Thumbs rule

As its market crosses $540 million in India, gaming is the most powerful entity today in entertainment, invading familiar pop culture and throwing up amazing careers

Published: 10th June 2017 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 08th June 2017 10:46 PM   |  A+A-

Nineteen-year-old Zara Rebello’s alter ego goes by the name Purpleshrimp. When Gautam Remesh takes control over the PS4, sleep becomes the biggest casualty. Indiana-based operations analyst Sandesh Reddy swears by the Rainbow Six Siege, an FPS team game. Niharika Patil would like to emulate PewDiePie, the most popular YouTube star in the world.

Ever since its birth as an oddity at a science fair in the 50s, gaming as a sport (many might debate the term) or entertainment (big thumbs-up) has inveigled itself successfully into the lives of millions across the globe. Its democratic character can be vouchsafed by the cheery woman playing a game on the mobile, the animated child playing on the Game Boy or Xbox, or the youngster hunched in rapt attention in front of the PC. It’s come to such that the world has been divided into gamers and non-gamers.

From arcade games in the 70s and 80s—which old-timers will recall—to the more recent shift to mobile and online gaming, the gaming industry has gone through major ups and downs and successes and failures to emerge as the most powerful entity today in entertainment and sports. Games have stealthily invaded familiar pop culture—be it game-inspired films such as The Angry Birds Movie, Assassin’s Creed or Warcraft, or an advertisement with a Grand Theft Auto theme. It has even thrown up amazing careers.

In India, the gaming industry has grown by leaps and bounds. According to a report by TechSci Research and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Indian gaming market has crossed $540 million and is expected to grow to over $800 million by 2022. In 2015, the Indian gamers’ population was 198 million, and is forecasted to grow to 628 million by 2020 and 1,164 million by 2030.
Casual gamers have become serious gamers, thanks to the immediate availability of advanced gaming hardware (be it joystick consoles, Virtual Reality  (VR) glasses, PCs/laptops, TVs, smartphones), and increasing penetration of high-speed internet.

The tools of the gaming business are a-changing, and rapid developments in mobile technology over the last decade has created an explosion of mobile gaming, so much so that it is slated to overtake console-based gaming. “The past years have been great for the gaming industry. With a huge penetration of smartphone devices in India, mobile has been a preferable platform for games. While mobile game development projects contributed to only around 20 per cent of our revenue in 2013, we now have around 55 per cent of our revenue coming from it,” says Kalyan Acharya, Business Development Head, Yudiz Games.

GreedyGame’s Chief Business Officer Siddharth Gupta says mainstream apps such as Candy Crush Saga are a hit, but games from Indian publishers such as Nazara, Octro and Nextwave are also breaking into top download charts. “To keep these users engaged, publishers in Indian markets have intelligently tapped into cultural habits and activities to create hit games such as Chhota Bheem, Teen Patti and World Cup Cricket,” says Gupta. Similarly, Anila Andrade, AVP-Operations, 99 Games, has created India’s most successfully monetised game Star Chef, and the country’s most downloaded game,
Dhoom 3: The Game.

While there is intense competition between mobile, console and computer gaming, the future of all three seems to be converging on VR. Pokemon GO is a big hit, and companies such as HTC and Oculus are developing devices to support VR games. “VR is transforming the entertainment landscape around the world. What could only be imagined five years ago is a feasible technology now. For example, people can enjoy a roller-coaster experience in a small 20 sqft area,” says Murali D Bharathi, founder of Kaleidozone.

Be it for fun, relaxation, killing time or anything else, gaming has been recognised as a bonafide means of entertainment and sport. For gamer Sandesh Reddy, an operations analyst with a real estate development and construction firm in Indiana, the US, gaming is a stress-buster. His physician father wasn’t interested in it, but gave Donky Kong, a narrative in video game form, as bait so that his children would learn English. Sandesh picked up the language and also became a gamer for life. His proud possession is the PS4, which he pairs with his plasma TV, and plays for at least 10 hours a week. He’s playing Rainbow Six Siege, a First Person Shooting (FPS) team game, these days. “The rage is the MMRPG (Mass Multiplayer Role Playing Games). They are much more common on the PC, but there are many MMRPG games available for consoles as well. Most games now require you to upgrade your hardware and the primary gaming system, whether it’s a PC/MAC or console. Games are much more affordable now because a $60 (`4,200) game today doesn’t seem like a lot of money compared to the hundreds people spent just to get a console or PC to be able to play said game,” says Reddy.

