Having a Games Studies discussion in India had been a longtime dream for me and it took me two decades to get it started. As a Bengali from North Calcutta, I have grown with the adda being a major part of my life. Yes, adda – that aimless and meandering confabulation between random people of all age groups who congregate on a porch step or in a local club and talk of everything under the sun. The space of the adda is a liberal space that has been celebrated by scholars such as Dipesh Chakrabarti and glorified in the Manna De song ‘Coffee House Er Shei Adda ta Aj Aar Nei’ (the adda at the coffee house is no more). There have been videogame addas before – physical ones. Aniket, Riko and I have been part of such addas with mainly game designers led by Satyajit Chakraborty. Ours is a homage to those addas from pre-Covid days but it is, uniquely, also a space to talk about gaming cultures instead of game design, primarily. Our adda was also an attempt to bring together the young research talent all around the country and also those Indians abroad who have been researching videogames and gaming cultures. The adda was the inception of the Game Studies India group, which aims to connect Games Studies in India with global scholarship through its series of talks and podcasts. In the spirit of what we discuss and research, however, the form of the adda is always playful or rather it slides across the frames of play and seriousness.
Our very first adda was about the past, the attempt to recall playfully the early experiences of videogames that each of us had. It was a palimpsest of memories of generations where some recalled the very first computer classes where computer education meant playing Dig Dug on BBC microcomputers or playing around with the program LOGO. Others talked about Nintendo clones or smuggled handheld game clones that were available on the grey market. Or the early days where we played videogames from shareware cds and forgotten names such as Road Rash or the earliest Age of Empires came back to us. Also, very importantly, the gendered space of gaming, where Poonam said that she was looked upon suspiciously by the male gamers around her, was brought to the forefront. Aritro, the youngest among us, of course had started by playing the first triple-A games while Souvik Kar and Sourav had started with the later handhelds. Riko and Aniket also reminisced about their first PC games, very different ones from those I had played. I did not know what a tazo was as I had not grown up in the Frito-Lays generation; my students had, however. Now even tazos are history and my students are early career academics. After twenty years as a lonely Indian academic researching videogames, there is a sense of satisfaction that we now have a space for discussing videogames, academically or as we want.
Albeit a virtual space, mediated through onscreen activity. Like a first-person game. And it is time to reload.