PLAYER ONE: POWER UP
Until the late 2000s, few games were developed in India. Those that were, like ‘Yoddha: The Warrior’, ‘Chakravyuh’ and ‘Bhagat Singh’, were unspectacular attempts at replicating popular international fads. However, companies like Bangalore-based Dhruva Interactive were the go-to source for 3D-rendered cars in immaculate detail, such as those in the Forza series. Many of the biggest titles in the last decade, from ‘Forza’ to ‘Call of Duty’, had a hidden Indian connection. But the last few years have seen a generational shift. This week, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) will be hosting the India Gaming Show (IGS), an exhibition and conference that will attempt to get a bird’s eye view of what is now a behemoth industry-in-the-making. Kickstarter projects like ‘Unrest’ (a role-playing game set in ancient India) are gaining ground, and companies like Tiny Mogul are making mobile games for a local audience. Exciting proof-of-concepts are out there on the fringes of games worldwide, such as ‘Antariksha Sanchar’, which explores the life and work of Srinivasa Ramanujan. Workshops and game jams and code-schools are everywhere. What’s missing is the sense of a connected industry.
Still, India has some advantages over neighbouring China—where a (recently lifted) decade-long ban on game consoles created a preference for supremely complex Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (such as ‘League of Legends’ or ‘DOTA2’) and sprawling mobile games (such as ‘Yin Yang Story’, 2016’s biggest hit), that are almost impenetrable to outsiders.
In contrast, Indian gamers’ habits and preferences are very close to the so-called ‘AAA’ industry ideal. That vital difference suggests that with industry support and greater media attention, India is positioned to be the next destination for game design for a global audience.