Gaming: The gaming culture in Bhutan is relatively new, but it is fast picking up, especially among the young.
For most of us, playing video games was simple – trying to rescue the queen by escaping the vicious turtles and eating up little red mushrooms in the Super Mario saga, or arranging the tiles in Tetris game. Video games were simply a mode of entertainment.
Over the years, however, the evolution of video games has seen unprecedented development. From the archaic buttons and controllers to the most sophisticated joysticks, gaming consoles and graphics enhancement, there have been dramatic evolution in the culture.
From ancient stories to predicting the future, video games now have it all. The mute characters have finally found their voice and interaction through the online multiplayer options have enhanced the way we experience the game.
Advent of advance gaming practice has become part of our modern culture. Thimphu alone has over 80 gaming parlours, of which around 40 percent are located along the Norzin Lam.
It is here in these parlours that we can see most of the youth glued to the computer screens.
Tshering Dorji, a class VII student of Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School, is on a summer break. He spends almost five hours at the game parlour just below his house in the heart of town. The 12-year-old has been saving for the last four months to buy a Play Station 3.
“I don’t think I will be able to buy a PS-3 with my savings,” said Tshering Dorji. “I bought myself a shirt, I’ll use rest to play Dota.”
Defence of the Ancients (Dota) is one of the most popular multiplayer online games today. Dota is a strategy game where two teams of five engage in a battle to destroy the heavily guarded structure called the Ancients. Each player on the team controls a particular character in the game.
And then there is Counter Strike, Call of Duty series, Grand Theft Auto, Battlefield, StarCraft, War Craft, Pro Evolution Scorer, Halo 3, Age Of Empire, God Of War. The list goes on and on. Children living in the urban centres have found refuge in these modern fantasy worlds. While most prefer to play at the parlours, most of the homes are also now equipped with latest Play Station, Nintendo and Xbox Microsoft.
Planet World, a popular gaming parlour in the heart of the capital, is almost packed throughout the day. Dota 2 is the most popular game in the parlour. Apart from Dota, football games like Winning Eleven is also preferred by some of the adult players.
“Winning Eleven is for the old. They do not know the thrill of playing Dota,” said Kesang Tashi, a student of Druk School. While the young prefer Dota to other games, the adults have found their interest in football and war-based games.
“Dota and Counter Strike are for kids. Football is a man’s game,” said Jamyang, a corporate employee. “You just don’t kill for fun. It instigates violence among kids. Football is a social game.”
While the choice of the games differs from person to person, it is evident that the electronic sporting culture is here to stay.
Online games are interactive, said Tshering, who runs Galaxy Game Parlour in Thimphu. “We have many games here at the parlour, but the online games are very popular. It not only keeps students away from unhealthy practices but also helps them in gaining valuable computer knowledge.”
Tshering said that there are a few parents who understand the importance of computer-based games and allow their children to play. “If played in limit, online games also help kids socialise with others,” he said. “We also make sure that the kids are not learning anything that is not appropriate to their age.”
The advent of mobile technology in recent years has added to the gaming culture in the country. Mobile games are fast becoming popular irrespective of the age group. Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, Temple Run, Zuma, Angry Birds are some of the most popular games played on mobile phones today.
Meanwhile, a group of gamers in the capital are organising Dota 2 summer league. This is the second edition of the competition.
One of the organisers, Jigme Lebcha, said that the competition is being organised because of huge number of people playing the game today. “It is also to bring in people with same interest together and form a team to represent the country in international competitions,” he said.