With ‘Positive’ becoming an oxymoron in itself, every passing day, hope seems to be an obscure dream. Screen times hit higher peaks than the numbers. Our insolent human brains resorted to everything virtual as the reality of the situation eventually sunk in. Discord had become our new Ramu, Google Meet, our new CRC, and Zoom, our new Zaitoon. And what one ought to realize is that the e-gaming community and its culture has become prevalent and common Among Us.
E-Gaming has been an ever-increasingly adopted culture. While most of the IIT’s seldom have one such dedicated club, IIT-M has it’s very own e-sports club. This club has been continuously evolving and saw a lot of peak-participation over the last few months. Let’s dive in to take a look at how insti’s e-gaming culture has evolved over the years.
Almost a decade ago, E-gaming was pretty much confined to couch gaming and local LAN parties. There were a few DC++ hubs dedicated to counterstrike sessions and FIFA friendlies, says Ulaganathan, a Ph.D. Scholar, Batch of 2018. DOTA, CS:GO and FIFA were the three most uttered names among the e-sporting community throughout the past decade. Around 2015, the e-sporting community in insti saw a leap, when the first gaming hub session was held at Saarang.
There was no turning back after that, and Saarang slowly became a landmark event for e-gaming tournaments in Chennai.
Over the past five years, the gaming community in insti has been constantly growing. In 2019, there were FIFA sessions organized exclusively for the freshmen, albeit with limited participation. 2020 yet again established a new-normal, where we saw a sudden exponential increase in the participation of e-sporting activities. There was a range of events conducted by the e-gaming club where the PUBG Tournament had a turn-up of over six-hundred students and the Valorant tournament had a turn-up of seventy.
The existence of these Virtual Worlds have become so essential that now going back in time, life seems vaguely impossible. But there indeed were times when having to use a computer required a week’s worth of patience. With laptops and personal computers almost becoming a prerequisite for college education today, what was it like twenty years ago? Was e-gaming the ubiquitous phenomenon it is today? Did the word even exist?
After a quick fireside chat with Professor Phanikumar, Batch of 96’, who is also an ardent Linux enthusiast, here’s what’s to know about the tech then.
Despite minimal advancements in technology during the late 90s, IIT-M did have a computer center that was accessible to the students. If you’re currently imagining a center that was brimming with all the innovative tech of the time, your imagination definitely needs a bit of tweaking. The homo-sapiens of the late 90s had decided to name the computers Dumb Terminals. (Did they really see ahead in time, foreseeing all the tech advancements ?).
Equipped with just one computer that was located in Narmada Hostel, students had to book the computers almost a week ahead just for an-hour-slot of usage.
While some of us might have never come across the term, Tetris was one of the more popular games of the time which was played in Dumb Terminals. The gameplay of tetris is pretty simple – players complete lines by moving around differently shaped geometric pieces that descend onto the playing field. The completed lines disappear and grant the player points, and the game ends when the complete field is filled. Paranoid, the ball bouncing off a board, was one of the other common games played.
“Regardless, most of our games were out on the field,” said Phani.
While One Call Away has evolved to One Text Away today, can you picture the Social Media Sophistication back then?
TALK, was the Instagram of the 90s. It was a Unix text chat program, which allowed users to chat with other users on remotely located systems, and this was even before our old-school Orkut.
“We used to text random strangers across the world, and there was this one time when we even talked to this person from Ukraine” laughed Professor Phani.
Imagine your Whatsapp text being delivered a nano-second late? Paranoia hits.
Telnet was used to facilitate connections across the World. Telnet had very little bandwidth, which meant it would take time to deliver and receive messages. “We were used to the speed and the time-lapse. We used to connect with people from the US. Once we send across a message, we would bide one’s time for the response to reach us” said Professor Phani.
Graphics in the ’90s were often thin on the ground, owing to the factors of expenditure that were unusually high. One of the cardinal manufacturers of high-end graphics was Silicon Graphics, Inc. Sun Microsystems, founded by Stanford Graduates, had been one of the prime providers of Graphic User Interface.
One other feature to not miss about the 90’s computer trends is the Windows X – the very first of the open-source softwares during the 90s, which had a client-server computer software system that provides a GUI in a distributed network environment. It had a basic GUI framework, but Windows X was more than just the graphics. It had been specifically designed to be used over network connections.
Windows 3.1 was the first of the Graphical Interface which existed in Insti. It was very limited and had a 2-Dimensional Interface. Minesweeper and Solitaire were a few of the common games available in Windows 3.1. Unix Guru Universe (UGU), also pronounced ‘You-Goooooo’ had been a sought-after game then. Going by the tagline, For Unix Admins, By Unix Admins, Unix Guru Universe was one of the most popular websites among the student community.
By 1995, Windows95 was introduced, which was based on a graphical user interface. As graphics evolved, Video Gaming did too. A swoop of games like Pac-Man, Super-Mario, Prince of Persia, and more made their entries, and since then, there’s been no turning back. One of the common video games which were played by the students in insti back then was Solitaire. Regardless, gaming was more 2-Dimensional then.
Professor Phani recounts one of his visits to Korea, and what today is a Souvenir is the USB Pendrive that he had gotten. While it had cost him almost half of his scholarship money, he still went for it.
When asked about why he had spent so much on such a device, his reply was rather simple – “What is affordable depends on how much one wants it”.
The USB drive was priced at $50 dollars and had around 32 Megabytes of storage. While 32MB is almost around the size of an assignment or project that we submit today, it was quite a marvel back then. There were other USB drives sold then which were of sizes 360 KB of the 5.25-inch discs, and the 1.44 MB capacity of the 3.5-inch diskette.
Another interesting fact would be the mobile phones. “They were only for those who understood English,” said Professor Phani. Rendering texts also required a good processor, so even the buttoned-ones were a luxury back then.
When asked about his opinion on the evolution of technology, here’s what Professor Phani said – “We are growing closer and closer to how we would like to interact. Graphic Processors have become very cheap, which opens up not a window, but another universe full of opportunities. The potential of tech today is quite evident from the current pandemic. Large chunks of data are quenched in seconds. Tech has evolved for the better, and we are nowhere near done”.
The lengths to which we have evolved today is quite impressive. We have grown to become much more than a fast-paced world- we’ve become a world wherein everyone is constantly hustling and running. Over the lockdown, when COVID hit a peak, so did our screen times. While we are all stranded across the lengths of planet Earth, technology has once again proven itself as a bridge. With all that sophistication, one ought to not forget how much more important it is for us to take some time out of the virtual worlds, get some breathing space, and take a look around.
Special thanks to Professor Gandham Phanikumar for his help and inputs.
Designed by Shaurya Rawat
Edited by Anna Dominic