Thursday, February 16, 2012

Do games make you violent?

Let's see what common sense tells us about games making us violent.

Being a game designer, I am often asked these questions...
Do games make people violent?
Do games have an adverse effect on kids?

The game development fraternity will expect a NO for an answer. Others who know that I am part of that fraternity would expect a NO from me as well. And looking at how I've started this article, I am sure you are already expecting a shocker that I am going to claim otherwise. But let's read on before we jump to any conclusion... ;)

A few days back, I was 'following' an argument on a game developers forum about how random journalists who don't know what they are talking about, make wild and unfounded claims that games make people violent. Their stories, at times, backed by the equally clueless armchair academics with statistics to back their claims. I know for a fact that 80% of such stats are conjured out of thin air. (Got it :D) Anyway, once such an article is published, it is customary for the game developers to waste no time to pounce on that article and the writer to show how wrong and malicious that research is. And that something must be done to save the games industry from these 'enemies of games.' On such forums you dare not contradict the protectors of the games industry.

The most favorite defense of game developers is to pass the buck on to the most logical victim (victim of all victims) - the movie industry. 'Why blame the games when movies have been making people violent for over a century?' I really wish to see how the movie fraternity reacts to that!

The other favorite defense is to make everyone play Portal (A First Person Spatial Puzzler). Kids become bright after playing that game, is their claim.

I agree that opinionated journalism is a bane but, believe me, games are not the only victims. Also, whenever someone puts a real bullet in someone's head, the attitude of searching through his games library first and then, if required, checking out his hidden weapons inventory and criminal record as optional corroboratory exhibits is nothing short of a gimmick to grab the headlines.

So what's my take? 

On games
- Anything (including games) that entertains possesses the power to influence your thoughts.
- The extent and the kind of influence depend on the malleability of that person's mind.
- If a game can influence you positively (like most puzzle games), it can affect you in a negative manner as well.
- That most games, by themselves, aren't good or evil.
- Games can definitely trigger certain behaviors (I usually prescribe a couple of games as a suppository whenever people on my team suffer from a creative block. It works like magic :)  )

On people and them not allowing children to play video games 
 - I have a feeling that most game developers and journalists tend to think of their customers/readers as people with sub-par intellect. So much so that they believe that reading articles about how good or how bad games are, can tilt the balance in either direction.
- People, in my opinion, can very well decide if they want to play games or not and which games to play.
- People also know how to best bring up their child. The games industry should refrain from patronizing parents about how playing video games will or won't affect their child. After all, we aren't taking the responsibility of that child, are we?

Do games (video games specifically) make people violent?

Can they make people violent?
Yes they can (especially if the person has a violent disposition). Also it will be a great exercise for the game developers to dig deeper into why and how games were invented and for what purpose. I am talking about absolutely ancient games.

Can people be made violent by factors other than games?
As a trial, just try to mouth, 'You should be given an award for your great traffic sense', to a passing motorist. Point a finger at him if possible and see how he reacts.

So does the debate over whether games make people violent or not, holds any water?
No. It's a pointless debate.

- regards,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Interview: Pratik Murarka (Club Rare and Raring)

Pratik Murarka is now a member of Rare and Raring. Here's the interview.

Pratik Murarka

Rare and Raring proudly welcomes Pratik Murarka to the Club!

Pratik’s a brilliant game designer and is responsible for mentoring some of the best game designers in the Indian gaming industry. He started out in the QA team at Indiagames Ltd., and went on to become a Studio Head in a matter of 3 years. He’s currently heading Idealabs Interactive, which he co-founded in 2007. Without further ado, let’s begin with the interview!

R&R. You've been one of the pioneers in game design in India, tell us more about how you got into design.
Pratik. “You don’t choose your passion, your passion chooses you” – Anonymous
I joined the Gaming industry in 2003, quite by accident...
When I joined Indiagames, they didn’t really know what to do with me. Though I was a programmer by education, I had no desire to work as one! And so, I was placed as a Beta Tester and spent my first few months playing video-games, to find bugs.
Somewhere in the first year of my job, I started designing games and eventually put together the company’s (and possibly India’s) first full-time, full-fledged game design team.

R&R. You’ve an establishment of your own. How has your role changed over the years? Do you still find time for game design?
Pratik. My partners and I started Idealabs Interactive back in 2007.
Business development and marketing are my primary responsibilities at Idealabs. Given this, and the nature of our work (making apps & games) I continue to be involved in the design of all of our projects.
Handling both marketing and design has provided me with a unique perspective – what the client wants v/s what we want to put in v/s what might really be required!

