Hooked to their computers, Indian gamers are getting good enough to compete in the World Cyber Games.
Arun Ravi is 21 years old, studies animation at a Mumbai college and talks about games, games and only games. Back from his recent sojourn to Cologne, after representing India at the World Cyber Games, he is over the moon.
"It was a fantastic experience to be surrounded by gamers from all over the globe." He loves to play on his PC, rather than on consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation. "Somehow, I am more comfortable on the computer and find it easy to manoeuvre through the keyboard."
It has been four years since Ravi got into gaming, but just two years since he actually took it, so to speak, professionally. He specialises in NFS or, in normal parlance, Need for Speed. "I love all sort of games but Need for Speed is one which you can say I am an expert at."
There are other gaming experts as well. Fellow gamer Reuben Periera is another Indian who went to Cologne. Periera, all of 18 years old, is a hardcore gamer and wants to make a career in gaming alone. "The scope for gaming is broadening day by day, and I am sure the future will hold a lot of better opportunities."
His expertise lies in sports-based games, notably FIFA. Periera is more of a PC gamer, just like Ravi, although both of them also have the Xbox 2 and PlayStation 3 consoles.
Both these youngsters are delighted at the kind of growth gaming is seeing. "The more the merrier," says Ravi -- although this merry band includes very few women.
Ravi already has a lot of national gaming championships to his name, and gaming exploits have already made him travel to places like Korea, Hong Kong and, more recently, Cologne. Ravi, who finished 11th at the World Cyber Games, is a bit disheartened by his performance but says that it was difficult to play on the actual steering wheel rather than a joystick.
It's not just teenagers or students who are hooked to gaming in a big way. Abhijeet Kunder, deputy manager at ActivMedia Technology, spends 20 hours a week on his consoles. "It's addictive, interesting and challenging," he says. It's been five years since Kunder got into gaming. How, with his full-time career, does he find time? "Well, it's not difficult as I am not a professional gamer but just into gaming."
Being "into" gaming means that Kunder is updated with all the latest games in the market and even sacrifices his sleep if he gets hooked to a new game.
"It helps when a lot of your friends are gamers, as you are pretty up-to-date with the gaming world." Kunder also feels that playing games helps in his decision-making, as "most of the strategy games like Counterstrike, Grand Theft Auto require a lot of brains" to finish them. "It's not easy as it sounds," he says.
Meanwhile, Periera couldn't have been happier with the way his gaming career is going so far. "At such a young age, I get to travel so much for competitions, and make money out it as well."
Studies take a back seat, though they're not completely ignored. Since Periera knows that in gaming lies his future, his parents also don't mind him playing. "In fact, they encourage me a lot," he says.
Ravi, on the other hand, admits that even though gaming takes a big toll on him, he enjoys every bit of it. He doesn't play games daily, but prior to a tournament is at it for at least three or four hours every day. "Otherwise, it's only on weekends for me."
He doesn't want to become a professional gamer -- he wants to actually develop games. "Being a gamer, I have better insights into what exactly people out there want in games." This is why he took up an animation course -- to convert his passion into a career.
Periera took his experience in Cologne as a bit of a setback. Not winning the gaming championship was a blow to him, as it could have added a lot to his impressive "gaming CV" (if there were such a thing). Being the best in India in his favourite game is not enough for him. "It makes me happy to be known as the best 'football' player in the cyber world," says this first-year BCom student. He is on his PC at least eight or 10 hours a day, out of which at least five hours are devoted to gaming.
Periera's longest-ever gaming session was a 30-hours marathon, hours he spent on his PC trying to hone his skills. "You just don't realise how time flies while playing," But 30 hours is too much, isn't it? "I did go crazy at that point," he laughs, remembering. His goal now is to get better, and he also wants to expand his gaming horizons. He plays other games as well but that's only for "time-pass".
For some it's a serious business, for others a vocational activity, while for a select few gaming is a stepping stone to bigger things!