Slaying virtual ogres, demons - games Indian children play

June 18th, 2008 - 11:03 am ICT by IANS  

By Ranjana Narayan
New Delhi, June 18 (IANS) “I prefer Force Lightning to Dark Rage”, “I used all my Mana to keep Immolation activated”…Animated conversations such as these among urban youngsters, especially boys, may sound like gibberish to adults but they are pointers to their prowess in computer games, and also their addiction. Computer gaming has caught on among the younger generation in India to such an extent that many wouldn’t mind spending precious evening hours in front of the computer or game console, besting virtual rivals in football, cricket or tennis, or, better still, lopping off the heads of ogres, demons and even the “undead” in tense sword combat.

Even their conversations are usually about what computer games they are playing, the “levels” they have scaled and the moves made.

Anand Ghosh, an 11-year-old, loves to spend hours playing his favourite “Republic Commando” - a Star Wars game categorised as FPS, or First Person Shooter. In this, the gamer can only see the gun he is holding and where it is pointing.

“When you shoot droids and other aliens, their blood spatters on your helmet visor, which automatically gets cleaned off,” says Anand.

“I love playing this game, but I don’t think it is too violent because it is not as gory as GTA games. The characters you kill are extra-terrestrial and only splatter out slimy green and yellow blood. So it is ok,” he says.

One of the well-known games that children play is “Jedi Academy”, a continuation of the storyline of the “Star Wars” film saga. It is a Role Playing Game, or RPG, in which the player controls a Jedi Knight and fights evil Sith Warriors to accomplish missions - while brandishing a light sabre - just like in the movie.

Bindu Prasad, senior counsellor with the Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, told IANS, “Computer games are passive games where the content is violent in many cases. Children try to fantasise these things.

“Kids don’t use up their physical energy while playing computer games, it is merely passive participation, and creates a lot of violence in them.” She feels parental monitoring of the games is essential.”

With most middle class Indian homes having a computer as well as internet connections, gaming has turned out to be the favourite pastime of children.

A popular game is “Warcraft III”, brought out by Blizzard in 2003. An RTS or a Real Time Strategy game, it involves building empires, creating armies to conquer the enemy’s army. In the words of pros at the game, it “requires skilful manoeuvring and presence of mind”.

There are also other popular games like “GTA”, or “Grand Theft Auto”, and “Hitman” - which are not meant for children under 18 as they contain a lot of violence, but with parents usually ignorant of what their wards are up to, kids as young as 8-10 play them with gusto.

“There is a lot of blood and gore in ‘GTA’ and ‘Hitman’, especially in the latter. ‘Hitman’ is an assassination game in which the player is a hired assassin and has to kill VIPs to accomplish missions,” says Parthiv Kapoor, a college student who has now matured to “thinking games” like “Warcraft” and “DotA”, or “Defence of the Ancients”.

“In ‘GTA’, there is a lot of mindless killing - a player gets a choice of weapons like chain saws and samurai katanas and sophisticated guns to kill people. You can see the blood spouting out, especially after hacking open a head with a chain saw,” says Kapoor, agreeing that it was not a child friendly game and should be kept out of reach of children.

Sporting games like “FIFA” and “Cricket” have versions released each year and are very popular amongst all age groups. Racing games, such as “NFS” or “Need For Speed”, along with old time classics like “Road Rash” are just as appealing. In these, the gamer has to be adept at keeping the car racing on different kinds of tracks while overtaking opponents. It sounds fairly easy but requires tremendous practice, say veterans.

An added attraction to gaming nowadays is the multiplayer feature, in which gamers can play against human opponents, rather than virtual ones. Some games are only developed for multiplayer gaming, like “World of Warcraft”. There are no virtual opponents in such games.

In most colleges, students play multiplayer games among themselves on the LAN, or Local Area Network connection.

“During evenings and holidays, me and my LAN mates enjoy playing ‘FIFA’. I prefer playing as Manchester United, but all my other friends support Chelsea,” says S. Venkatesh, an engineering student at BITS Goa.

Most of the games that have come out in 2007-08 like “Assassins Creed” and “Spiderman III” are meant for the new consoles - XBOX 360, Play Station 3 and Wii - and run on very high graphics which require expensive graphics cards in computers - not something everyone can afford.

“I had to spend a few thousands to upgrade the computer and get a latest graphics card installed as my kids were driving me mad because they were not able to play the newest games that their friends had,” said Reena Singh, a working parent with two schoolgoing children.

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