This article is part of a collaboration with iQ by Intel.
On a warm November morning last year in Mumbai, a crowd of thousands of curious young people queued up on the street for a chance to try out the latest and greatest in videogames. Some were decked out in cosplay outfits, others came dressed like anyone else. But more than just a chance for free rein on new titles like Batman: Arkham Knight (2015) and FIFA 15 (2014), this was a big moment for videogames in India. And the Indian videogame community proved its merit in droves. “The Indian gaming ecosystem is at the cusp of a major transformation, and will soon become one of the key markets for developers and animators,” said Intel South Asia’s Marketing Director Aurora. “Rapid economic growth, increasing access to Internet and exposure to other cultures has resulted in a niche society that is embracing digital content and entertainment like never before.”
In example, the Indian Games Expo (IGX for short) was unveiled to an enthusiastic and ever-intrigued crowd of game lovers who had been waiting for the opportunity to show their love for playing to the world. While the videogame convention is a popular phenomena in other regions of the world—including Los Angeles’ E3, PAX Prime in Seattle, and Gamescom in Cologne—this would be one of India’s first.
Being the first entirely consumer-focused gaming expo in India wasn’t easy, though. Games are still not ubiquitous in the country in the way they are in the United States for a variety of reasons ranging from apathetic retailers to cultural stigmas. Another reason is the cost of games compared to the living wage. “We get all the big games, the popular games, but people aren’t aware of them. Gaming is not very big,” said the chief organizer of IGX (who wishes to remain anonymous for employment reasons). Lack of awareness doesn’t mean Indians are disinterested, however. In fact, as Sandeep Aurora explained, “Global games and characters are gaining popularity among the Indian youth, who are embracing this brave new world and breaking free from cultural stigmas.”
As testament to India’s burgeoning gaming scene, IGX managed to draw in 19,000 people in two days, double the initial organiser estimates. The story behind this success is, in a way, simple. IGX’s head organizer had experienced the spectacle and glory of gaming conventions firsthand while working as a journalist abroad, and wanted to evangelize the bombast of games back home. They went about liaising with big game companies such as Sony and Ubisoft to create an “experiential expo,” as they described it. Essentially a one-person operation, the organizer behind IGX took it upon themselves to expand gaming literacy in the motherland. “Since India did not have an expo or event where people could walk in and see what games are all about, what I wanted to do was [create a space] where people could come and play,” they said.
Image courtesy IGX
Gaming in India is still in the process of filling out and finding its wings, so the tenor of the show was curiously different from fan-centric expos found elsewhere. Unlike Comic-Con, for example, the yearly Mecca for comic book savants and pop culture nerds alike in San Diego, this show was intended for the newcomers. For the first time ever, people who wanted to understand games could come see for themselves what all the fuss was about. Many even decided to pick up a controller. “It’s funny because most of the people who came had never played a game in their life, so for them everything was so new and exciting,” the organizer said. “We had VR games and PC games and console games. All the options were there. [You could] play everything and see what you liked. If you like something, then, that’s it. You are a gamer, you know.”
Being a game convention located in a place where fewer people play games, IGX naturally had its share of doubters. “People didn’t think that a gaming event would work in India. Maybe a tech expo. But not gaming on its own,” the head organizer told me in reference to several major publishers whose absence was conspicuous. “We could have made it even bigger than this. But they didn’t [show up,]” the organizer told me, sounding annoyed. But IGX is not giving up. “We will go to them next year and say, ‘You weren’t here last year but come. Come this year!’” Though future plans are indefinite, IGX has every intention of coming back bigger and better in 2016 and even thereafter as an annual event. If all goes well, the whole country will soon be playing together.
Header image courtesy IGX