some — like Negi and 600 other gamers at the event — camp out at gaming binges, eating junkfood, to immerse themselves with people like us in a never-ending series of virtual conquests.
Another gaming aficionado, Lalit Rao is the India’s champion in FIFA ’10. “Since I got first video game, ‘Mario’, at the age of 7, I’ve rarely spent a day without touching my gaming console,” says Rao, now 19. The fact that his parents disapprove of his spending all the time and money on gaming hasn’t kept the BA undergraduate at Delhi College of Arts and Commerce away from his computer.
Gaming has now taken over the Indian imagination enough to make enthusiasts seek more, many are going pro. Those who are at the top of their game and can afford it are heading for global tournaments such as the ESWC and the World Cyber Games, and catering to the local gaming tribe are national tournaments — Indian Cyber Gaming Championship and BYOC.
And with new consoles such as the Nintendo DS 3-D, Sony Play Station Move and Xbox Kinect expected to be released later this year, the excitement in gaming circles is palpable.
“Gaming demands more than just time,” said Manish Kapoor, 21, member of Evo X, the national champions of Call of Duty, a First Person Shooter Role Playing Game (FPSRPG) series that crossed the US$ 3 billion in retail sales at the end of 2009.
Good for your health
Critics complain that the multi billion-dollar gaming industry thrives on our innate desire to play god with an unconditional license to create and destroy. What they fail to recognise is that the virtual world also becomes a de-stresser as it creates a healthy sense of camaraderie. You are as good as your gaming skills, nothing else is asked for.
Already, video games are being used to teach children healthy skills for self-care of asthma and diabetes. They are also being used to improve iconic, spatial and visual attention skills of young children and people with behavioural disorders.
Playing an exergame — video games that combine game play with exercise — on the Nintendo Wii for 35-minute three times a week use of improved mood and quality of life in depressed adults, reported the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry earlier this year.
Wii games were also found to help stroke patients improve motor function, reported another study at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2010.
It’s not surprising then that spending more time with the PC than peers is becoming socially acceptable. “We were apprehensive initially days but he assured us that he’d make his name in it one day. Now that he wins competitions regularly and is developing his own games, which makes us happy and proud,” said Neetu Kapoor, mother of Manish Kapoor.
Manish is one of the gamers who’ve turned their hobby into a career. Apart from competing in gaming tournaments Kapoor is a faculty at an animation training institute and a developer of games in his spare time.
Goes to show games are alright.