Half-Life – A tribute

No. It’s not that I am having self-realization of lived through whole of my life with ever-approaching old age and now getting into that “past tense” mode where you always want to compare current events against old beautiful and majestic moments; Keep cussing the present and wallowing in “those beautiful days”. This is not my trait though. Daily 2 to 3 hours commuting via ever increasing dominant traffic provides that time leverage in which my subconscious could breed ideas for blogging. I was always looking forward to pay tributes to active agents which had drastically changed the “chemical equation and interactions” of my life; converting, transforming and in some way attributing something utterly different to final result what could have been straight forward “simple life”. Like lead to gold conversion, these agents had power to imbue my life substance with forever gloving, unique and never to be forgotten memories which needs a bit of spit and polish and there they shine again like a gem in the gold.

Half-life is one of the many gems. If there was no Half-life, I would have never became gamer (I can hear people passing the sneer as that would have been quite better :). Half-life has injected me with the gaming-drug whose effects were never going to be receded over time. What was so good about it? I can rant memoir justified via book and not via single article as answer, but I would like to restrict this blog particularly to my own views and perceptions which made Half-life special to me. You can find a lot about Half-life on the web as lot has been written and bragged about it, proving how great leap it was in terms of computer gaming.

Introductory text crawling in and out of the screen along with moving metro-coach like contraption; slowly sliding along the rails, giving glimpses of claustrophobic dim-lit underground lab facility to vast open and altogether bizarre experiments. My cut-scene conditioned mind was never ready to grasp the in-game carefully crafted game-engine driven story telling. I still remember the surprise when by mistake I pressed movement keys to check if something was going on and my all-time favorite FPS protagonist: Gordon Freeman was moved in coach’s confined space without any resistance from game-design. And that was the most prolific point of Half-life in that era. You were never out of the game. All those story driven cut-scenes were played out in front of you without making you a mock spectator; everything in first person perspective. Even after so many years million CoD games had not able to create such easy control. It was never forced.

90s was era of FPS gaming where such take on story was absent. You start the game and start killing whatever moves. Another surprise (And Half-life was packed with such surprises) was that you start the game with nothing. In those days, few of my friends along with me were utterly confused with what to do once we finished off with that “long driving sequence”. My mind was also conditioned not to listen to babble of NPCs in FPS as it didn’t mean anything in terms of playing and also I was not much into English at that time due to study in regional language and having English as minor language (Remember, it was era without commercial internet and almost 10 years more to start the economical smartphone uprising). All those tumbles acted as fuel to curiosity towards playing Half-life and also raised awareness to great Gaming world.

“Freeman, we don’t know how much time this will take…..”  How could I forget these lines!!!!?? It could have been eternity, If Freeman would have not chosen to drag that trolley and perform the experiment. And that’s where Half-Life shines like sun, I spent almost 20-30 minutes jumping, observing, falling (from ladder) and listening to continuous babble of scientific talk till my curiosity ran out. At last I dragged the trolley to desired destination causing the rift (Resonance Cascade in Half-Life terms) which was going to result in more than half of my life’s commitment towards Gaming. Pure chaos, ducking through bone-cutting lasers, first headcrab appearance without any weapon and of course the crowbar. These were the defining moments which had haunted the nights of many at that time (And still doing it).

Talking about haunted memories, Half-life must be the only game which has succeeded to shit my pants in broad daylight (even current lot of survival horror titles are not up to this mark). Ok, I accept that I was not grown enough at that time as compared to now but still fear instilled by half-life was potent enough to anyone who is just foraging their way through digital entertainment to make them paralyze and cower away from computer terminal in sheer horror. Among couple of moments I can think of, first was definitely The Tentacle Beast. I was so afraid of it that at first I tried to finish it off within off-limits to the beast, expending all my ammunition even though I knew it was never going to work out and there had to be different way. I was so stressed out not to twitch my mouse while silently skulking around that beast so that it would accidently not turn Freeman to see the beast. And ladders, I was never ever afraid these much while climbing up and down the ladders during presence of the beast. With the beast breathing at your neck (yes, you can feel dampness and hotness caressing your neck), missing single rung on the ladder would be instant death. Even with multiple deaths and handy quick save, fear was relentless. I will always be afraid of Tentacle Beast.

