‘Gaming:’ Back To The Future

Words: Paribha VASHIST

Playing hopscotch, a decade ago, was the norm — and, maintaining a ‘stones’ repository and collecting chalks and bricks to draw symmetrical boxes on rugged surfaces were prerequisites. Every day, at a set time, in the evening, we would ecstatically jump from one box to another — cautiously avoiding the drawn boundaries. Boisterous singing and endless chatting always accompanied this game. But now, with the dominance of a whole new gamut of virtual games, one can only reminisce about our good, old days with traditional pastimes. 

Virtual Substitutes Real

FPS and MOBA videogames have increasingly replaced the carrom boards and antaksharis that stimulated long-conversations and deep friendships. While it is true that virtual games allow for online interactions and strategising, they distance us from experiencing the subtleties of emotions and tangibility of companionship. Take the case of a carrom board game —the initial step of placing the big board itself necessitates mutual interdependence, which is followed by sprinkling powder on the board and the joint-planning of strategies to defeat the opponents. In contrast, virtual games lack ‘substance’ and ‘meaningful’ interconnections. Put simply, they miss out on ‘reality.’

Youth Virtually Chained 

The virtual space has not spared the youngest of the lot as well. It is not uncommon to see toddlers and young children glued to their iPads and other e-gadgets and immersed in such addictive games. They spend innumerable hours cutting fruits on ‘Fruit Ninja’ and dodging trains on ‘Subway Surfers,’ completely incognisant of the adverse impact such games have on the development of their cognitive abilities. Moreover, young kids who spend a substantial amount of their time in the virtual world find it hard to cope with the actual problems, as reality seems like ‘uncharted territory.’ Not surprisingly, they also tend to exhibit early signs of aggression.

When they grow, and ‘come of age,’ as it were, they find refuge and stress-coping mechanisms in the virtual domain. They divert their attention from real-world pressing issues and choose not to vent out emotions. The end result of this bottling up of emotions is a higher dependence on digital mediums and virtual characters for comfort and solace over friends and parents. At times, this dependency turns into excessive addiction as the youngsters lose the ability to make active choices and are swayed by their instincts. For countless hours, they play virtual games, completely unaware of the time and space dimension. Even if their eyes hurt, they cannot stop. Even if they want to eat, or sleep, they cannot choose to do either. This is the height of addiction these money-minting, addictive games are capable of inducing, as they are designed by programmers and their bosses to be that way. 

Promote Native Games 

In this context, it’s crucial to avoid the trap of profit-making video-game creators and make concerted efforts to revive and promote our native games, such as kabaddi, kho-kho, gilli danda, shatranj [chess], chaupar, lakhoti, lattoo, pallankuli, and lagori, to name a few. These traditional games not only enable youngsters to appreciate their culture and heritage, but also keep them physically active and mentally agile. Furthermore, they stimulate holistic growth — physical, emotional and intellectual — and, overall character development. Our age-old, classical games require social skills, creativity and camaraderie; they also produce a body of cheerful memories that will remain with us forever.

Ultimate Takeaway

We must realise that while technology is a big boon, there is a serious, negative impact of its excessive usage, including a complete disconnect with the real-world. In this scenario, parents must actively encourage their children to exploring native, traditional games of their times, and stimulating their interest by narrating personal childhood instances, or epics — for instance, Mahabharata, and its plethora of amazing characters, among others.

When kids develop interest in native games, they would automatically come out of their ‘virtual’ shell and become a part of this beautiful yet challenging reality. They will learn to value their rich culture and look beyond the hegemonising narratives of virtual games.

So, as empowered and ‘enlightened’ individuals and parents, it is high time we make every effort to consciously restore the aura of our traditional games that were and should continue to be the integral ‘joystick’ of childhood — for today, and tomorrow.

PARIBHA VASHIST is a second-year Bachelor of Economics student at Gargi College, University of Delhi, New Delhi. A voracious reader and a naturally gifted writer, Vashist is zealously passionate about international economics, environmental policy and sustainable development. She wishes to effectively disseminate, in her own simple, yet profound way, scientific knowledge and policy tools to bringing about a positive, healthy change in our increasingly madding world.

6 thoughts on “‘Gaming:’ Back To The Future

  1. Charu Rishi says:

    Well said, Paribha. Not just the youngest in the family, the eldest too are glued to their screens. Social media and virtual games are taking us away from the real social connections. It’s a norm these days to seeing two people sitting at a table in the coffee shop, but still lost in their virtual world. What a sad picture it paints.

  2. Saroj Thakur says:

    This is one topic that’s close to my heart… Local culture and physical games would give us everything needed. There’s also no need for special learning, or motor skills, in specialised classes, as just a handful of native, or local, games would teach our kids, youth, and others, several skills at one go. You’ve explained it all well.

  3. Subhash says:

    Wow. Loved every word of your article. I particularly liked your evocative account of the old games we used to play in our childhood days. Carry on, regaling us with your insightful pieces. All the best.

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