Talk #8, 13 February 2021
Speaker: Prabhash Ranjan Tripathy
Bio-Note: Prabhash Ranjan Tripathy was born in Odisha, India. He completed his B.A. (Hons) English, M.A. in English literature and M.A. in Comparative Indian Literature from University of Delhi. He is currently a PhD scholar at the school of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Has submitted his MPhil dissertation titled ‘Playing Cyborg: A study of the Gamer in the Videogame Parlours of Delhi and Mussoorie’, following which was a doctoral fellow at the International Research Centre “Interweaving Performance Cultures” and is currently working on his PhD dissertation titled ‘Between WorkStation and PlayStation: The Cultural Location of Videogames in India’.
Interest areas include Superhero comic books, Anime, Video Games, Combat Sports, and Mythology. He is fascinated by felines and loves to trek, read, write, click and play.
Abstract: The current talk is an exploration into the question as to whether the gamer figure that emerged in India in the 1990s can be thought of as a cyborg and if so, then what kind of cyborg is the gamer? Can one think of the gamer-cyborg as a posthuman liberatory figure or is the gamer-cyborg still all too human?
The intent of the paper in asking these questions and problematizing the figure of the Gamer is to launch an investigation into the more pressing question that one encounter in the wake of the cyber/information-turn, that is, how does one contemplate, comprehend, and articulate the ‘new’ in the identities that are formed and acquired with the advent of what has been identified as the cyber/information turn in culture? Can the connection between biological and technological be the sole basis for considering figurations like the Gamer as something new? Can they be thought of as a new subjectivity, a new politics, a new relationship to power? Is this ‘new’ democratic, free of discrimination and based on an egalitarian principle or is the ‘new’ an optimization of old and existing structures and modes of oppression?
Talk #7, 6 February 2021
Speaker: Samya Brata Roy
Title: Hitman 2 and its spectre of Mumbai
Bio-Note: Samya Brata Roy (He/Him) is currently in the final semester of his M.A in English Literature from The English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad. Mainly his interests lie in and around the modalities of Digital Narratives, which he also tries to create at thepenarchist (wordpress.com). He is associated as a SIG facilitator with DHARTI (dhdharti.in), as a transcriber with The Canterbury Tales Project and as database contributor with Electronic Literature Knowledge Base | ELMCIP. He works in the field of Disability Studies by assisting in research. He is also passionate about teaching and inclusion and pursued it by teaching slum kids.
Abstract: Hitman 2’s Mumbai mission, just like the film Extraction, looks at the oriental space in a similar ‘diseased’ yellow filter which is akin to the Mexico of Breaking Bad. Here, we have the perfect orientalist reduction of a culture. By digitising Mumbai and creating it into a gamic world, it produces a rather lazily translated and racialised appropriation of this particular South Asian space. The essential orientalist gaze thus reinforces the binary between the ‘I’ and the ‘other’: where the ‘I’ is the foreign Agent 47 and the ‘other’ are the yellow dwellers of Mumbai. The NPCs react to Agent 47 in awe as if a white man is a miracle of nature which they have never seen before. Not only that, but they also interact with themselves in a very essentialist way. The tea shops/kiosks are literally written as ‘Chaye Dukan’ (which is a direct translation for ‘Tea Shop’). Not only does this point at a lack of research but also a lazy design. No matter how inferior a place is, no one names their establishment in a direct translation to their colonial/capitalist overlords. It becomes nothing but a city ‘lost in translation’. In this paper, I will read the Mumbai mission of Hitman 2 as a cultural artefact where the game scape becomes a techno-orientalist commodity. Like any other Literary text which fetishizes the ‘other’, Hitman 2 also becomes such a ‘digital/ludic’ text which manages to define the ‘Indian’ in its own myopic way. The discourse propagated thus reinforces the idea of ‘India’ or the ‘Orient’ as the literal plaything of the West. Thus, I will expand by elaborating on how the creators become a part of the greater orientalized theatricality by indulging in a form of ‘identity tourism’ (Nakamura ’96), where the autonomy of creating a cultural space takes the form of an essentialist fetish.
Talk #6, 16 January 2021
Speaker: Zahra Rizvi
Title: Playing Dystopia: Searching for the Neganthropocene in Papers, Please and Orwell
Bio-Note: Zahra Rizvi is a Ph.D. scholar at the Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia, India. She was recently MHRD-SPARC Fellow at the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, African and Asian Language Studies, Michigan State University, and works in the fields of cultural studies, utopia/dystopia studies and video game studies. Her research interests include popular culture, young adult participatory spaces and geopolitical issues in and of cross-platform media.
