The iLL Panel is a series where the iLL Gaming staff pick their brains over topics related to the game industry. Given the nature of our staff, it can end up being either a mosh pit of fanboy nerdgasms or a bitter fight usually accompanied with death threats and all-out war (ok, maybe we’re not that extreme).
This month we offer a perspective on the various attitudes and mentalities that are prevalent in India when it comes to gaming and stress the need for better enforcement of parental control in gaming, since it is largely ignored here. Taking part in this iLL Panel are Sahil, Anikait, Tathagata, Ajay and Chirantan.
India is a land of many contradictions and ironies. Every gamer here makes his own journey navigating a minefield of social stigmas and misconceptions about gaming. Some fall prey to these stigmas and give up on gaming while others come to cherish it as a beloved hobby and passion. As you can infer, the iLL Staff fall in the latter category. Most of us are in our 20s and comprise what might be considered the first generation of gamers in India since gaming became somewhat mainstream here. Anikait is the sole exception being in his teens and part of the second generation. We have personally experienced quite a few of these societal views of gaming from our peers, our parents and other ‘wiser’ grown ups.
Let’s get personal
Starting on a positive note Anikait reports that his tech savvy parents are quite supportive of his gaming with the caveat that his studies must not be affected. They also have no qualms about gaming as a profession, a welcome change in a country where Doctor and Engineer are the de facto career choices with Management being the new fad. Tathagata mentions that he never got reprimanded as a kid for gaming late into the night playing sports games. He also recollects playing Rome: Total War with his dad. While these might be some positive attitudes, Chirantan recalls how often he has heard that gaming is a childish activity and you can only be considered mature once you give it up, from parents, other grown ups and some of his peers. Sahil and Ajay chime in that while people think you have a fun job dabbling in games journalism, they always dismiss it as something lowly with little earning potential. Whatever happened to Dignity of Labour?
A gamer in India
The panel turns to listing the various attitudes one might find as a gamer in India and pointing out the truth. Some of these might be a repeat of the preceding lines.
1) Gaming is a Childish activity. Giving it up is a sign of Maturity.
Wrong. Gaming is a form of entertainment just like tv, cinema or music. People of all ages can partake in its delights. Giving up gaming doesn’t make you mature, it merely limits your entertainment options.
2) Gaming is a waste of time and not educational.
False. Games can improve your responsiveness to situations and let you quickly react to emergencies. They can also be used as teaching tools for a variety of subjects like History, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Geography and so on. It just depends on which games you play. Games let you explore themes, subjects, cultures and times you wouldn’t usually come across. There is no limit to the scope of educational opportunities with video games. You want to be a pilot? Just play Flight Simulator. Games teach you time management, resource management, something people generally struggle with in their lives.
3) Gaming and Games Development aren’t viable career choices. E-sports and Games journalism are more of a western thing.
Some of these might be true currently simply because there isn’t a developed gaming industry here to support the growth of ancillary activities like e-sports, game expos, games journalism and games broadcasting. This scenario can change as the industry matures and starts churning out its own mainstream products but more pioneers need to invest in it to make it happen.
4) You pay for your games when you can download them for free? You must be very rich or a fool or both.
Ok, maybe you need to pay for multiplayer games, but why bother for single player games?
Wrong. Very wrong. Piracy does not help the gaming industry. People are making these sofware products for a living. Supporting them with a purchase is necessary if one wishes to continue enjoying games, even the single player ones. Games and gaming devices are priced much higher as regards the standard of living in the country and the import duties do not help. But prices for games, especially on PC aren’t so exorbitant as to be unaffordable for the burgeoning middle class of the country.
5) Consoles are better than PCs for gaming simply because the games cost more.
Wrong. The price of an object is not a true indication of its quality and there are other factors involved in pricing. However to avoid getting into a fanboy argument we believe that the preferred gaming platform is a matter of personal choice.
The Status Quo
The panel now turns to the current state of affairs of the gaming industry in India. Sahil and Anikait mention how Government support is critical for impetus to growth in any industry, but Chirantan points out that the government servants aren’t quite tech savvy and the industry is quite alien to them. The situation can only improve when more people that have grown up with gaming start working for the government which may take a decade or so. The mainstream media suffers from the same lack of understanding and is usually quick to blame gaming for violence as in the West. The gaming industry itself is focussing on mobiles and browser games, usually of the free to play variety or offering services to international clients. Many ‘game developers’ blatantly churn out clones of popular games instead of innovating on their own and most movie tie-ins follow the same minimal effort path with a fresh coat of branding slapped on.
The discussion then turns to monetary issues with Chirantan noting how the stringent Reserve Bank of India guidelines make buying games online an exercise in frustration. Ajay disagees saying he never faced problems personally, but Chirantan points out that quite a lot of other people in India do face problems. Credit Cards are not as popular as Debit Cards here and even those are not quite as widespread as Cash transactions. Every e-commerce firm here is forced to resort to Cash on Delivery merely to survive. For the gaming industry to succeed India specific pricing and payment options are a must as Sahil and Anikait put it.
So much potential, so little interest
Sahil and Tathagata stress that India has plenty of potential not just as a gaming market but also for source material of games. Our rich mythology just begs to be adapted to this medium, objections from conservative extremists be damned. The diverse culture and geography of our nation can easily provide inspiration for a myraid of games. Indian developers need to look in the mirror to make uniquely different games rather than just trying to blindly ape the west. Sahil goes as far as suggesting an Indian gaming platform for these Indian games.
The panel is unanimous in its conclusion that Indian misconceptions regarding gaming need to be dispelled and believes that proper steps need to be taken by all the players in this industry to make this happen. Making gaming more accessible through region specific pricing and friendly government policies can go a long way in this endeavour. Also inculcating a buying culture instead of the pirate mentality is quite necessary. The law agencies also need to crack down on piracy more actively. The future is bright for gaming in India but only if we work towards it.
Parental Control, what is that?
Indians love to pamper their children and give in to their demands when it comes to toys and games. Few parents even bother to check what games their wards are playing and can be in for a rude shock when these games have unwanted influences on the child. Games in India are sold with the PEGI rating printed on them. However these are rarely enforced. And pirates ignore these completely.
The panel discusses what implications this lack of enforcement can have. Games can cause violent reactions and frustration. Parents usually blame their kids’ violent behaviour on games as Anikait reports. Tathagata notes that exposure to games beyond their age level can have wrong influences on children as they are not mature enough to understand the themes being covered by the games. Parents need to keep a watchful eye on what their kids are playing, whatever its source may be. They need to be understanding the games themselves in order to make sure that their wards do not get the wrong message from their playtime.
That’s it for this iLL Panel. We do have a vested interest in the development of gaming infrastructure in India since it’s our job to cover it. Do tell us your personal gaming challenges in the comments. iLL out.