It is said video games can make one forget the real world, because in a flash one can teleport from Paris to Machu Pichu, traverse the Great Wall of China or stop an alien invasion in New York. There is so much to do, so much of world tour at stake, that at times, video games show us a better rendition of our times. It can unite people from around the globe, divide them based on their squad. But what if, amidst a video game, you were to take a road trip to India? Or meet fellow Indians on the way? My Indian jaw drops every time there comes a moment deep rooted in my India. Because I’m a strong gamer, and an even stronger citizen of this country. Let’s hit the road that none have taken so far, celebrating the Top Indian Moments in Video Games, in an Independence Day Exclusive:
Street Fighter series
He’s an icon. He yells “YOGA!” at almost every point of interaction i.e. when he hits you, and when he gets hit. His arms and legs have the elasticity of any industrial grade rubber band; he can breathe fire and float on air. He wears a skull garland. He might be the most clichéd Indian typecast ever, but he’s a true icon in the video games world, and we can’t do anything about it.
Yes, my friends, I am talking about Dhalsim, the Street Fighter character from India. Dhalsim represents the most typical typecast Indians have outside India. You know, the one where people think India is all about yoga, snakes and fire breathing sadhus. I don’t mind, as it is a pretty badass typecast.
The Civilization Series
No August 15th is an August 15th without the mention of Mahatma Gandhi a.k.a. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. How could we ignore the non-violent bald moon spectacled almost-nude figure with a walking stick? We just can’t.
When I first started playing Civilization III, just the inclusion on Mahatma Gandhi was more than enough to make me happy. (I was 14) Yes! We have a selectable Indian leader! So obviously, he was the de-facto first choice I made during my first play through of the game.
So, I set on course with my lone settler. My default first city was called Indraprastha, how original! The later cities were original too; Kohlapur, Calcutta, Pune etc. Keeping in spirit with Gandhi’s ahimsa (non-violence) movement, I raced to research nuclear warfare as quickly as I could. You see, my neighbours, Bismarck from Germany and Mao from China were not accommodating to my empire’s non-violence plans. That’s not a good thing right? HELL NO! And thus, later, I annihilated almost every corner of my Civilization world with nuclear missiles J Sweet!
Just watching that smiling avatar of the Mahatma dealing with disgruntled world leaders was a feeling I cherish. And it gave me the “Jai Hind” “Mera Bharat Mahan” types vibe. Civilization later went on to include Ashoka as a selectable leader too.
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
My first Indian jaw dropping moment came when I was already 60% into a game that I still call era changing, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. That game can easily boast of claiming some of the most epic moments of gaming, including the Sniper Takedown in St. Petersburg, the Fortress Heist in Japan and of course the gang takedown in this extremely well guarded palace in India. I was probably 15-16 years old, and that moment will live as long as I live. Pardon me if I screw up some of the facts (because it’s been nearly 10 years since I last played it) but as long as I remember, Agent 47 gets briefed after the quick fire in Afghan and Singapore that a killer job awaits him in India. I didn’t know what to expect.
Just like me, Hitman arrives for his Indian job interview in an auto, and the super enthusiastic autowallah (auto drivers in India) guides him through the streets. The first thing to blow your mind away as an Indian is the amount of research these guys must have done in understanding the Indian streets and locale before executing this one helluva mission. The streets are winding and confusing, just like a road in Varanasi or old Mathura would be. The city is brimming with shopkeepers and market visitors, it’s as difficult to intercept that bunch and execute your mission like a shadow just as it is in my all-time favourite Hitman mission: Chinese New Year (from Hitman V: Absolution). Jesper Kyd raises the bar of game intricacies by composing an epic Indian theme to assist the missions, swelling of tabla and tanpura parts. Besides, you will hear tons of Hindi words from the passerby. And for the first time on the international stage, Indians were depicted not just as common Sardars.