Abstract: The way we play games and the way games play us is constantly changing. The physical shrinking of space can no longer be compensated by expansive gamescapes which otherwise provided a reprieve from diminishing access to space in 20th and 21st century childhood (Mayra, An Introduction to Game Studies). Gamescapes, increasingly, are becoming neo-explorations of “other people simulators” characterized by a suffocating hypernearing of the experience of the dystopia (Lucas Pope). Often ‘mundane’ mirrors of real-life situations, these dystopian games place the player in movement-limiting, choice-limiting challenging scenarios from where a fulfilling ending is more often than not impossible. I look at two of these dystopian games that offer covertly disruptive gameplay through alienating, often disembodied, simulation as a strategy for playing dystopia: Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please and Osmotic Studios’ Orwell. Closely engaging with issues of surveillance, digital governance, neurotechnology, illegal profiling, and ultimately, survival in a dystopia of technics, these games with their multiple endings caused by the smallest, seemingly most insignificant of differences in gameplay become crucial in their playing out of the possibilities of the neganthropocene.
Talk #5, 9 January 2021
Speaker: Souvik Mukherjee
Title: Speaking to the ‘Missing’ Player: Subaltern Poetics in Indian Videogames
Bio-Note: Dr Souvik Mukherjee is one of the earliest videogame researchers from India and is the author of two monographs, Videogames and Storytelling: Reading Games and Playing Books and Videogames and Postcolonialism: Empire Plays Back. He is currently employed as assistant professor in Cultural Studies at Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta.
Abstract: The degree of interactivity and agency of the player-character in videogames is often a moot question in Games Studies discourses (Atkins 2002 , Juul 2004, Salen and Zimmerman 2001). The assumption is that whether illusory or real, agency is an important element that drives the plot of digital games. To assume this, however, is to argue from a position of privilege and some videogames use their in-game mechanics to emphasise this. The assumption of a selfhood by the player while playing a digital game is the precondition to the experience of agency. Such a precondition is hardcoded into the gameplay on the basis of a default notion of empowerment and entitlement. What happens, however, in the case of the character that does not provide this sense of agency or for the game wherein such an experience of selfhood may not be possible? Using a well-worn but very relevant term from Postcolonial discourses, one could ask what happens where the game is about the Subaltern. Considering videogame studies from non-Western and South-South perspectives, such a default assumption of selfhood or agency may be challenged. Elsewhere (Mukherjee 2017), I have cited examples from the Cameroon, Indonesia and India that begin to address this challenge. Here, I wish to take two games from India as my texts for close-reading (or close-play) and show how a different poetics operates; indeed, my primary objective is to enquire into how the videogame as a narrative medium, which is by default apparently premised on agency, functions for the subaltern.
That Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUFgk92EmgQ
Talk #4, 2 January 2021
Speaker: Poonam Chowdhury
Title: Journey and the Art of Aesthetic Storytelling
Bio-Note: Poonam Chowdhury is pursuing PhD at EFLU Hyderabad. She’s a founding member of GSI Adda and a Facilitator for a SIG on Computational Humanities and Computational Analytics with DHARTI. Her research interests include indie videogames, game-spaces, gender issues in video games, simulated cities, slow gaming, literary and critical theory, etc.
Abstract: Thatgamecompany’s ‘Journey’ (2012) is a videogame like no other. This serene atmospheric game came out at a time when fast-paced, aggressive, AAA games were (and still are) the norm. Soon after the game’s release in 2012, thatgamecompany’s courage and hard work started getting the appreciation it deserved. ‘Journey’ has won several ‘Game of the Year’ awards and received several other awards and nominations, including a ‘Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media’ nomination for the 2013 Grammy Awards.For this Game Studies India Adda Talk, I will be discussing (read: gushing over) this game’s brilliant visual and auditory art, wordless storytelling techniques, and one-of-a-kind multiplayer experience. Please join me on this talk and let’s take a ‘journey’ like no other. Pun intended. Thank you and I hope you all have a wonderful new year. Here’s the game trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ie4izgUrUmw
Talk #3, 19 December 2020
Speaker: Souvik Kar
Title: The Vanishing Curator: Imperial Museums and the Curious Case of Studio Oleomingus’ A Museum of Dubious Splendors (2018)
Bio-Note: Souvik Kar is a PhD Scholar at Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad. He works on nuclear fiction, and occasionally writes and performs his own poetry. He also likes to speculate that videogames play him, rather than the other way around.