Other most paralyzing and brutal on my nerves encounter was Gonarch’s Lair. As if surrounding was not gross enough to scare me, mere glimpse of that mother of all headcrab had literally covered me all over with Goosebumps size of a chickenpox. I still remember putting down keyboard and mouse with dread and fear not to face that abysmal and most grotesque creation I have ever encountered. I really would have chosen Gonarch over Nihilanth as last boss battle. (There is one Half-life mode where developers/modders just gone extreme level sick by putting Gonarch to confined, darkness shrouded space in some crazy spaceship. It literally took few days for me to gather courage and check out the source of guttural sound coming from deep, pitch darkness.). Moments like the frightening fish-thing in the pond and the cage dangling above it with most powerful weapon. Half-life has this peculiar vision of making you afraid with unknown and then to empower you to face it. Make you learn that only way to overcome something frightful is to face it and fight it head on.

Brilliant fusion of level design along with meaningful puzzles, all out firefights, layered storytelling, loyal mod support, countless popular spin-offs such as Counter-strike and opposing force and that mysterious G-man; all these things make me so devote fan of Half-life that I took up challenge to playing anything which has Half-life in the title or based on half-life universe (I tried to finish as many modes based on half-life as possible along with current brilliant tribute Black mesa which is Half-life revised on Half-life 2 engine).  Even considering the fact that Half-life follow up by Valve i.e. Half-life 2 and episodes 1 & 2 are improved and brilliant experience on themselves, playing Half-life is by far unique experience which is impossible to replicate.

PS : Today Half-life developer Valve is known for its extensive QA testing for immerse user experience conducted with various player and non-player game-play events held in close observation of QA executives to know the first-hand player experience. Even Half-life was their first brain child, they didn’t cut any loose in terms of QA department. Very well-known finite state machine based dumbed-down AI has played its part in terms of immersion like none other. Very simple idea consists of command matrix or states with number or weight attached to them. Commands consists of something like Attack-Reload-take cover-asking for backup and so on. At any moment, simple AI logic will control that not more than attached threshold value to particular state should be crossed in terms of number of opponents. So let’s say threshold value of Attack is 2 than, if more than 2 commandos start attacking player, one will transition to next state of reload. Also each state has time limit so that all opponents keep themselves transitioned regularly to different states. Best part of it was that AI was easy to implement without any brutal difficulty curve for player along with believable state transition which will never result in breaking the immersion. (Anyhow Half-life was going to impress me in terms of AI with release of HL2 where they came up with one of the best companion AI ever to grace gaming community in the name of Alyx Vance. Elizabeth of Bioshock Infinite was also notable mention but Alyx was my first love :).

PS 2: One more reason why I love half-life so much and hence Gordon Freeman is that Freeman never projected as some bad-ass killer machine. He is material physics scientist. Never meant to be hero saving the world. Even after two excursions of saving the world, I always feel like he is not fighting but surviving, saving only his skin and as a result winning the whole world and also millions of hearts of gaming community.

Istanbul – Where east meets west

“The best way to appreciate your life is to examine it from others point of view“.

I realized truthfulness of above statement during my stay in Basel, having lunch with one of my colleague in very beautiful courtyard of Europe’s top Pharmacy Company’s campus in cold march of Switzerland. He just wanted to know whether that was my first visit outside India. Reply to that question has worked for me as self-realization which was never been considered with such attention before by me.

“No. I have been to Hamburg long time back and then to Istanbul for a month just a while back before coming to Switzerland”. That was my self-awaking answer which was positively opinion-ed by my colleague saying “Wow…… You have been to some great places in the world”.

From long time I tried to pen down my travel assays-cum-logs-cum-ramblings to something proper without getting good start each of the time. My Istanbul visit got its start with above incident. Even though I was only for a month in one of the most happening tourist city of world, I stole few weekends to visit well-known historical places and get the feel of this unique, one-of-the-kind city of Turkey.

In a psychological word game where you have to come up instantly with word, “City of minarets and domes dominating the skyline with rich tapestry of history imbued in each nooks and cranny” could be my answer to “Istanbul” (I know this is long answer which is not suitable for psychological mind mapping. I prefer Rorschach test instead :). Istanbul has unique blending of east and west. It is by no means considered as conservative which could be the first impression on anybody considering Ottoman’s dominion and influence over the history. You can see swarm of people following the east and west tradition (of mind as well as also in terms of clothes) seamlessly without any conflict or struggle.

