Monday, May 4, 2009

Wanted : Better Indian Casual Games

By Anand Ramachandran. This article first appeared on my weekly 'Game Invader' column in The New Indian Express

The recent spate of 'election' themed games on many Indian casual gaming web sites has led to some amusing coverage in the press.

Many paragraphs have been devoted to explaining how 'gaming companies' have 'developed' games based on the elections in order to 'educate' players or give them a 'feel' of politics. Some people from these companies have even given us the usual sound bytes about how they wanted to provide 'this experience' or educate players about 'that aspect of gaming'.

Which is all very well – except for one thing.

The games mostly, er . . suck.

Creating a poor 2-D platform jumping game where L.K.Advani or Manmohan Singh must run, jump over obstacles, avoid 'political opponents' and collect 'votes', is no different from Mario running and jumping over obstacles, avoiding 'koopa troopas' and collecting coins. And the latter is much more fun.

A game like this, despite the ridiculous claims by the marketing or PR people who make it, does not educate players about the election in any reasonable way. It is nothing more than a cheap attempt to cash in on a current topic – which is fine with me, really. That's what casual game developers need to do. Only, please stop claiming that it's some major design innovation with lofty goals of education and the like.

It's not just an election thing – I recently read about a 'stock market' game where players would have to 'catch' stockbrokers or investors or whoever, who would leap out of a building window, presumably to commit suicide. Yeah, just like Kaboom. Or Fire. Or a hundred other games from the classic arcade game era.

This, according to the company whose web site it is on, is supposed to educate people on various aspects of the recession. What the WTF?

Indian casual game publishers – hear this. We appreciate your efforts and investments into expanding gaming markets in India. We love the way you have introduced casual gaming to the average Indian office goer or college student or housewife. Full power to you.

But we'd appreciate it even more if you also spent some resources to develop truly original and interesting designs which would help us get the quintessentially Indian, topical 'experiences' you claim you want to deliver. How about a true-blue Rajnikanth style fight game? Or an election game where you need to lie and cheat your way to victory? Or an Autorickshaw racing game that actually captures the unique physics of a rickshaw, and is not merely a vanilla racer with Autorickshaw models replacing the usual cars? There I knocked off three ideas that wouldn't be too hard for your developers to make. And it took me all of five minutes. Surely your people can do better?

A little more thought into concept development and design can lead to an exponential increase in the quality of games on the Indian casual scene. And no. I'm sorry, just swapping characters and assets from an existing design with 'Indian' people and objects doesn't make the game Indian, or even topical. Was Yoddha an 'Indian' game just because it had ostensibly Pakistani terrorists and . . er . . Pepsi bottles? Nope. It was just another bad shooter, period.

So show us some love, publishers. Put on your thinking caps, and give us some games that will make us laugh, scare us silly, or get us thinking. Hire the youngsters who are playing your games – they'll surely be glad to help out.

And for heaven's sake, stop your idiot marketing / corporate communications people from making stupid, ill-informed and downright LOLworthy statements to the press.


  1. Totally ... i had to do a game review on this game called Gajini couple of months back,and it was truly one of the most dispicable things i ever had to do.

    PS- My first time here.. good job on the blog :-)

    PSS- i own a gaming lounge called The DEN in Adyar, drop in sometime


  2. gr8 to hear about ur gaming lounge...btw u sud try out ur is one kick!@# game