The life and crimes of the Indian gamer

As I’m sitting down to write this, I’m experiencing involuntary eyelid twitches. Some of that is down to nicotine withdrawal, but it’s mostly because I CANNOT wait for my pre-ordered copy of BioShock: Infinite to arrive. Now, the average Indian video gamer probably just read that and said to himself, “Haha, stupid douche. Who BUYS games? Just get the TPTB rip brooo. Piratebay4life!”, but for those of us who have transcended piracy (i.e. have jobs and/or rich parents), I think it’s pretty damned cool that you can get almost every major video game release on day zero. Especially in a country that insists on believing that the cutting edge of technology is a cheap-ass tablet championed by a pair of walking eyebrows.

mudassar-bhaiMudassar Bhai

As Indian gamers, most of us who didn’t have an aunt in the US or miscellaneous “contacts”, went through an inadvertent life of crime.

Let’s make no bones about this. As Indian gamers, most of us who didn’t have an aunt in the US or miscellaneous “contacts”, went through an inadvertent life of crime. There was a time, not so long ago, when pre-ordering a game meant making a trip to the local guy who sat with a baakda outside a railway station and saying, “Arre Mudassar Bhai, download kar ke rakh, mai aa raha hai kal” (Usually followed by “Woh latest Lisa Ann wali DVD aayi hai kya?”). Up until 2007-08, every hope of getting a recent title that didn’t have the word ‘FIFA’ in its name, revolved around Mudassar Bhai, whether you liked it or not. Not because you couldn’t afford it. You just couldn’t find it anywhere, and no amount of piggy-banked savings could change that. There was no Flipkart or Game4u back then. Steam was nascent in the extreme, and the internet was too slow for it to be a remotely viable option anyway. The only half-legitimate videogame source was the grey market (known to most Mumbaikars as Heera Panna). A trip to Crossword or Planet M counted as an adventure purely out of the HOPE that you might find a copy of GTA III lying around somewhere. The only videogames your local computer store guy had heard of were Super Mario Brothers (known to him, of course, as just ‘Mario’) and Cricket ’97 (Ashes Tour Edition).

And so, everyone had a guy. He was the gateway drug to the world of piracy. But he still took a week to get the game. But then, in around 2006, this thing called affordable broadband internet arrived (with almighty speeds of 256kbps). People started throwing around magical words like torrents, ISOs, and high-definition porn. Most of Mumbai’s gaming cafes started running downloaded copies of the latest videogames. Suddenly, Mudassar Bhai was no longer necessary. Everyone talked about learning how to download ISOs, mount virtual drives, and use odd pieces of software called Alcohol 120% (which incidentally is also what they call bootlegged liquor in eastern India). Most serious gamers knew the intricacies of downloading bootlegged games inside out (“Did you install the crack? It’s in the ‘Razor1911’ folder, idiot. Yeah, it makes the game start with that faggy 8-bit music”), because that was what it took for us to get the games we wanted.

game4uA Game4u store in Mumbai

Seven years ago, the closest thing to a collector’s edition was a DVD from Mudassar Bhai that had less than seven scratches on it.

Thankfully, things are different now. Yes, piracy is still rampant; not just in India, but all over the world, and let’s face it— no amount of DRM is ever going to change that (you listening, EA?), but the difference is that we now have a community of good people that want to give videogames their due. Gaming is finally being viewed as a mainstream form of entertainment. You can buy every game you want to from Flipkart or Game4U on a whim. Heck, you can even preorder collector’s editions. Seven years ago, that was unthinkable. The closest thing to a collector’s edition was a DVD from Mudassar Bhai that had less than seven scratches on it. It may all seem commonplace right now, but having been through close to half a decade of strife (and essentially crime) to just get the games I wanted within the month of release, the ease with which I can buy my games today is still kind of amazing to me. And as gamers in this country, we should be thankful for it. I know I sound like your mom, but it’s true. It’s hypocritical of me to say this, but I’ll do it anyway. If you still pirate games— don’t. Think of it as your favourite recreational ‘substance’. Sure, you can buy the cheap shit from the local guy, but there ain’t nothing like the real stuff from Manal… I mean Flipkart.

azeemAzeem Banatwalla is a writer and stand-up comedian. He spends bewildering amounts of time and money adding things with fans and blue lights to his gaming rig, refusing to play any game below the absolute maximum visual spec. He’s a PC gaming snob, although he does occasionally miss playing old-school Sonic on his Sega Mega Drive 2. Views expressed are Azeem’s own and do not reflect those of IVG’s editorial staff.