Social media outlets have been harbingers of change as far as people interaction goes, but video games seem to have upstaged it. For computer MMORPGs (Massively Multilayer Online Role Playing Games), introduced in the mid-70s, changed the way people interacted with one another in much of the same way Facebook and Twitter do. To think that two people could play the same game at the same time and be in different locales required a leap of imagination. Gaming enthusiast, ex-VJ and president of Media Development, Midas Media and Services Pvt Ltd, Craig Gallyot is an active participant in several MMORPG games. “The MMORPG community is where I came into my own as a gamer. I have hundreds of friends across several countries, who don’t speak the same language but understand each other easily,” says Gallyot, who once owned the holy trinity of consoles—PlayStation, Xbox and Wii. Though he plays Hearthstone now, Counter-Strike used to be one of his favourite games.

Gaming has scored with the masses probably because one can fulfil in gaming what one can’t in real life—be a super hero, a spy, an assassin, and what not. That virtue is the USP for gamer and game designer Gautam Remesh, who spends three-four hours on gaming every day using whatever equipment he can get, even playing on his phone. “We become that particular character in a game, we get so involved that we do not think beyond that character. The game is designed thus,” says Gautam, adding that some games such as Grand Theft Auto (by Rockstar Games) takes five to seven years to be developed. Like how errors in a postage stamp hike its value and make it a collector’s item, glitches in a game increases its value. “A game was released in 2011 with an error which cost $3,500 each. Only 11 CDs were released of it,” says Gautam. Unchartered Series 4 is his all-time favourite, with 1-3 series being played on PSP and series 4 on PS4.

Vimal, 22, who got his first video game when he was in Class II, prefers sports games to FPS games where one randomly kills people. “Friends come over or we have a party, and gaming takes place. We bet money, not much. All of us being football fans, we play the FIFA game,” says Vimal. Graphics have been upgraded to a great extent now. In the FIFA 1998 version, players appeared like normal cartoon figures, but in the 2017 edition, they appear real with every tiny detail being taken care of. With original CDs costing `1,500-2,000, Vimal and his friends maximise their playing by buying and sharing CDs among themselves. “We are all now looking forward to Injustice 2. It’s the most awaited game this year,” says Vimal.  

There’s a new breed of gamers now—women gamers. Archana Kariyakar, 25, remembers always being surrounded by games. “Those days whenever we bought a computer, games were thrown in for free, and that’s how I got my first few games. I’m pretty good at Claw that came out in 1997, and have played most of the retro games, including the newer ones in early 2000. Currently, I’m been playing DOTA II,” says Archana, who works as a Data Associate with Amazon. “Before video games eased themselves into the mainstream, we were thought of as weird, and now the same people are trying to fit in,” laughs Archana. Having gamed for more than a decade, Archana believes that people are more accepting towards ‘nerd culture’, which includes comics, video games, animation, etc. “There’s Comic-con happening in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru,”she says.

Joash Cornelius of Gaming Central (extreme right)

Gaming has thrown up some rather interesting careers. One of them is cosplay, in which a person dresses up as a character from a film, a book or a video game. Niharika Patil, who goes by the name of Niha Novacaine in the world of gaming and cosplay, describes herself as the first professional cosplayer in the country. “I’ve been cosplaying since I was 12. After I completed a course in fashion designing, I became a professional cosplayer in 2013,” says Niharika. She remembers playing on her Mitashi console since she was about four or five years old. “My parents being doctors did not have the time to look after me, so I spent a lot of time playing video games with my cousins. I didn’t have a PlayStation, but eventually built my own PC and started gaming on that,” says the svelte cosplayer who streams 12 hours a day.