Bosphorus Bay
Bosphorus Bay

Though city is divided by Bosphorus bay with old town separated with new high-rise clad Europe influenced side of the city, all the tourist attractions are cramped up in Old part of the city. Getting to this part, especially to Sultanahmet where all the historical attractions milling together, reachable via short walks, is itself comprises wonderful journey across Bosphorus with the help of the ferry. On a tourist-heavy day Sultanahmet could compete with Indian “Bazaars”, full of people with rows and rows of shops flagging their biggest attractive products along with small eatery stalls littered around. Opposing to this, there is a wide area decorated as park with fountains and all greenery between and around famous Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque.

Dividing Old and New

That leads us to major attractions of Istanbul. You need to have historical affinity to appreciate the importance of Istanbul as visiting attraction. All these attractions carry the abundant amount of historical importance and events on their massively built structural beauty. Hagia Sophia with breathtaking massive dome inscribed with variety artistic depiction of two major religions of world; gigantic interior space adorned with mosaic and symbolism will draw you to utterly time-less experience.

Blue Mosque

Blue mosque with its six impressive and dominating minarets will leave lasting impression on your mind. Topkapi Palace, Basilica cistern, Taksim Square, Grand Bazaar, Galata Tower and lot other attractions force to have ample planning and time to do proper justice to Istanbul as a tourist place.

Hagia Sophia

Apart from the obvious, just roaming in the old gullies of Istanbul is once-in-a-lifetime experience itself. Aroma of various Turkish çay (Turkish Tea) mingling with various spice and sweet shops smells, sweet shops with large variety of sweets; covering large shades of green and yellow will have instant mouth-watering effect to passersby , display of antiquities and rugs and kilims, Turkish Döner shops providing economical eating options, small corn stalls wafting sweet, sour trails of smoke, these all tends to create a picture which can only be framed with label as Istanbul.

A special mention to Turkish coffee (Only for caffeine aficionados) is required before wrapping up the article. Before tasting Turkish coffee, I was having impressions that nothing can beat strong black coffee in fighting drowsiness (double shot espresso),but so wrong I was. Turkish coffee came in small cup (like you are going to take tequila shot). The thick tar competent sluggish liquid never lose battle against multiple levels of sugar sachet (I suggest not have sugar at all). It is pure caffeine shot, like injecting caffeine through IV tube. Pure bless for coffee lovers. Great instant slap-in-the-face wake up call. Another famous eating “souvenirs” are sweets like Turkish delights and Baklava.

WP_20130929_034Each city has its own travelling importance, own culture, habits, history, architectures, sometimes unique skylines, natural influence and many more. From travelers point of view no place in this world is less visit able than other. But still some city gain much popularity than others due to sheer number of attractions and experiences to have. Istanbul is such city, never-failing to amuse or surpass the Tourist expectations.

Mysterious Medusa pillars in “Sunken Palace”

 

Are we progressing backwards?

Our mind are conditioned in such a manner that “Progress” word becomes synonymous to something positive and appreciable. We’ll take it as positive improvement over something without considering any context or background. A little wordplay of the blog title is nothing but to emphasize the fact that there may be different angle or context to everything which we completely missed out due to our closed perspective and hence take it as offense or against nature. Why so much ranting on simple wordplay, you may ask.

dragon-age-inquisition

Here’s the reason: EA has pulled out the release of its super massive, highly anticipated (by Gamers like me), finale to the Dragon Age universe, final chapter of the trilogy; Dragon Age: Inquisition from India. Reason being presence of gay character and potential story arc where main protagonist can have homosexual relationships. Self-realized reason by EA is not want to be on the other side of future lawsuit because of these portrayals.

Before dissecting EA’s clear conscience, I would really like to make note here in general logical terms regarding to social conventions prevailing in India. From dubious censor rules to ever degenerating public mindset, India is nowhere progressing in terms of acceptance of individuality or expression of art. In fact considering the ancient “Kamasutra” legacy of India, we are progressing backwards (and hence the title). I would like to see social setup where same-sex partners don’t draw a single glance (forget about scornful looks) and be treated as routine or usual. Education won’t work here as I have seen educated people with extreme prejudices and closed minds. This is something else, this is to understand that there may be some other context/perspective from where we never try to analyze the notions. A view beyond our pre-configured, conditioned mind.

