Kolkata: Last week gamers, experts and developers assembled at Presidency University for a three-day conference on how videogames, which can shape culture and history, were failing to present a diverse perspective of society.
Videogames have emerged as a more immersive platform for storytelling than movies. Gaming experts say it would be better if they were aimed at wider and more diverse audiences.
Games are also being used to expose players to the dark and violent world of human trafficking. Leena Kejriwal, who was a keynote speaker at the seventh edition of Games and Literary Theory Conference at Presidency University, developed a videogame aimed at raising awareness about human trafficking and put players in a position to take decisions and live the experience of what a trafficked woman goes through.
“The players assume the role of the missing person making choices and assessing risks for themselves in order to break free,” Kejriwal said.
In the past, several videogames have drawn criticism for violent or political content. In several instances, developers even went back to the story board to change content, but in most cases such videogames have gone on to inspire other developers.
Two years ago, Pokemon ran into controversy with allegations that one of its characters was racist. The developers were forced to rectify some of the behavioural aspects of the character. Doom, another video game which was developed in the 1980s, drew criticism for violence.
Game studies is very new but rapidly developing domain within the family of humanities and the social sciences. But, despite the huge numbers of gamers and game enthusiasts in India, very little has happened by way of academic discussion.
Presidency University is one of the very few institutes of higher education in the country where games and literature are a part of the curriculum. The conference has been held earlier in Poland, the Netherlands and Denmark.
“Gaming has developed as a very powerful storytelling tool. It has come a long way from some characters running around with guns,” said Souvik Mukherjee, assistant professor and head of department of English at Presidency University, who got his PhD from Nottingham Trent University, UK, on videogames and storytelling. His research explores the emerging discourse of videogames as storytelling media and how they inform and challenge conceptions of identity and culture.
The three-day conference at Presidency University also had several board games for the panellists to unwind after the sessions.
Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi may be an odd choice to be shown in a games conference, but critics have hailed the classic, which used the game of chess as a metaphor for how the East India Company India went about taking over the country while the protagonists kept strategizing the board game.
It was followed by a freewheeling adda at the Coffee House, which, many say, was a favourite haunt to play mind games.
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