Gaming: stories with challenges

In the last couple of decades, playgrounds have been vanishing from the cityscape. As a result, a large number of youths, instead of playing outside, found comfort and companionship in playing video games. This trend, in Bangladesh, has seen several folds of development. Zarin Rafiuddin observes Bangladeshi video gaming trend.

asiad-759Gaming trends are not entirely new in Bangladesh. Ever since the early 90s, video games have been around. However, access to such games was limited to computer owners and console users. It could be said that class stratification did have some impact on gaming earlier on. To play video games one needed some literacy in English language and understanding of some of the contexts entailed in such games. Dhaka and Bangladesh’s eventual cosmopolitanism and urbanisation, starting from the 2000s onwards, had made the terrain more available to the general public.

To begin, gaming was, primarily, in Dhaka a console based activity. It was, as worth most Bangladeshi activities, a community one. Families would share the same consoles. The initial popular consoles, SEGA and Nintendo, allowed the dual player setup. SEGA’s initial games were mostly games based on Disney classics such as ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Aladdin.’ It should be noted that these games were one of the firsts to be translated to the PC when Microsoft DOS was still the application used for gaming. Though the Disney classics were not multi-player games, they were easy to watch and be engaged with as the strategy was to progress with a limited number of lives thus avoiding death. ‘Mortal Kombat’ was a dual player fighting game where we could test who had the best martial arts skills. The game could be called ‘violent’ as the objective was declared by the game’s AI as ‘Finish Him/Her!’, and sometimes one was supposed to do a ‘fatality’ (aesthetics kill blows) to do exactly that.

Nintendo’s ‘Duck Hunt’ was one of the most classic games, ever. I think it enamoured a lot of players because you actually held an artificial gun to shoot at ducks. You had to be precise, the timing had to be right and you could use multi-player on this one as well (thus two toy guns). Earlier games were just that, pixelated simulations meant to challenge, help curious minds and be like any team activity. Young Bangladeshis would treat it as such as they treated Phull Tokka and Bou Chi played on the physical plane of existence. The video games can seem epic but so were our own traditional games with guessing on who flicked your forehead and how long can you keep your breath while escaping capture or even with the ‘bride’.

Gamefest Bangladesh 2015

Gamefest Bangladesh 2015

There were still console games but now the PlayStation dominated the market and so did the PC systems. The CD ROMS helped in incorporating games as another form of entertainment. Most people may also have used PCs because they were multipurpose machines and more cost effective. Of course, games are developed mostly in the western countries and they did try to stop the piracy in South Asia. Piracy still prevails in many ways at present. The Eastern Plaza in Dhaka was once the hub of getting games, now it is Shimanto Square. Though, as our economy improved so did people’s ability to purchase original games and original consoles. The PlayStation 4 is actually owned by a lot of people in Dhaka and other areas. They may also buy PCs that are augmented and customised to fit latest gaming trends.

Sporting games are still popular, but now the multiplayer option in online gaming has become something that gamers of Bangladesh ascribe for. There are people who have played World of Warcraft since the early 2000s and people still play online games.

Games may seem isolationist and an introvert’s daydream but they also fill a need of youth to bond with other players across the world. As Bangladesh stopped many of its traditional ways of making communities, some of its past longings are transferred into the digital framework. People like meeting others online who share similar interests. Strategy games with war based themes such as ‘Call of Duty’ and fantasy horror games such as ‘Bloodborne’ captured many people’s interests. They are able to play with groups of other people and level up their characters and get achievements. Nowadays, video games also have a competitive roaster, and earning achievements is akin to bowling wickets and smashing sixes in cricket. Accurately, the skills needed are pretty much the same: patience, planning, good hand and eye coordination.

tumblr_inline_mohg3vBtC91qz4rgpGaming became a popular activity than just a mere recreation. Gaming transitioned from VCDs to DVDS and DVD games usually required extra graphics card such as NVIDA and Radeon. Such attachments to a PC were expensive. Despite the popularity of consoles, some people still found comfort in playing games in their PCs. They liked that it was a multipurpose machine. However, Bangladesh, due to economic stabilities and financial situations of various families, did not have the intense console wars that happened in the west. No one could blame someone for choosing an XBOX over a PlayStation or a PC because whatever worked for their family situation counted more important than loyalty to a particular company.

There had been World Cyber Games 2013, which was being advertised on a billboard. The problem is that the gaming industry in Bangladesh, despite its widespread influences are also considered a form of ‘niche’. Bangladesh has not yet come to the global standard of gaming trends as in manufacturing and selling, even if some mobile apps and digital innovations are starting to take over. Additionally, gaming professionally is expensive and to gather good gamers willing to play for you is another hassle. Gaming is still considered in Bangladesh as a recreation and a ‘childish’ thing. It is an erroneous thought. Games had always had compelling themes and narratives that incorporated real world beliefs and views. This only grew larger when the graphics got better and games were receiving better research funding.

Of course, one can make the argument that games nowadays are more immersed in its ability to make characters look realistic and backgrounds more ‘organic.’ However, games do tell stories that incorporate our daily myths and realities, and they help build interests and communities. People get into fields such as programming, graphic designing and computer science because of games. Their structure and their arrangements of codes speak to the analytics on what can be done and how can one push forward. The challenges are new and this field is rich in innovation.

Though, like many pioneering field, gaming was thought to be a male pastime or activity. There has been more vocal outcry in the west for segregating games. Sexism is more rampant and the exclusionist politics do make people bitter amongst each other. In Bangladesh, there may be individualistic tendencies to discriminate female gamers as odd but as a whole our culture did not innately embrace this. There are two viable reasons as such. One is that gaming itself is considered a nascent or ‘ebbing activity’, which, one is supposed to outgrow after having adult responsibilities. In this light, male gamers may be given stares if their preoccupation towards video games is more than their familial or professional obligations. On the other hand, Bangladeshi culture has a long tradition of having the sexes share arts and cultures. Physical games were shared. Whether it be playing Bou Chi or organising a faux wedding ceremony between people or even dolls. In our country, boys playing with dolls at one point were considered typical of the age to inculcate familial values and to have fun with others. In this vein, gaming could have less stratification here.

Ordinary people does not think that some games are for boys and others are for girls because they do not care much for games or treat them as communal artefacts. Nowadays, with the modern influx of diversity in games people play visual novels, retro games (which attempt to capture the old games), horror games, Indie games (where the objective isn’t just to shoot and kill but to survive and survive well), and even popular recasting on classics such as ‘Tomb Raider.’ Gender and gender roles do not permeate much in game play. Especially, in games like ‘Mass Effect’, ‘Dark Souls’ and ‘Fallout’ where your objectives are still the same regardless of what gender you choose to play in the game. These games allow you to custom make your own character and give them names you have chosen for them. They are commonly known as Role Playing Games, though not all RPGs have the same level of customisation.

In Bangladesh, like in other parts of the world, games are treated as stories with challenges. They are customised environments allowing us to help build communities, or to some, identity seeking without the risks of the real world. This can be argued to be a bit regressive but games do have stories to tell and avenues of thoughts to explore. Our region in South Asia has always been one to like new technologies and new ways of telling stories. The storyteller is in our blood and the marrow of it is plugged into the digital world when we decide to enter a game of our choice.


Zarin Rafiuddin is a freelance writer, reviewer and poet, graduated MA from Leeda University.


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