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There was a time when gamers were considered outcasts; now you’re an outcast if you’ve never played Angry Birds. How did this happen?

brunch Updated: Aug 25, 2012 17:51 IST
Karan Patheja
Karan Patheja
Hindustan Times

SELFISH! ANTI-SOCIAL! Abnormal! A few years ago, these were the very words that were heaped on anyone who said he or she liked gaming. Parents scolded and criticised counsellors tried to highlight the dangers of gaming addiction and TV shows were full of pasty-faced gaming nerds who’d turned to violent crime. If you were a gamer in the ’80s and ’90s – you were basically dismissed as the “dude in the dungeon” with no future.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/8/games.jpgFast forward to the present. Gaming has made a U-turn. Everyone, from your five-year-old nephew to your 60-year-old grandmom seems to be thumb-bashing their touchscreen or keypad. Gaming is suddenly cool. What triggered this change? Let a longtime gamer hazard five guesses.

It became portable
From bulky cartridges and CDs to a little icon on your smartphone and Tablet, gaming’s portability has really helped make it a legitimate pastime for everyone. It now passes the time on a long road trip, gives you something to do before your dinner date arrives, lets you beat your third-cousin’s high score without meeting in person, or simply helps wherever gaming pangs strike. No wonder it’s everywhere.

No more nexus
Until recently, gaming was controlled by console brands and a few PC gamemakers. For most of the 2000s, Sony and Microsoft fought it out as sales of a console depended on the number exclusive titles it could boast. This made gamers a niche community. Today, a more consumer-friendly nexus has emerged. Smartphones and Tablets rule and several devices sell on the strength of their gaming capabilities. Angry Birds came free on Android after its success on the iOS platform. Many feel that this was a big reason for the rise in Android sales. The recent success of Amazing Alex, which became the highest downloaded app on iOS in eight hours of its release, is just a build-up of what Farmville did for Facebook or Kinect for Microsoft.

Amazing Alex

Gaming got indie

In 2003, three students from Helsinki University of Technology won a mobile game development competition. They went on to set up Rovio Entertainment, gave the world Angry Birds and Amazing Alex, and the rest is history. The rise and encouragement of independent developers has changed the rules of the game world. Developers in a garage-sized space are challenging the multi-million dollar old-timers, by giving us Internet flash games and low cost apps. Big studio games had millions of dollars riding on them and thus games became unwieldy and too complicated. Independent developers brought back the idea of simple addictive gaming that everyone can get into.

The right choice, baby
The Kinect holds the Guinness World Record for being the “fastest selling consumer electronics device” ever – eight million units in 60 days. Now that’s what I call changing the landscape. But motion is just a part of the big picture. Gamers, whether they’ve grown up on joysticks or have just bought a smartphone, can choose from hardcore, casual, motion, mobile and PC games. You’re spoilt for choice.

The price is right
All of this has impacted us where it matters most – affordability. No more $300 consoles, no more $50 CD packs. Today’s big games are impulse purchases that cost less than a dollar. Gaming is hip, it’s cool! After being an outcast for years, I’m enjoying my newfound fame as a real ‘player’. The revenge of the gamer is now complete!

For starters
My top five recommendations to pull you into the world of virtual excellence

Angry Birds

Angry Birds

(iOS, Android MarketPlace, Blackberry Apps World, Nokia OVI Store): Undoubtedly the world’s most famous game, it’s a strategy puzzle in which players use a slingshot to launch birds at pigs stationed on or within various structures, with the intent of destroying all the pigs on the playing field.

Robbery Bob (iOS): Help Bob make off with bundles of loot to pay off a debt. It brings the world of cops and robbers to life.

Kinect Sports (Microsoft Xbox 360): Six sports simulations. Try virtual bowling, boxing, track & field, table tennis, beach volleyball and football by standing in front of the Kinect sensor and mimicking the actions from the real-life sports.

Sports Champions (Sony PS3 Move): Sony’s version of virtual Olympics sports champions has modern and medieval sports like table tennis, gladiator duels, disc golf and bocce. The controllers have lifelike accuracy.

Street Fighter IV (Arcade, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, iOS): The modern version of the coin-operated hit of the ’80s, players control various martial artists in a martial arts tournament spanning many continents and multiple opponents. Everyone’s addicted.

Karan Patheja is Sr Correspondent Technology NDTV and presenter with the Gadget Guru show

From HT Brunch, August 26

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First Published: Aug 25, 2012 17:03 IST