Talking about another view, I also need to tackle other side of this rejection also. Not everything wrong with India here it seems. If you rifle through bit of Google search pages and bit of deduction, you realized EA also thinking something else and may be all this “Gay” affair is nothing but safety switch. Already EA has released previous to installments of Dragon Age along with super hit Mass Effect series where you can pursue same-sex romances. Also I am surprised to see positive involvement from India in Gay Pride parade this year. Even I am pretty much sure that not a single Gamer who wants to romp through new Dragon age RPG really care about homo-sexuality (Even they will be happy that Games getting serious on depiction of such sensitive issues nowadays). Even Rockstar is regularly releasing GTA titles in India containing nudity and all. Problem here with EA is the popularity and demand with deep RPGs. I read that EA along with Bathesda (Whose absolutely brilliant Fallout 3 and New Vegas never released in India due to two-headed cow called “Brahmins”) ship only very limited copies to India when it comes to RPG. Potential market is very low here. And considering the fact that EA, Ubisoft, Bathesda, Rockstar are big names now in gaming giants they don’t want to take risk by releasing “law-suite prone” title whose sales are not promising enough to justify the risk of release. They are happy to leave marginal profit rather than spending more money on lawsuit.

This social commentary mixed economic “play” article has two improvement on concluding side. Indian mentality has to claw out to that unreachable edge of garbage dike, at the bottom of which it has managed to settle down after these many years (and still sinking in). At the same time, Gaming needs to be considered as art covering broader age-span which can have serious adult content not appropriate for children (and hence no to be indulged by children, same as Movie and other media). We cannot punish the media just because negligence of audience causing them to hurt their own sensibilities.

PS: EA has stopped all kind of distribution for Dragon Age: Inquisition i.e. physical as well as digital also in India. So either you can import via other country (buy from Amazon US-UK) or try some other digital distribution sites. You know the drill. (I will most probably import).

Travelog: Meeting with Monalisa

Visit of one of the most romantic city on earth is absolutely pointless if you not visit the greatest artistic and most researched art piece ever created: Monalisa’s Smile by none other than mastermind and genius Renaissance jewel in the crown, Leonardo da Vinci. I must confess that I was not much intrigued to painting till I developed my ever-hungry reading habit ignited due to Dan Brown’s most famous Da Vinci Code almost 10 years back.  I had not a single iota of thought about experiencing Louvre museum at any stage of my life than. But I can count my self lucky to get chance of retracing two of Langdon’s adventures through European countries. (One is definitely Da Vinci Code’s Louvre. Other I will not reveal due to some spoilers for those who are still not infected by reading habit :), and third one on my mind is Vatican city at any time during this year ).

Personal musings aside, let’s get back to the Travelog of second day in Paris. As I was not having much leverage in terms of time in Paris (3 full days at max), I had to preplanned visiting places very much in advance. I knew from start that Louvre museum will eat my whole day for sure. In fact one full day is also not enough if one insist to cover every nooks and crannies presented in map of the museum. And person with historical and artistic stint in heart will have to move and reside in the museum itself. Museum is a treasure trove full of Monuments, Paintings, sculptures, statues, ancient artifacts, tombs, shrouds, mummies, dig outs pottery, ancient weapons, chain mails, thousands of antiques and lot more covering large historical period over different places of world and dynasties. Even if you try to familiarize yourself with artifacts by just reading main labels, it will be sure recipe to completely missed out on any two major sections out of five (If my memory is not betraying me). My advice is to best first get your history brushed up with large broom and prioritize your periods, geographical inclination and eras. For me (and I am pretty much sure that lot others like me), Monalisa alone can be the day savior( By the way, there was much more impressive art gallery holding great paintings from lot many other Renaissance artists other than Leonardo’s master pieces) .  Following is just the tiny glimpse in terms of photo guide.

