The first ever video game I ever played was a small, handheld thingie involving driving away hungry wolves from sheep grazing peacefully in a farm. When the first PC arrived at home, a mighty 386 with a whopping 4 MB RAM, I was introduced to Prince of Persia, an scrolling arcade type rescue-princess-from-evil-vizier adventure, which came on a couple of floppies from a neighbour who also gave us our first virus. After the customary reformatting and re-installation of DOS, which sort of became almost a monthly ritual till I eventually realized, thanks to my younger brother, that the trifecta of restart, reformat and reinstall as problem resolution methods was something unique to the world of Microsoft, and that there existed a world (mostly involving penguins and apples) where OS crashes and viruses were actually rarer and problems usually had logical methods of resolution. Now wait, where was I? Yeah, Prince of Persia. I wasn’t too great at playing that game. I liked to delude myself that mastering keystrokes to kill dungeon guards was not worth it. The real truth of course was that my younger siblings were much better at gaming, and at that age, having them be better than you at anything tends to rankle, and therefore, I made a tactical decision to consider video games not worth my time.
But eventually, temptation struck, and I just had to mow down aliens as Duke Nukem and shoot Nazis in Castle Wolfenstein, although I had to swallow my pride and finish these games in God mode, while my brothers were kicking gluteus maximi in “Bring em on” mode. Once I was out of my teens, and realized that beating up pedestrians and stealing cars while evading the police was more important to my life than the need to maintain a facade of disinterest in gaming, I took to Grand Theft Auto like Sehwag takes to short balls outside off stump. Ok, I mostly kept edging to the keeper, but you get my drift, right? I just liked driving around town, crushing the occasional pedestrian, trying out cheat codes, all while listening to the in-game radio stations. Brilliant stuff, especially the host of the Western classical station who jokes – “Now we have some music from the 60s……the 1760s hahaha”.
And so it continued, this on and off interest in gaming, till a few months ago, when my brother forced me to sit down and watch him play Half Life 2. The unique and immersive storyline and innovative game play convinced me that it is not a coincidence that the gaming industry is now bigger than Hollywood. Thus began a crazed attempt to catch up on all the games I had missed over the last few years. I spent a full 5 days completing Call of Duty, and for the first time, I realized what a powerful learning mechanism games can be. There is a level in the first CoD, where, as a Russian soldier being sent to war for the first time, you are instructed by your Commissar that you will be provided with ample food, weapons and ammunition. The moment you step out of the boat docking at Stalingrad, with artillery pounding away in every direction, you are handed a round of ammunition, and no gun. You need to make a mad run towards your superior officer, while suffering from shell shock and having bullets flying all around. Short of actually being at Stalingrad in 1943, this is the best possible first person WW2 experience one can go through. You may have read in your history books that the Russians were the underdogs against the more disciplined, and better equipped German army, but it’s not until I was (albeit virtually) forced to run, with 1 round ammunition and 0 gun, through the docks of Stalingrad in CoD that I truly realized what being the underdog in WW2 really meant. So please stop reading history books and start shooting Nazis with a Logitech mouse instead. It’s way more fun.
Anyway, first person shooters aside, what I am really excited about is Will Wright’s upcoming “Spore”, a highly anticipated game that promises to explore evolution in all its diverse glory using a unique engine that allows players to literally play the FSM in designing and controlling creatures and eventually building societies and entire civilizations. While I wait for the game to come out, EA has released the Creature Creator, and it seemed like a good idea to design Spore versions of different creatures we find commonly in the Indian subcontinent.
1. Medievalwarrius Hindumakkalcatchicus
This creature has a small brain, which explains its narrow minded interpretation of Indian culture, and has eyes that face backward, which explains why it has an almost unholy obsession with the past, and steadfastly refuses to look forward.
Mob behavior: As individuals, generally safe, although annoying to no end. Can be dangerous in mobs though. Possesses little or no capability for individual thinking.
Habitat: South India, especially near areas of pointless controversy, short skirts and other non-issues, that seem to attract these in large numbers.
Front view: Note the suction pad legs, designed to help it stick to non-issues.
Back view – Note the eyes on stalks, firmly facing backward. No looking forward for these guys,
And the moment it finds an actress wearing a short skirt, the typical response is something like this
2. Yetchwonbeeus Fanaticus
With 3 pairs of hands, all perfectly designed for typing code, email and spreadsheets, and one pair of vestigial legs, because it has little or no use for them, this creature possesses a ravenous and addictive desire for the rare fruit Yetchwonbee Visae and will go to any end to obtain one.
Mob behavior: Several members of this species gather everyday in long lines, come hell or high Cooum water, around trees that bear the Yetchwonbee fruit.
Habitat: Predominantly Andhra and TN, with smaller populations found everywhere else.
Front view – Note the 3 pairs of hands in perfect position to hit alt-tab 10,000 times a day, and the single third eye completely focussed on onsite opportunities
Side view – Note the regular pair of eyes aimed directly at the sky at all times, in constant prayer to acquire the juicy Yetchwonbee fruit.
And this is what happens when it finds the fruit
3. Bureaucratus Underthetabli
With a specially evolved 2nd pair of hands perfectly designed to collect items (usually of the currency kind) from under pieces of furniture, this slothful scavenger species is widespread in the subcontinent.
Mob behavior: In large concentrations, this species leaves behind a sticky residue known as redtapea that has the unfortunately side effect of slowing down every other species in the neighbourhood.
Front view – Note the upper pair of hands in a permanent “I’m so busy, come later” pose. Also, the large mouth that indicates a voracious appetite for bribes.
Side view – Note the perfectly arched body and bottom pair of hands ideal positioned perfectly for all forms of under-the-table-acceptance activities.
And here is the typical behavior when potential bribes are sensed in the neighbourhood.
4. Politicus Kaaseythaankadavulus
With one pair hands locked in a permanent “Namaste” gesture overhead, and 2 pairs of highly evolved greedy grabbing pincers, this power-hungry species occupies the upper echelons of the food table. Its complex life cycle involves 4 stages
- Adiyaal larva, where it does menial jobs for other members of the species in higher stages of growth
- Kopaasay pupa, where it prints political posters praising the big boss
- Yumellay caterpillar, when it grows big and slimy and eats everything in sight
- Seeyem butterfly, when it makes promises, sucks the honey of votes in exchange, and then flits away.
Front view – One pair of hands in namaste posture, one pair to beg for votes, and one to greedily grab money where ever it is to be found.
Here is a photo of an alpha male with sidekicks in various stages of growth
Here is a short clip of what happens when a member of this species senses the presence of potential votes nearby