Published by Azeem Banatwalla

Azeem Banatwalla is a writer and stand-up comedian. He spends bewildering amounts of time and money adding things with fans and blue lights to his gaming rig, refusing to play any game below the maximum visual spec. He’s a PC gaming snob, but he does occasionally miss playing old-school Sonic on his Sega Mega Drive 2.

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19 Comments

  1. Just looking at the server count on even the most popular games on Steam shows that the Indian gaming community is still in it’s infancy. Also the piracy issue will stay as people somehow don’t perceive downloading torrents as stealing something substantial. Its almost impossible to sensitize people about the hard work that’s put into creating digital content. Maybe a few desi developer stories could change that.

  2. Just looking at the server count on even the most popular games on Steam shows that the Indian gaming community is still in it’s infancy. Also the piracy issue will stay as people somehow don’t perceive downloading torrents as stealing something substantial. Its almost impossible to sensitize people about the hard work that’s put into creating digital content. Maybe a few desi developer stories could change that.

  3. Well written and rings very true to me. I had two Mudassar Bhais, one in Fort and the other on Andheri station’s foot over bridge. I wonder if they’re still there. Want to ask you if you’re planning to get a PS3 just for GTA 5? Like you, I’ve been a loyal PC gamer all these years, but I don’t know what to do. Should I buy a PS3 or wait for the PS4 or pray that they release it for the PC? What if it ends up like RDR and never makes it to the PC? And a port will be laggy and crappy like GTA 4 anyway. What are you gonna do? 🙂

  4. The production houses should price the games properly in India. Just check the prices of vita console and games in India

  5. very nice ..1..i was 14 and playstation 1 was not launched..i thot this pirateds are the original 1s.. thank you for this article.very nice..

  6. i am buying a ps3 just for gta 5 because i was and still a huge fan of gta and cant miss its even one game. just buy a ps3 or xbox 360

  7. Gotta say that when you compare getting a fix of gaming to getting a fix of a drug, then I have to agree with your conclusion that the local maal is nothing like the real stuff from M…

  8. ok after reading i agree that development took place but where the hell is the amazing spiderman series in india for pcccccccccccccc why it is noly givien for the ps & other stupid gamer why not for pc gamer why why why i really need 1

  9. Bro u are right but what to do now i mean iam thinking of buying a ps4 console but the games would cost me 3500 per game and there is no crack for ps4 yet.. I dont have any aunt, uncle or any friends in us 🙁

  10. Nice to hear that there are people in India who buy original games. Most of my friends in India used to torrent games. Now everyone has stopped gaming after landing over a job. But I guess they would still pirate games if they wanted to play one.

    As for some gamers like me. The recent price raise in games from EA has left us from no choice to wait for sales. Especially Steam sales.

    Steam gave us a very reason to not pirate games at all. I hope everyone adopts Steam in the country and kill piracy in its roots.

  11. Stop being a cheap fuck and quit whining for fucks sake.
    If you cannot afford games then don’t buy the console. Work hard and earn the money and put it towards the few games that you want. Nobody has asked you to play every or many games.

    If you can get a console worth 40,000 then I see no reason for you to not be able to get a game worth 3500 bucks.

    If you want to play all latest games and still pay less then turn to PC gaming. PC gaming with Steam provides games at lower prices and during sales they go for around 50-80% off.

    Stop stealing and pay for the games you want. Games are a luxury not a necessity of life. Its not that you have to play every or even some of the latest games out there.

    There are many things a person cannot afford. That doesn’t mean he/she steals it. Try stealing a ferrari just because you cannot afford it. Can you justify that?

    I can agree software is intangible but games ARE TANGIBLE and hence have a price associated with them.

    Like I said. Stop whining and work hard to earn money for your games.

    Don’t want to work for the entertainment you seek. Typical Indian Mentality.

  12. Ideal Price of AAA games in India must be ₹100 and indie games should be priced between ₹10-₹50. Paying ₹3500 for a game is expensive

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