Niharika fashions her own costumes from scratch, often taking on characters from the games she likes to play. “I’m not a professional gamer. I like to involve my audience in the experience I’m going through, that’s the gamer I am and that’s what you see on my twitch (live streaming video platform).” Her parents are still at a loss to understand how she can eke out a living through cosplay. “It’s like playing video games and earning money. People like watching me play games and I make money out of that. I get to meet people from all the places that I would like to visit, including some of the best gamers in the world,” she laughs. Her social life is a big zero though, according to the spunky 24-year-old.

Nashik-based 19-year-old Zara Rebello has been gaming since she was a child, having been raised in a gaming environment, thanks to four elder cousins who often played ‘Contra’ as they chilled with their friends. One day a friend introduced her to Defence of the Ancients (DODA), and Zara was hooked to it. “I play to relax. Normally, I play on my PC where the graphics are much better. Mobile gaming is just a lot of button-smashing, which doesn’t appeal. I don’t like spending too much on games. The maximum I had spent was `500 for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). It’s the most played game in the country right now,” says the teen.

Of the current games, she thinks the graphics are much better though the storylines have become generic. Like Niharika, Zara is also a cosplayer. “I took a break after school and completed my Class XII last year. I didn’t want to go to college immediately and have been cosplaying ever since. I recently got sponsored by the biggest gaming company in the country, and went to Malaysia for a gaming tournament,” reveals Zara, who also works for a gaming company. “Since I do cosplaying, I have a following in the gaming community and so I do social media promotion for the company as well,” says Zara, who goes by the name of Purpleshrimp in her cosplay avatar.

Gaming Central, a popular social gaming community in India, is aiming to not only promote gaming as a positive sport and lifestyle, but also one in which one can pursue a career. Says Joash Cornelius, who manages events at Caming Central, “Gaming has had a negative connotation in India for a while now, and that’s something we are trying to turn around. We are trying to portray the possible careers that one can pursue in this industry. We’ve been doing events in colleges and in corporates across India to build a stronger and tightly-knit community in India.” eSports is also becoming popular not just as gaming competitions, but also for the monetary and prize benefits. Electronic Sports League and ASUS Republic of Gamers have been conducting competitions and are getting more participants each year.

Gaming is relaxing and fun for many, and for soon-to-be 12 years old Harish, it brings along many benefits. “It improves reflexes and helps in many other ways. I like strategy games, for what happens depends on what you do. The more you play, the more you understand how to react to a situation that might help you in real life,” says Harish. This calm teen started gaming two years ago, with his first game being an Xbox his father got for him. He plays around one-and-a-half-hours daily, and more during holidays. “I like Minecraft because it is more like a survival game that brings out your creative skills,” says Harish. When his parents ask him to replace gaming with a bit of reading, he obliges.
In spite of the colossal inroads gaming has made into everyday lives, there is still a tinge of negativity connected with it. That’s mostly because it creates gaming addicts and leads to other kinds of mental disorders. All of us have heard of the gamer stereotype, the one who is attached to his game, hardly sleeps or eats, shuns human company, etc.

Chennai-based Dr Gauthamadas U, specialist in Neuro Behavioural Medicine, says, “Internet Gaming Disorder is now being recognised as a mental disorder that requires to be treated. It is most common in male adolescents 12 to 20 years of age.” One of the main reasons that video games have become so addictive is because, like gambling in a casino, they are designed to be just challenging enough to keep you coming back for more, but not so hard that the player eventually gives up, says Dr Gauthamadas. “It is important that those who indulge extensively in internet gaming to the detriment of their scholastic, social and family life should be evaluated and treated by qualified psychiatrists.”
So now that you are forewarned, are you still game?

Niharika Patil, 24

Calls herself Niha Novacaine in the gaming world. Claims to be the first professional cosplayer in India. Streams 12 hours a day. Fashions her clothes from game characters.