R&R. What are the kind of challenges and advantages you've faced while setting up a start-up in India?
Pratik. Given that we started-up during the recession, prospective foreign clients were hesitant to explore our capabilities. Also, the Indian market found it hard to understand how our capabilities could be applied to their advertising or training requirements.
Initially, we created several technical demos to showcase our abilities, as well as produced functional concept-level work for free. This involved significant time and effort, leading to an extended period of major expense interspersed with piecemeal income.
It was only after smart-phones, Facebook and their associated applications & games started making headlines, that the Indian market woke up to the possibilities. That’s when we started getting calls from people we’d met (sometimes more than a year before) requesting us to come in for a discussion on what we could develop for them.
Since then, there’s been no looking back! We’ve applied our combined knowledge and skills and developed a vast range of content – No two of our projects have ever been the same! This makes our work challenging and fun.

R&R. What kind of game or game related projects does Idealabs Interactive cover?
Pratik. Apps, Games, Widgets and more! Idealabs Interactive’s mission is to use the power of interactive technology to create distinctive content. We’re platform agnostic, developing apps & games for Facebook, smart-phones, websites, Windows-based kiosks and computers.
As long as it is digital, we’re game for it!
Visit to see our expanded services, our recent work, or spend some time on a trippy game of Pong!

R&R. Would you share the most memorable event in your career as a game designer?
Pratik. It’s tough to single out any one event as being the most memorable, till date.
I’ve enjoyed the process of developing each and every game I’ve worked on. Whether it was the first time I designed a game in a particular genre, or it was the first time I designed a game for a brand, every experience has been new and memorable, in one way or another!

R&R. What according to you is a rule that a game designer should follow while pursuing this career?
Pratik. A lot of game designers design their games for themselves... And a lot of game designers design their games for the market, based on facts, figures and statistics.
In both cases, the industry has seen successful, as well as not-so-successful games.
I’m currently of the opinion that your game should be designed such that the game-play is something you believe in and enjoy playing. But while doing this, you should feed on any available, relevant market data to ensure that the end result is open to a wider audience.

R&R. The most favorite game you’ve designed and why is it your favorite?
Pratik. Disney’s W.I.T.C.H.
Given that W.I.T.C.H. was one of the first commercially developed games I ever worked on; it’s probably not very well designed. However, it remains my favorite for two major reasons:
Being one of the first large-scale, from-scratch projects my (then) employer worked on, I was given complete creative freedom on the game.
We ended up designing a side-scrolling action-adventure game, with game-play fuelled significantly by the fantasy interactive short-stories I wrote in my childhood!

R&R. Your most favorite game till date and why?
Pratik. Prince of Persia.
I’ve been a fan of the series since Jordan Mechner first dreamt up the original DOS version!
Adventure and romance (and in recent installments – time warping magic) set in mystical Persia. Add a dash of awesome platforming and puzzles... What more do you need? :D

R&R. Where can the readers of rare and raring reach you? (Twitter, Blog, Linkedin)

It did me a lot of good, listening to what he had to say, when I was an aspiring game designer. It shouldn’t be any different for the current generation of designers either. I thank Pratik for accepting the invite to be a part of Club Rare and Raring and wish him all the best!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Guest Article - GAMES THAT MADE ME!

Purnima tells it in her own words how she got into games and design. Plus a few words of advice.

Purnima Iyer

My gaming days started with good ol’ hide n seek, scrabble, paper rockets, playing cards and many more non-digital games. The one that I was most fond of was “Name, Place, Animal, and Thing”. A person chooses an alphabet from a pool of alphabets or calls it out and everyone participating in the game will have to come up with a name, a place, an animal/bird and a thing (object) that starts with that alphabet. It was a perfect edutainment game. Game that helps you explore new words makes your thinking process sharper, triggers a healthy competition, and all this while having fun. I don’t know who originally came up with the game. It was just passed on via friends.

Scrabble and Monopoly were and still are my favourite board games. I’m sure a lot of people will agree with me. The main thing with these games were the social factor. The pure joy of sitting around with friends, joking and gossiping, and occasionally cheating!

My first digital game started with ‘Tetris’ on a Game Boy clone; the simplicity of the game still makes it one of my favourite games ever. Then there was the NES clone with ‘Mario’: the game that was/is played by majority of the world population. Probably the first digital game I played which had a two player mode. I remember the weekends where the entire family sat down together and took turns to play ‘Mario’ and ‘Duck Hunt’. Then of course there was a ‘Tank’ which allowed one to create your own levels. That’s where I started analyzing the game. I started working on my own levels because I loved the game.