Glass pyramid made famous by Da Vinci Code
Glass pyramid made famous by Da Vinci Code
Due to long weekend, Have to wait almost 2 hours just to enter.
Due to long weekend, Have to wait almost 2 hours just to enter.
Art, art and only art.....
Art, History and Science…..
....From small to life-size.
….From small to life-size.
Nudity was being the inherent part of Renaissance art and openness which has profound impact on European culture
Nudity was being the inherent part of Renaissance art and openness which has profound impact on European culture

I had let my expectation rise in full flow by visiting two different sections rather than choosing the Paintings section first where Monalisa situated(Which was clearly signposted at numerous places and even in the museum map). Kind of delaying the “moment of life”, so that it could have no chance of getting out of the context, missing the respect and enlightenment from my part. Anyhow Louvre had given proper respect to the painting by allocating one large section of the room giving ample space for visitors to greet the “Smile”.  With so many galleries and pathways embedded with small to large rooms occupying immense art collections and paintings, I was afraid at one point rather I missed out my “meeting” which in turn would lead to most embarrassing moment of lifetime.  But you know that you reached the right spot when large mass of people swaying to have good look, awestruck by sheer presence, trying to get best snap for the future to ponder on against large white washed blank wall. Until you neared by and be flabbergasted yourself.

Frankly speaking, picture itself is much smaller than anticipation.May be due to the arrangement of being single painting on large blank wall. May be due to cavernous space in front of it which in turn cordoned off in portion to keep the enthusiast seeking intimate company of Monalisa. But still you can feel the profound power and sheer dreaminess emanating from the painting adding to its solemn existence. After all I was witnessing something which was only seen,imagined in books and movies.

Monalisa2

Can't resist to post one more picture
Can’t resist to post one more picture

I was thinking of having more pictures but it will be disrespect to “The One”(Anyhow Leonardo’s other work along with other artists were also fantastical). Also this post is getting out of my measuring rule so enjoy the pictures and wait for next update with more of the Paris.

Travelog: Paris – Gustave’s iconic creation

Being in Europe during summer time have it’s unique taxing mental toll when it comes to plan long holidays. First choice in itself requires fair amount of debate and homework: which country/location to visit in European Region. With so many beautiful and “once in a lifetime visit”  countries clustered together along with richness of transportation, One only has to choose the location without worry about means. For me, escaping to Paris in long summer holidays from Basel was never tough choice as I already visited Vienna and Italy was lined up for next break, Paris would be the right choice for 4 days break. Second thing to plan travel is to have good day-to-day guide meticulously prepared before venturing blindly into particular city. As I experienced, Paris in itself is crammed together with so much to cover up that without proper notion what to see in few available precious days; one will come out with nothing but map full of visiting places icon unexplored and most of the time spent in underground metros rather than visiting the places themselves.  And third most important thing is….. forget it, I will have different blog for this. This blog I planned as kind of a travel log and not travel guide. I planned to produce my travel as continuous travel assay but better I represent it as snippets  in 3 parts with some bullet points surprises, take-outs, considerations, observations, conclusions, analysis and experience. Anyhow, like a sweet symphony you can not realize the grandeur of it from musical notations, only way is listen to it in right manner to convert that mere time-space existence to something special and unique, So only notable way to admire places is to visit them.

Jewel of the "Paris" Crown
Jewel of the “Paris” Crown

You will not realize the sense of amazement by just seeing beautiful French landscape passing by window until you see the sign flashing beneath the upcoming station showing the speed reaching to 300 km/h and sometimes surpassing that also. Welcome to one of the fastest train on earth: TGV.  The train just glides on the rails without much lurch like a magical flying carpet flowing to the yet another magical Disney location called Paris.


Paris is crammed wit such art at each available opportunity
Paris is crammed wit such art at each available opportunity

If you happen to arrive Paris by train, coming to bustling Gare de Lyon, than anticipation of seeing the iconic Gustave’s creation will have to wait for bit longer as color coded metros journey through city most of the time remaining underground. At the right time, it emerges to give the distant look to it’s famous tower; creating dramatic effect like having grand introductory entrance of lead character in the movie. I don’t know if this kind of metro design was intentional or not but it just hit the right cords instantly.


It’s been well-known fact that  Statue of Liberty was gift to United States of America from people of France and there are multiple replicas scattered in France to honor the lady. One near Grenelle Bridge on the Île aux Cygnes is facing the famous river Seine and whose existence was completely out of my mind (even after multiple viewings of National Treasure: Book of Secrets) till I suddenly encountered the statue while passing the bridge. Finding the unexpected treasure underneath mountain of treasure trove !!! that’s what the feeling was…….

