University of Stirling
Meghdoot: Using new technologies to tell age-old stories was conceived as part of the Arts and Humanities Council sponsored 'Unplay' project, under the aegis of its Unbox scheme, a collaborative endeavour with the British Council and the Unbox Festival, an interdisciplinary festival that celebrates creative work at the intersections of art, design and technology.
Despite the exemplary progress in areas of computing, programming and animation in India, there are still no major game companies or developers creating games that compete on a global level 1. In order to explore why this might be, and how our research might stimulate such growth, we are using a two-pronged approach; our methodology can be split into data gathering and analysis of that data, and practice-based research through the creation of a game. The data-gathering is being conducted by an online and offline survey of game developers and gamers, across socio-cultural and linguistic communities in India (covering platform reach, importance of storytelling, gaming practices, problems of accessibility) and through interviews with game developers, gamers, critics, game companies and studios in the UK, US and India. Scoping the market needs to be underpinned by empirical research, which is one of the aims of this project, these explorations will look both inwards at the Indian market, but also the potential of videogames made in India in the global market.
Meghdoot was formulated by me in my role as principal investigator as a response to the open-ended brief articulated by my research partners, which was to create a Kinect-based game while based in India, working with local partners. My conceptualisation of the game was underpinned by three assumptions: that the affordances of the Kinect should be used to its fullest potential; that we should make a conscious effort to move away from Anglo-Saxon linear narrative sequences in the game's design; and that while using deploying an aesthetic that was inspired by the game's Indian origins, it should not resort to usual tropes of the exotic or the oriental. The narrative of the game itself operates on a meta-textual level, in that it is a videogame (a storytelling medium) about storytelling. In order to make the best use of the affordances of the Kinect, the three levels of the game draws on narrative modes that co-exist simultaneously in contemporary India: the textual, the gestural and the oral. As the first phase that developed Meghdoot was successful, my research partners and I have received a second tranche of funding which has allowed us to develop another game, drawing on our learnings obtained from our earlier collaboration.
Research for both games involve modelling artefacts within the game on heritage artefacts from museums, thus providing alternative channels of interpretation for the cultural heritage sector in India, which till date has been quite conservative and prescriptive.These assets have been developed by 3D scanning and rendering cultural objects from various institutions, and part of our research focuses on exploring how the narratives embedded in these objects can be communicated in the gameplay and communication and work as supplementary collateral. The aim is to ultimately educate players in basic programming, in order to create very simple 3D controllers that can be used in the game. In order to do this effectively, empirical research will be conducted into levels of literacy required to acquire simple digital skills—a feat that has been made infinitely more cost-effective and feasible by the introduction of such mini computers as the Raspberry Pi on the market.
The aims of this project are perfectly fitted to this year's conference theme of digital cultural empowerment. By incorporating a 'making' aspect to the game, this research will address how hands-on interaction with code and technologies can enhance the experience of the game as it can create a sense of ownership of artefacts used with the game. The attractiveness of 'digital making' and its relationship to games, in both 2D and 3D space and how it can educate users, has been an important focus of recent research, due to games like Minecraft. Transposing these practices to an Indian context, should yield significant outputs as “Technology usage in turn is shaped by the socioeconomic location of the user, especially in regards to gender and caste” 2. This poster session will demo both game prototypes, and be enhanced by slides of storyboards and showing stages of research design. Discussion of the research will focus on how affordances, cultural context, market and the target demographic should shape game design.
1. E.W. Adams (2009), The Promise of India: Ancient Culture, Modern Game Design' at the NASSCOM Animation and Gaming Summit 2009, Game Development Summit Keynote Address, November 7, 2009. [http://www.designersnotebook.com/Lectures/India/india.htm]
2. A. Schwittay (2011), New Media Practices in India: Bridging Past and Future, Markets and Development.' International Journal of Communication, Volume 5, (2011) pp. 349-379.
S. Mukherjee (2012), India in 'Encyclopedia of Video Games: The Culture, Technology, and Art of Gaming, Volume 1' edited by Mark J.P. Wolf (Santa Barbara: Greenwood, 2012) pp. 312-314.
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Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne
July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014
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Series: ADHO (9)