By Reshmi S
23: 59 – The most dreaded time instant in insti, thanks to the LAN cut that has been imposed by the authorities. This is rightly blamed on gaming since students tend to stay awake all night- lost in the heat of multiplayer games- pushing attendance and academics way down in the list of priorities, much to the displeasure of the administration. Unsurprisingly, this led them to believe the best thing to do was to cut off the source of gaming after regular hours. In a very short time span, gaming has replaced football or movies or ‘wolf’ as the most prevalent hobby in our campus. Although there are several games available on LAN, some seem to be more popular and hence more frequently played than others.
Once the most popular multiplayer First Person Shooter, Counter Strike has lost its sheen and is now played mostly by those with laptops that cannot support newer versions requiring heavier inputs. Call of Duty has more or less replaced Counter Strike as the stress buster, and is a given in the ‘Top 3 things to do after a painful exam’ list of every gamer. Free-roam games like Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim are popular because of their stunning graphics and perfect recreation of bygone times and mythical creatures, not to mention their captivating storylines.
There are gaming addicts, and then there are ‘FIFA’ addicts. Played mostly by football fans, FIFA is easily the most popular game in the campus. EA did not fail to impress with its stunning graphics and apparently addictive and engaging ‘manager mode’ in its newest release, FIFA 2013. The newly introduced First Touch Control tries to mimic the real life quality of each player, making someone’s ability to control the ball first time round dependent on the quality of the footballer. Since this feature applies to passing and shooting as well, it would not be a good idea to try a Hollywood pass with Chelsea’s Jon Obi Mikel.
Not into football or shooting? Defense of the Ancients, lovingly called DotA by fans, Age of Empires, Rise of Nations and the like focus on strategy. The former, consisting of supernatural creatures and monsters, requires split-second decisions and an immense knowledge of the inventory of the Heroes and their abilities. The latter two are more about detailed planning and optimum utilization of time and resources, where the player is required to build a kingdom from scratch using raw materials and manpower and defend it against other players/computer as he proceeds through different ages and technological developments.
So why is gaming so popular? Ask a gaming enthusiast and he will invariably answer with “It’s fun.” Of course the fun element is what makes them hooked to their laptop screens for an average of 8-10 hours every week, some claiming the number to be 50! Dr. Aarti Kawlra, social anthropologist (and guest faculty at IITM HSS department), has a different answer. “The main issue in gaming is virtuality. By this I mean that gaming makes it possible to enter or create for oneself a world of scenarios that sometimes imitate reality but most often are beyond the real world. It enables the gamer to simulate a virtual world of possibilities in which the self is larger than life and capable of the improbable and superhuman.” Most gamers vehemently deny it having any effect on their grade cards. This is clearly not true, since there are numerous cases in which a student picked up gaming after a couple of semesters and consequently found his CGPA drop by a few points. Another example is a second year student with near-zero attendance who, according to his friends, plays games all day.
Looking at it from the point of view of a society (what we commonly refer to as ‘the insti junta’), one could ask what effect gaming has on our ‘insti culture’. Although individual opinions vary, most seem to agree that senior-junior interactions, wing-bonding and inter-hostel rivalry have indeed taken a blow with the dominance of LAN and the plethora of games that come with it. “The kind of turnout we see today for events such as JAM, Main Quiz, LM & WM Solo is pathetic. I remember a full CLT for JAM, so full that people were sitting along the walkway. CLT hardly gets filled up any longer. Some events don’t even see participation. This is rightly blamed on the ‘Laptop Syndrome’ and gaming is a huge part of that,” says Ravi Chandra, Cultural Secretary.
But then, too much of anything is bad, isn’t it? “Gaming ruins insti life, just as too much mugging or too much sports does,” says a fellow IITian. No campus needs too many people who are interested solely in one field, be it sports or academics or music or even games. Expert’s opinion varies though. “It is not just that gaming is bad when it becomes an obsession like other things like mugging or sports, but it is a paradigm of entertainment and sport that offers only an illusion of mastery and is in fact highly debilitating and deconstructive of the self that is already vulnerable. Through gaming one is not gaining mastery over a skill but rather losing control over one’s ability to balance and separate the real from the virtual”, says Dr. Kawlra, who also teaches a course titled ‘Computers and Society’.
One does not have to be a gaming enthusiast to appreciate the development in gaming technology over the years. Games such as Assassin’s Creed, FIFA, Call of Duty, Skyrim, World of Warcraft etc (the ones that require substantial investment in the form of a laptop with a good enough RAM, graphics card, a good mouse and a lot of free space on the hard disk) deserve to be appreciated for their fairly well defined graphics and attention to detail. But there are a number of other games; smaller, less detailed ones that people ought to play but are not in the mainstream.
With the onset of the Android (and Apple) mania, insti has seen the popularity of quite a few games rise and fall. Games such as Temple Run, Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, that help you get through a boring class or keep you busy while you are waiting for the bus, are popular because of their simplistic nature. Others such as Plants vs. Zombies which requires the homeowner tries to repel an army of fun-loving and ‘cool’ zombies by planting many variety of plants, Super Meat Boy, in which the hero, an animated cube of meat, tries to save his girlfriend (made of bandages) from an evil baddie and World of Goo, with the objective to build a structure that reaches the exit point using minimum number of ‘goo balls’, are also highly appreciated for being light-hearted.
Which is your favourite game? What do you think about gaming in insti? Leave a comment below!