Famous replica from National Treasure movie -Paris
Famous replica from National Treasure movie -Paris

Walking through park from Statue of Liberty towards beaconing Eiffel tower along the river Seine conjures up dramatic feeling that tower is growing with each step closing in, till you reach to wide open base of the tower where the realization of grandeur has settled all excitements to pure bliss and calmness even with all the chatter and clatter of mass of other travelers.The sheer height of the metal structure with crisscross metal work gives the feeling of giant spider web. Gustav has created tower as attraction to world fair, kind of icon for the fair. There was one other purpose also of the tower in mind of Architect: as highest flag mast for French flag which was true at the time of inauguration of Eiffel Tower. Anyhow it has proved its mettle, attracting millions of people worldwide even to this date.

At the base of Tower
At the base of Tower

Famous Restaurant at Eiffel Tower, Paris
Famous Restaurant at Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower holds a magnificent  restaurant “20,000 leagues above the ground” with homage to one of the most magnificent science-fiction writer world know as Jules Verne.


Metal Monster
Eiffel Tower from Inside

Climbing stairs till 2nd floor would give the feeling of finding way through big metal monster with info-graphic at each stair-climb of Tower history and some other impressive statistical numbers. Tiresome climb will reward you with breathtaking panoramic view from open gallery from second floor (and more breathtaking panoramic view from top of the tower once you climb up via elevator).


All seeing eye from LOTR
All seeing eye from LOTR

At night, massive sweeping searchlights over Paris from Eiffel Tower along with illuminating body via thousands of bulbs gave the impression of “All see eye” of LOTR world with only difference is this metal eye would attract and not scaring away the populace.

This is just the one side
Amazing view from top of the Tower

 

Why Fussball is better than Cricket

Wallpaper-World-Cup-Brazil-2014-hd-wallpaper

It is daunting task to imagine someone living in India who is not aware of Cricket. This sport is epidemic (and one of those ”good impact” of British ruling) which seeped through veins of Indian population through all those years and now become inherent part of the body itself. Everyone, at some point of time in their life, has come into contact with it in some or the other form.

You can also say the same about football for European countries, South America, Africa, Australian region and in Asian part Japan and Korea: covering almost all continents(+1 to Football for this). I myself played Cricket a lot but it’s just matter of choices. If you don’t have choices, you have to go with whatever available. With closing of Football’s league tournament ”inspired” IPL, taking place every year in India with only ”large money spinning” objective and start of Football World cup 2014 in Brazil, this is the best time to come up with comparison.

Following are  few points in favor of Football. Some of them are technical and logical, some of them are just for fun and all of them are belongs to my point of view. (If you are a fan of Cricket, be offended and start following Football)

  • Time Frame: Even shortest and fastest format of cricket (T20) eats up 3 hours of your time which is still more as compared to football which lasts 2 hours, even considering break between halftime and extra time of Football. Time may not be any issue if your supporting team is winning at the end but investing 3 or more hours in a day and being on the losing side is total disappointment.
  • Larger Time Frame: Football world-cup occurring every 4 years has timetable of not more than one month on whole, cramming 3-4 matches a day sometimes. Comparison to that IPL is taking almost 100% more time to choose winners with almost 2 matches everyday . This should be considered as inefficiency of the tournament. Still Cricket World Cup have much shorter time frame. (Considering the fact that Cricket World Cup organized by international body, it proves that Indians have lots of free time to invest in petty tournaments like IPL T20).
  • Everyone Plays: Football is a game where everyone has to play their part by showing stamina and aliveness for the entire length of the game. Even referees have to be on their legs. (Consider umpires have to circle cricket ground every 5 or 10 hours :)
  • Managers: Strategy and planning play bigger role in football along with real-time player performance and real-time management and strategy building. And that’s why managers are key factors in this sport. What formation to go for, Which players to play, in which position, when to introduce, defend or strike, who has which skill, what resources you have, how to use them, what are the strengths of opponents and weaknesses; Managers have to cop up with lot many of this to find right recipe to victory and imagine you have to do that for every match.
  • Loyal Fan-base: Every sport have their niche audiences and fan base but I think football fans are at the top because they show zeal and fanaticism so strong that it can only be compared with religious fanaticism.I love seeing these people blurring out the line between craziness and sanity.
  • Weather-free: Is weather having revenge on long time anticipated game ? Not to worry, football can be played in any season even with downpour.
  • In football, players are penalized for their “unhealthy” behavior in the game itself through yellow and red cards.
  • Football players have ample opportunities to  show off their workout sessions and hence six/eight pack Greek God body (inspiring the viewers to at least try  for the same).
  • To play football personally, you need to have only 2 things (eliminating common necessities): full stamina bar and football (that is also one football and not many as compared to cricket balls).
  •  Girls in the football audience can give tough competition to cheerleaders of IPL in terms of fashion statements. Typical Indian conservatism.