Abstract: Playing back to the Empire, in videogames, is rife with tensions. The imperialist sentiment inherent in reverse-colonist discourse featured in most strategy-based videogames like Europa Universalis IV, where the player could conquer Europe playing for the Marathas, has been noted by Souvik Mukherjee (2017) as playing into the colonial logic while futilely trying to challenge it. Studio Oleomingus, an Indian two-man game studio, is one of the few involved in a different experiment. Their mythical game Somewhere, chronicling a postmodernist search for identity and narrative in the forgotten city of Kayamgadh, has generated significant spin-offs into its universe. With attention to one such spin-off, I will focus critical attention on the issue of the postcolonial gaming of the Museum in A Museum of Dubious Splendors. I will examine the New Museological implications of A Museum of Dubious Splendors, keeping in mind Museologist Eilean Hooper-Greenhill’s assertion of museums embodying “the power to name, to represent common sense, to create official versions, to represent the social world, to represent the past” (Hooper-Greenhill 2001: 2). Oleomingus’ own description of A Museum, as an adaptation of edited, mangled, contested short stories by a fictional Urdu writer, Mir Umar Hassan, eschews the linear narrative production of the colonial museum for a game of meanings, where the player enters rooms according to his choice and constructs his/her own “quiet game about prosaic objects and spurious histories.” (“A Museum” 2018) The paper would take this into account and examine the reconceptualization of the museum space with respect to James Clifford’s sense of museums being “contact zones”: A Museum’s lack of any curator, with its curious blend of colonial and native tales and banal objects defamiliarised by “spurious histories” lends itself to questions of playing the Empire back according to a different episteme, through subaltern histories that the colonial museum space silenced. Paying close attention to the question of postcolonial spatiality in this game, I will analyze the historiographical implications of these identity-scatterings and recuperations at constant play in the structure of the game.
Talk #2, 21 November 2020
Speaker: Riko Banerjee
Title: What is it like to be a Gamer or pursue Game Studies in India?
Bio-Note: Riko is an Information Technology student from Heritage Institute of Technology, Kolkata. He has been fascinated by video gaming and the culture surrounding it practically since he developed consciousness, and his passion for it led him to become a member of Game Studies India. When he is not playing a game, he is either reading up about them or binge-watching game trailers till they come out.
Abstract: Video gaming is one of the most popular hobbies in the world, with the gaming industry grossing more revenue than the movie and the music industry combined. The estimated number of gamers across the whole world as of August 2020 is 2.7 billion, which is more than one-third of the world population. The benefits of gaming, as cited by numerous researchers, include a boost in confidence, improved cognitive abilities, stress relief, improved problem-solving skills, enhanced social skills among dyslexic kids, and among many others.Even though video gaming as a hobby and career is slowly getting recognition in India, majority of the population still scoff at the activity, shunning gamers and game researchers alike, citing out-of-context and sometimes even false media propaganda. The challenges faced by a typical gamer in India include lack of information, budget limitation, lack of support from parents and teachers when it comes to teenage gamers, and the overall lack of gaming as a mainstream culture among countrymen. As for someone who wants to pursue Game Studies, there is currently little to no provision for that due to the tightly knit education system in the country and the utter lack of educational institutes offering courses on game studies. We go on to further discuss all of the above challenges and experiences faced by a gamer or someone who wants to pursue game studies in India, in our detailed talk that is scheduled on November 21, 2020.
Talk #1, 31 October 2020
Speaker: Aritro Bhattacharya
Title: The Secret Seekers, NieR:Automata and Searching for Meaning in a Meaningless World
Bio-Note: Aritro Bhattacharya is a student of English Literature at Presidency University with an interest in both the digital (both singleplayer and multiplayer) and the analogue games. He is also interested in analysing Storytelling techniques in Video Games and Literature, and how the genre works in both art forms and also dabbles in making games though not professionally as of now. As for pastimes, he watches absurd cartoons and scours the internet for obscure trivia.
Abstract: The Shadow of the Colossus (released in Japan as Wander and the Colossus) sparked a decade long search for a hidden mystery in the game’s world by a community of Gamers who aptly named themselves “The Secret Seekers”. This real-life quest for a hidden truth mirrors the plot of another game, NieR:Automata in which the character are each searching for the meaning of existence in a world which won’t give them any answers. While the meaning of existence can be claimed by many in the real world; in case of a fictional world created with several limitations and the creator’s own vision a claim of such hidden truth did get busted eventually. But what “The Secret Seekers” got instead was raw knowledge about an art piece they loved and held dear. This meaninglessness and subsequent meaning-making are two of the central tenets of the philosophy of Nihilism. NieR:Automata elegantly invokes these tenets of Nihilism and subverts concepts put forward by philosophers(both eastern and western) throughout history and shows us a way to engage critically in meaning-making of our own in a meaningless world.