 

Zara Rebello, 19

Nashik-based cosplayer who works for a gaming company

Goes by the name Purpleshrimp in her cosplay avatar. Been gaming since she was a child. A friend introduced her to Defence of the Ancients; she’s hooked to it.

Harish, 12

The teen started playing two years ago with his first game on an Xbox his dad got for him. Plays one-and-a-half hours daily and more during holidays.

 

The Evolution

While the future is Virtual Reality and AI technology, a look at the history of gaming over the years

1950 Commercial birth as an oddity at a science fair in the US

1972  Atari founded by Nolan (godfather of gaming) sets the benchmark for a large-scale gaming community. Beginning of arcade gaming.

Early 70s Advent of PC and mass-produced gaming consoles

1983 North American video game crash (also known as the Atari shock in Japan) was a massive recession in the industry that continued till 1985, taking down revenues to around $100 million, from around $3.2 billion

1993 LAN networks and later the internet open up multi-player gaming

2000 Gaming goes online

2007 Games enter the cell phone

Indian gamers’ population was 198 million in 2015, and is forecasted to grow to 628 million by 2020 and 1,164 million by 2030

Casual gamers have become serious gamers, thanks to advanced gaming hardware and increasing penetration of high-speed internet

 

TOP 5

Temple Run 2

Clash of Clans

Candy Crush Saga

Teen Patti

Subway Surfers

 

TOP 5 PC Games

Battlefield 4

Counter Strike

Witcher 3

Need for Speed Series

FIFA series

 

TOP 5 Console Games

Battlefield 4

Need for Speed Rivals

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare

Grand Theft Auto V

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

 

Top Indian Mobile Game Developers

99Games
Genre Casual Games
Star Chef
Dhoom: 3 The Game
 
Dhruva Interactive
Genre Casual Games
Maya the Bee
 
Nazara Technologies
Genre Casual Games
Chhota Bheem series
Cut the Rope
 
Nautilus Mobile
Genre Sports
Real Cricket series
 
Yudiz
Genre Arcade and Sports
Basketball 3D
Tennis Live 3D
Vegas Slots
 
Reliance Games
Genre Action and Arcade
Real Steel
Monster Truck Racing

The players

Sandesh Reddy

Operations analyst with a real estate firm in the US

His physician father held out Donky Kong, a narrative in video game
form, as a kind of bait so that his children would learn English. He not only picked up the language but became a gamer for life.Proud possession: PS4, which he pairs with his plasma TV. He plays at least 10 hours a week.

“The rage these days is the MMRPG. They are more common on the PC, but there are many MMRPG games available for consoles as well. Most games require you to upgrade your hardware apart from the primary gaming system whether it is a PC/MAC or console.”

Game he plays: Rainbow Six Siege, a First Person Shooting (FPS) team game

 

Gautam Remesh

Gamer and game designer

Spends three-four hours on gaming every day using whatever equipment he can get, even playing on the mobile if need be

“We become that particular character in a game, we get so involved that we do not think beyond that character. The game is designed thus.Some games such as Grand Theft Auto (by Rockstar Games) take five to seven years to be developed.”

His favourite: Unchartered Series 4, with 1-3 series being played on PSP and series 4 on PS4.

Craig Gallyot

Gaming enthusiast, ex-VJ and President of Media Development, Midas Media and Services Pvt Ltd

 An active participant in several MMORPG games, he once owned the holy trinity of consoles—PlayStation, Xbox and Wii

 “The MMORPG community is where I came into my own as a gamer. I have hundreds of friends across several countries, who don’t speak the same language but understand each other without any hassle.”

Game he plays: Hearthstone; Counter-Strike used to be one of his favourites

 

Joash Cornelius of Gaming Central

“Gaming has had a negative connotation in India for a while now, and that is something we are trying to turn around. We are trying to portray the possible careers that one can pursue in this industry. Of late, we’ve been doing events in colleges and corporate companies across India to build a stronger and tightly knit community in India.”

Joash Cornelius, who manages events at Gaming Central,a social gaming community

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