This is enough for now. So fetch all like-minded friends. Go to sports bar. Choose your poison and enjoy the most celebrated sport on earth.

Gaming all the way

In this great era of technological advancement, any new “EUREKA” in digital world has very limited and in fact, short lifespan. Ironically, these are the days of dying and reviving, fading into the gloom and coming up again with new enlightenment, dissolving into the dust and ashes and reincarnating with new form. Who would have thought that once popular valve based Radios, once forgotten with latest arrival of Walkman and digital music playing media, could possible again get the attention by masses with introduction of Smartphones in new accessible version? (And Walkman itself will fade in to the gloom). Who would have thought that once dumbed down as “Idiot Box” with its CRT filled body could do workout on technological treadmill to get the slim avatar of absolute “High Definition” clarity? (And with introduction of 4K TV, entirely new experience is awaiting for us). Still concentrating on “Short Life Span” definition for digital medium is true in terms of how longer particular digital media/gadgets will remain in conscience of masses with its usability and attraction factor. Usability will never be issue if one can really understand the real urges and requirement expected from the investment. But if attraction and presentation factors are playing along with social competitiveness of “catching-the-attention-of-public” compulsion, there is no limit to stop at something one owned. There is always new in the market. There is always something better out there.
Point of raising this introductory thought is to raise more profound question in terms of Gaming. Here gaming is used in most generic way possible, covering all those gadgets and games pertaining to it i.e. Computer, consoles, Kinect, Move, Online, Handhelds, Mobile, Tablets, future Steambox etc. Gaming has come a long way after its initiation and we can say with close approximation that it’s at peak of popularity and spread. Is gaming come to that part of curve where only possible way for that curve to proceed further is downwards? For me answer is definitely NO. Commercially and economically it stands tall on biggest and broadest shoulders of giants like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Considering Valve also pitching in with its idea of home entertainment in terms of SteamBox, future is much brighter for gaming on the whole. So evaluating strength of commercial and economical pillars and placing them aside, what else required for this king of digital entertainment to retain and spread its root of popularity among audiences. Let’s get through that various underlying currents and measure the force of these currents in terms of gaming.
Mass Appeal: Considering the fact that almost every second home in US holds at least one gaming console will leave no scope for second thought to appeal of Gaming as entertainment. The fact is most owners have more than one gaming console or dedicated gaming devices. Even though this appeal is widespread in US & Europe, Japan, Korea, China etc., lot bigger potential market is still unexplored in terms of developing countries like India. With online and co-op gaming this appeal is on the rise, infecting everyone like viral with only difference is that there is no cure for this contagion.
Spread: Surprisingly,  Sales, Demographic and usage data published by ESA(2013) shows almost equal distribution of percentage among age groups of Under 18 years (32%), 18-35 Years(32%) and 36+ years (36%). Even gender demographic will blow some established nuances regarding to females in gaming with hefty 45% share of females while male counterpart barely managed to do better with 55%. Gone are the days when gaming had so little to offer that it was gender dominated. Now gaming has so diverse things to put on the table that everyone can find their share of entertainment value (More on this in next point). True to analogy of viral infection spread for this gaming virus is just going to be bigger in the future years to come.
Diversity: Here approach is to tackle diversity in terms of how diverse the classes of gamers and games are. It’s true that Gaming is expensive hobby in itself especially if you are catering to dedicated gaming needs. Still nowadays gaming consoles are well within grasp of middle-class households. Apart from this Gaming just spreading its arms and clawing out of that lonely, singled out, dark room of the teenager boy and getting its prime seat as main attraction of the family in the drawing-room. With Wii, Kinect and Move on the move no one in the family will want to opt out from filling his/her share of happiness from this ever flowing eternal fountain of entertainment. Also it has a lot to offer. Gaming doesn’t need to know what you play it just needs the tiny little urge within you; if you give in to play or not. Currently roster of games has covered everything one can imagine to play. To name the few game types includes FPS (First Person Shooter), TPS (Third Person Shooter), RTS (Real Time Strategy), RPG (Role Playing Genre), Adventure, Point and Click, MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online RPG), MMOBA (Massively Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), Action RPG, Turn Based, Tower Defense, Open World Exploration, Puzzlers, Platformers, Brawlers, Simulations etc. (And also variations with fusion of two or more of these types). So it’s not that one would not like gaming, it’s just one has never found out correct entry point from these many possibilities to enter this amazing universe.