To get inside the Palace in the next mission, you can’t get away with your suit and tie. You need to blend in with the fellow Indian pedestrians and proceed to the assault cautiously. In a flash of a minute you are sheathed in a typical Indian Kurta, hiding your head from the people in front of you. Whoever says graphics is the decider of gameplay should watch how detailed the level has been made in this mission called Terminal Hospitality, and it surely doesn’t fall short despite its era wise not that great graphics. The monument is pitch perfect Indian, with artistic elements running from each wall and each carpet floor. It was so very Indian that I remember the key takes from it, like the river facing the palace and the mini fountain with ducklings as well. Also, that’s also one of my first encounters with other cloned agents, as I was running down the stairs and spotted my mirror image running away. Remember?
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Uncharted missed its venue as India by some mere kilometers. I mean, if Drake could come to Nepal, he might as well taken a detour through India, right? But that’s ok, because the element of Indian-ness is still there, despite the Nepali surrounding. Nepal is practically an extension of India anyway. Remember the buildup to the Cintamani Stone and the way to the huge Nepali Temple? The roads are full of advertisement boards and shops that are either written in the Hindi script or they are eccentrically Indian. Stuff like Laundry and Payphone advertisements are so common in India, one can never miss the amount of Indian-ness in that Nepali atmosphere.
People say that Uncharted 2 is perhaps the greatest game of the trilogy, and to have so much of Indian feel to it (including the drive of the game, the Cintamani stone), despite being pictured in Nepal, is a gift in itself.
FIFA 13 – Playing Nationals with India
India is cricket crazy, but when it comes to idol worshipping and sports gaming, there is only one word that will reach you and blow you away – Football. FIFA in other words. And for a long time, even though FIFA had a huge fan following in India, the national team didn’t arrive on the game for real. Yeah, it did come out in bits and pieces during the World Cup Editions, but not in the real deal. My favourite Indian moment in those days would be listening to the Indian EA track on FIFA World Cup 2006 called Desi Rock by Swami.
Year 2012, FIFA goes for a complete change, getting the war really serious with its competition PES, now with game physics as well. But one of the key advantages of playing FIFA is its huge official roster and team profiles. With the all revamped manager mode, now we could manage a national side alongside your club team. And this year has been even more special for fellow Indians, as the first few national teams to shortlist you for the managerial position would include India too. With a hardcore and updated roster of the Indian team, down to the national anthem before a match. If you give your nationals more time than your club, you may end up winning the World Championship, substitute for World Cup I guess, with India. I did that.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Still miss those 80s-90s days? Me too. Late in the 80’s, a game arrived on the cartridge consoles that changed everything about being Indian. Cartridge games are notorious for their arcade style game features and the lack of a story driving it. But not Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That game is perhaps one of the darkest renditions of society, precisely an Indian society, plagued with prejudices and malpractices. As Indy, you need to go out and kill men and monsters, recover items and free trapped beggar kids from the clutches of smugglers. Yep, it’s that dark. It draws a straight line from the Amrish Puri starrer Indiana Jones movie, and delivers the best of gaming experience versus the best of Indian moments in one go.
Temple of Doom has the Kaali Maa theme to its gameplay and surrounding, and is perhaps one of the earliest renditions of India ever made, despite the monsters and all the Western notions about India, like snakes, snake charmers, bats and skulls.
Other notable games that include India
- Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties: Features a full India campaign
- 0 AD: Still in Alpha Stage. Features the complete Mauryan Dynasty
- Rise of Nations: Thrones & Patriots: you get to play as India
- Medal of Honor Warfighter: Its not the same thing, but there’s a level in Pakistan, and the Urdu language is evident. Pakistan was India afterall.
- Empire: Total War: Lets you play as the Marathas
- Counter Strike: Global Offense: There is a Workshop map called Gwalior Fort
- There is also a Kickstarter project called Unrest that’s making an RPG set in ancient India. More details here. Support the cause!
You think we got it all covered? Have we missed out anything? Did you experience some Indian moments while playing a game? Do lets us know in the comments box below.