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July 6, 2006

India competing with China in Online Gaming

Wired News had an article roughly two weeks ago about India's explicit interests in competing with China in terms of online gaming, both as an industry and as sports, emphasized e.g. by an increased and increasingly professional participation in the Electronic Sports World Cup end of June this year. The article mentions the "heightened game awareness" which alludes to the highly culturally specific relationship towards (digital) games as advertising tool, medium or even art. Apparently, cultural sentiments, i.e. the long-standing rivalry with China in economic and other areas, seem to be a key incentive both for the official investments into digital game technology (e.g. growing broadband penetration) and for the players' increasing adoption of gaming as a hobby or even profession. One opposing cultural factor mentioned in the article is the focus on studying and outperforming one's peers, in Indian concepts of childhood which hamper the acceptance of games (or could be a useful trigger to promote it?). Marketing apparently is a weak point in the Indian media landscape, especially if it comes to promoting new media technologies adequately, i.e. as supplements to more traditional content like movies and music.
The most interesting aspects of the article, however, are the circumstances that must be met (or are being created) for online gaming and digital games in general to take off in India. Those factors, e.g. the development of an Indian middle class, are only mentioned in passing. Since the adoption of digital games in Western cultures is a highly naturalized process, watching the embeddedness of this new medium in a particular socio-cultural environment in a very different setting like India can be a valuable exercise. Another, quite profane aspect is the inconsistency of electricity which is even a problem in large cities where backup generators are more frequent. Since not much information like this is available at the moment, the picture still remains highly fragmented as of yet.

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