Morphism: Morphism is nothing but the art of evolution in technological way. As said above, it’s very difficult for any new technological advancement to retain its position for longer period. Only way of doing that is by morphing into new phase and improves upon the originals by aligning with new technology. After 3D gaming, currently gesture based gaming is new wave. With Oculus Rift introducing virtual reality based 3D gaming; gaming has proved that this genre is here to stay for long long time through art of morphism.
Niche Audience catering: Gaming is not restricted to strict classification as entertainment medium nowadays. It is considered as art by many enthusiasts. Some games are designed as just interactive experience encapsulating abstract and philosophical ideas rather than clearly defined goals or quests. (Gone Home, The Path, Dear Esther are some of the examples). These games can leverage on directing gameplay on specific experience with limited budget and targeting much smaller or niche player base; deviating from generalized gameplay mechanic. It means that gaming is covering up that small percentage also in terms of player base.
Nostalgia and Fan base service: Biggest advantage Games have is loyal fan base and supportive player community. There are very few new IPs in the market every year. Generally more that 80% games are kind of either part of some series, revival of old games, reintroduction of old series, have some other popular media tie in, based on book, universe/world sharing, gameplay mechanic or game engine tie up i.e. some or other way fans of the original media continuously support it and in return game developers and publishers are bound to perform fan service with of course setting their eye on that increasing profit percentage with new player base. As previously evident, more than 60% of player age is more than 30 itself shows the loyalty and fan base service. Even publishers trying to milk this situation through powerful nostalgia factor by investing in games with old school gameplay nowadays.
Indie factor and modding: One biggest improvement came in Gaming world from last few years is the introduction of indie game development. With Steam and GOG like digital distribution services’ support, Indie developer got much more recognition and scope to shine on international level. Indie developers and small development companies are opting out for Kickstarters to fund the project with much more clearly defined scope, reducing the large budget involvement of giant publishers. This kind of set up has allowed many development and art skills to be transformed in successful indie development. Biggest advantage is to retain the original view of the game-play initially conceived by designer/game developer without interference of publishers and they can have free reign to achieve the final goal. In fact, nowadays these kinds of games are achieving more applause and critical acclimation with much wider scope of player recognition than before. Game toolkit made available with original games keeps gaming community buzzing and experimenting with mods which allows the product to stay in the market longer than its intended lifespan. (Who wants to forget the classic sandbox game tool experiment called Minecraft and out of the world dedicated player creations using the toolkit).
Reward system (feedback measurement): In simpler terms its nothing but value for money. Again taking the help of ESA survey and put the matters into statistical figures; 43% game players believe that games have much higher value for money than other entertainment media like movies, DVD etc. And why shouldn’t be? Nowadays minimum average game-play time of the games is considered around 10-15 hours, with RPG games eating 25-30 (if it’s from Bathesda than 50 hours also not enough)hours of your life. Considering replay value which is generally high when it comes to gaming, all those numbers get doubled. And it’s not possible to count all those human hours spent in MMORPGs altogether. Games, when done masterfully, are triumph in this way as giving the long exposure time no other media can retain entertainment and interest of the user with such diligence. (Who wants to stop playing without spending less than 50 hours from say Skyrim?)
At last putting all these aside, it’s better to wrap all these up with simple economical figure, which is $14.8 billion. This is what consumer spent on gaming contents (including retail and digital distribution) in the year of 2012. Considering the dedicated Hardware and accessories this figure will rise to whopping $20.77 billion in a single year of 2012. Gaming is here to stay for long time and if somehow one managed to keep away, it’s not long that this virus will surely infect him/her sooner or later.

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Famous electronic store in Switzerland dedicating entire floor to Gaming….