I got my first computer only at the age of 16. Yes, I started late but I think it was a great thing for me as I ended up playing non-digital games a lot! The first thing I played on the computer was well, ‘Solitaire’ ;) Soon enough one of my friends introduced me to ‘Age of Empires II’ and then there was no turning back. The strategy, the historical events, the civilization, their significance, everything was so beautifully covered. The AI difficulty stayed true to the settings chosen. Once I finished playing the entire “Campaign” mode, I was awe-struck. I started creating my own Campaign customizing it and personalizing it with my friends’ names as rulers, creating my own story and map. I didn’t even realize what I was doing then, but it seemed that the Game Designer in me was waking up.

Soon enough Warcraft III, GTA, Zeus, Caesar III, Quake, PoP, NFS, Ragnarok and a lot others followed. I was mostly drawn to character driven fantasy based RPGs and RTS games. I loved the character customization and the seeming influence of the characters in the game world.
On my first job, I was asked to design an RPG. I remember how I almost cried looking at the Dungeon & Dragons manuals coming my way. It was a dream come true! That’s where it began for me on a professional front and since then, I knew this was what I wanted to pursue. I did take my occasional breaks where I moved on to being a software programmer and an application designer. But once a game designer, always a game designer. It’s something you can’t just throw away.


Remember, it’s not about how well you play a game or how good you are at it. If you want to be a designer, enjoy the game, then analyze it, then create something on similar lines with twists or an entirely original concept if you have a great idea.

An often neglected part of game designing is the Game Design Document. Documentation is merely the process of transforming your ideas to paper so that others can understand precisely what's going on. Remember, these “other” people may inhabit a different planet from yours and may not necessarily even know anything about gaming (something that's quite true in the Indian game industry which is populated as much by non-gamers as gamers). It's more than just writing stuff. It's
about putting together images and words in such a way that if someone else were to look at it, they would instantly “get it”. The document can be an art form or a piece of rubbish depending on how you approach it. That's why it's called game designing.

I also believe that putting your ideas to paper is also a great way to revisit some of the fundamental principles behind the game, to remould it, to make it clearer, and to polish it to a high degree.

There's plenty of material on the Net on fundamentals, ideologies and various game design methodologies. Refer, observe and create! One should never stop learning. Be humble and be the best. :)

- Purnima Iyer

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Interview: Purnima Iyer (Club Rare and Raring)

Rare and Raring interviews Purnima Iyer, our first member of Club Rare and Raring.
Please welcome the very first member of 'Club Rare and Raring', Purnima Iyer. Purnima is a fellow game designer and a friend who I've worked with during the good old days of Indiagames Ltd. Presently the co-founder of Pinaka Interactive (a game and interactive media designing studio), she has also worked as an application designer at Prinics Co. Ltd. While she displays a lot of qualities that make her a natural choice for being on this list, the major reason why she makes it here, first, is because of her 'game design comeback'. That's after a brief application design hiatus in South Korea. It wasn't just a come back, but she went ahead and founded a game designing studio. Purnima keeps entertaining us through her games, blogs and very descriptive articles on food. So let's begin.

R&R. Since how long have you been designing games? 
Purnima. Professionally since early 2006. 

R&R. What is the most memorable game that you've designed and why is it memorable to you?
Purnima. It was a mobile RPG in the lines of Neverwinter Nights. It's memorable to me because it was the very first game I designed. And also, I cherish the time where I was given complete freedom to design the game, with the amazing D&D manuals for company.

R&R. What is your area of expertise in game design? (Mechanics, Game-play, Genre, Platform)
Purnima. The Indian gaming industry expects you to be an all-rounder. So professionally I've not been able to concentrate and nurture one aspect of game design. However, I personally feel that Game Mechanics is what I would call my area of expertise.

R&R. Would you share a few highs and lows you've faced as a game designer?
Purnima. I will state one of each. Both highs and lows had got to do with the others I had to interact with. It seems part of the industry doesn't take game design seriously. There are the certain people who think game designers are expendable. Interestingly, I've noticed that this seems to be a fact with the newbies or the less experienced professionals. The ones who truly understand game development, (thankfully I've worked with some of those genius minds) respect game design and designers; its a big high to work with them. It enhances your skills automatically.

R&R. Share a point or two that you believe in as a game design myth and a game design fact.
Purnima. Myth: Just because you play games, you can design a game.
Fact: Game design is a discipline like any other facet of game development. It too requires analysis, know-how and understanding.

R&R. Any advice to aspiring game designers?
Purnima. Just because you are a good gamer, doesn't necessarily mean you are a good game designer. Try to learn the field, write documents, figure out the mechanics etc. Don't just go on playing games. Understand them!

R&R. Where can Rareandraring readers follow you at? (Twitter, Blogspot etc.)
My Twitter handle:!/purnimaiyer

So that's Purnima Iyer for you, one of the top game designers in India. I thank her on behalf of Rare and Raring readers. She will be writing an article for us very soon. Catch you.

You can check out Club Rare and Raring here.