The topic of this discussion session was titled ‘ludonomics’ which mostly focused on the various economic and other hurdles, like not owning a graphics card, that most gamers have had to face while growing up in India and how it has defined their experience. For Prabhash, such economics did not matter because he grew up in the arcade era when the whole concept of owning a PC and that also using it for gaming did not really exist at that time. However, later on, he recalls being a part of the cyber cafe night-party culture during the days of Counter-Strike. He mostly reminisced about the glory days of the coin-operated arcade machines and how he used to frequent the parlours with this friends, sometimes by bunking schools to get into the action. For Poonam, even though the culture was there, she did not have much experience of either. The cyber cafe scene, she says, was not very safe for young girls like her and she did not find those games to be likeable either, particularly because of their violent content. She found her solace in indie games and only later when she got a laptop of her own could she play AAA graphics-intensive games. While growing up she felt that gaming was something that was not much encouraged for girls and she also later goes on to add that it was only because of her twin brothers that she got even introduced to this world. Dhruv added along the same lines as Prabhash that he had also not experienced a gaming culture and the question of expensive items did not come into the picture when he was growing up because he played mostly on his father’s office computer. Even when there was a rise in high graphics games, Dhruv says he had the most fun in doing the ‘jugaad’ to play those games on low-end PCs than playing the games in itself. Riko recounts how his setup improved over the ages and how he very faintly remembers the arcade scene like Samya. But, what he does remember is how the cheat codes took over and they used to be exchanged amongst friends like cartridges used to be during Prabhash’s time. Samya pointed out how the whole cheat code scene morphed into the modding culture of today which harms online players like Riko greatly as most people can also use these as hacks. Neil’s experience was pretty similar to Samya’s as well who had to convince his parents to gift him games He also recalled how a lot of lying was involved to get anything going with respect to gaming. He used to play mostly with his cousins and friends like Samya but he also, later on, realised how his cousins were in turn playing him by making him believe that his controller was actually connected. To cap the discussion off, more or less everyone agrees that to have experienced some gaming at an earlier time was not a piece of cake and there were a lot of negotiations involved especially in dealing with elders who were critical of gaming. Be it the cyber cafes, arcades, friends, cousins or brothers gaming started as a second-hand experience for many generations. On top of that, the gaming space still has work to do in terms of inclusivity and access. While the resolutions or the conditions for play are not optimum, we make do here with our ‘jugaad’ and will keep doing so.
-Samya Brata Roy