Saturday, June 30, 2007

Games people play

Video games, the rage of the 1980s, are back again. This time they have come in a new avatar — through the Internet and the mobile. M. Khosla logs you to online games, the ultimate in netting adventure for both adults and kids

BACK in the early 1970s, it took just one movie to change the fortunes of Hollywood and redefine the way films would be made. The Godfather enhanced everything. From technique to performances and from dialogue delivery to audience reactions around the world. No movie had ever done that before and no movie has ever done that since.

Three and a half decades later, today, The Godfather is once again on top of the popularity charts — not as a film but as a video game. Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, Al Pacino as Michael Corleone and James Caan as Sonny Corleone — are doing for the new generation what the movie did for an older one.

Ever since Godfather — The Game was introduced some time ago, it has changed the fortunes of the gaming industry. Much the same way as Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Crossfire, Speedway and other games did in the ’80s. In fact, worldwide video games are raking in more money than films or CDs.

And now, in the new millennium, the games are back and are flashing and zapping the world — including urban India — all over again. But this time they have come in another avatar — as online games that come through the Internet and are played on the home PC or on the mobile. For the kids of the new millennium, online games are the ultimate sport and annihilating the invading aliens is a great ecstasy.

Intense competition

With the advancement of technology and the emergence of global players like Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sega in the gaming industry, competition has become intense.

It all started in 2002 with Sony’s Playstation-1 (PS-1) which gave a boost to the industry with newly designed gaming consoles. It was also the first entry into video gaming by an electronic company. The PS-1 was also the first video gaming console which used CDs. The popularity of PS-1 made way for PS-2 and then PS-3. Simultaneously Microsoft came up with Xbox followed by Xbox 360. And Nintendo brought out its Wii series.

These days an increasing number of games are inspired by hit films — from Harry Potter to Tomb Raider and from Lord of the Rings to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Such is the rising popularity that now the reverse process has started. Games are being made into Hollywood films. Universal Studios has picked up the rights to the PlayStation 2 action game God of War. Two of Hollywood’s 2006 hits, Mortal Combat and Doom, were video games-inspired films.

Though the films have one ending, most of the video games can have between 10 and 15 different endings that keeps alive the interest of the gamer. Though many of the online games are still free, many kids are still spending money on games’ CDs and handheld video games. 

Pirated games

In India, the grey market plays an important role in the gaming industry. There is a huge difference in the prices in the illegal markets. For example the original PS-2 from a Sony dealer comes for around Rs 24,000, while the same PS-2 sells for almost half the price in the grey market. An original PS-2 CD is around Rs 2400, but pirated ones sell for as low as Rs 50. The booming piracy market reflects the popularity of the gaming industry in India.

However, many in the industry feel that the current craze will die down as it had earlier on in the ’80s. But they may be wrong this time. Anyone who had played Space Invaders or Asteroids at that time would surely love to have a go at them again. In the early ’80s, a series of mega-arcades had come up all around India and were doing booming business till lack of new games led to their closure.

This time around there will be no such problems. The video game software is available aplenty and over thousands of sites on the Internet and new ones are launched every month — enough to keep the kids blasting away.

Roping in adults

In this second coming, adults are as keen as kids about the games. This has led to big money rolling in. In an attempt to hook adults, the world’s biggest maker of computer games, Nintendo, has launched a chain of adult management games. In fact games are influencing the way we live in the most amazing ways. There are games developed around various sports, adventure, movies, politics and even sex. Pain management is the latest target of developers: Researchers are creating and testing interactive games designed to help patients cope with post-operative pain.

With such an all-round impact, it is little wonder that the gaming industry is booming like never before.

— NF