It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in Bangalore. The Big Pitcher pub in Old Airport Road was bustling with activities as usual. People of different cultures and communities were unwinding and having a good time. But there was one corner in the pub with a group of individuals who seemed more involved in what they were discussing, than anybody else. This group contained a mix of people who knew each other and strangers alike. Yet everyone seemed so involved. This was the scene of a monthly meetup of people who love video games. An initiative that began on Facebook which now has an army of followers who drop in for the meet, just to talk about games. Whether you are a developer or a gamer or just love to talk about games, you are invited. This is just one of the many ways video games are creating communities in India. From well-organised events like the above to a WhatsApp group which comprises like-minded PUBG players who met in-game, gaming communities of various types are prevalent and thriving in India in more ways than one.
Since India is not currently a huge market for video games in any way, calling the little factions as communities would be a stretch by today’s standards. However, communities don’t necessarily have to mean a group of people in an organized event. Any number of people with similar interests, that hold their games close to the heart, or any individual who loves to play games would qualify as part of the gaming community in my book. And from that perspective, India might have the largest number of people today, following some kind of video game and being part of that community. This wasn’t the case a few years ago. So, one would wonder how these communities/groups came to be, and rightfully so. And the answer to this lies in various places.
The Mario Generation
Super Mario Bros may have been released in the 80s, but it did take a while for the game to gain some audience in India. So, in the mid-90s I was among the kids who sunk hours upon hours navigating Mario and Luigi through their worlds, while under the spell of the sprites on display. Games have since evolved and the kids who were under that spell have been part of this evolution, while they themselves evolved into adults. We now have a whole generation of people who love games, who now earn their own fortune and consume all the entertainment they want, with games being a big part of it. This is the group of people that have fought back against the notion that “games are for kids” which is still prevalent in our country. And thanks to braving such notions, almost every person who falls under this category eagerly wants to talk about his/her favourite games. The only issue was that there aren’t many of those people that one could find in the nearest vicinity unless he/she worked for Game QA company or a company that developed games. But that hasn’t stopped this generation from being part of online forums and other gaming related activities that are now popping up quite often in the country. All of this makes the next point even more interesting.
The Mario Generation’s next of Kin
So, we have a generation that grew up understanding and loving games. But thanks to the society’s stand on videogames back then, they could not find the encouragement needed to pursue games freely when they were young. But that’s not the case with their kids. Kids and young adults make for the largest audiences for games in today’s India. All thanks to a generation behind them that understands the passion around video games. Video games are embraced as legitimate entertainment now more than ever. And the current generation of players makes the most of it. Today, we have a good number of groups that organize tournaments with decent prize pools. Midnight launches of major video games is actually a thing that happens in major cities. And thanks to this group of people being so synonymous to technology, it has spawned various groups and communities across multiple social media outlets. Which bring us to the next and most crucial part.
Changing Technology, Trends and Accessibility
Back in the day, I remember having to visit my usual dealer for games hoping to get the game I wanted. And there were a couple of instances when I returned empty handed as I did not find a copy of Tekken 3. Procuring the game was as much of an adventure as playing them (Unless you were into buying pirated hardware/software of course). While demand for physical game copies can still be a thing today, there are so many other ways games have been made available. Games today are catered in a fashion that they could be enjoyed from anywhere with an internet connection. The end result is that the number of people playing and enjoying games is only increasing by the day. Add to it the wholehearted acceptance of mobile games within each household, and big name free to play games like Fortnite, PUBG(Mobile), and Apex Legends, games and the communities that they have spawned are prevalent and thriving than ever before. And the best part is that we have only begun, and all of this is only going to get better.