Games of Tomorrow – Play them Now!

games_parlor

My Professor Friend was asking “Dr Modak, have you recently played any of the computer games on your iPad or iPhone lately?”

“Well Professor, I am not that game type person” I responded – disappointing the Professor.

“You must have tried the Angry Birds at least” Professor asked. “And you must have played Flight Simulator for sure”. When he saw my face blank with no response, he was simply amazed. “Oh almost everyone who owns an iPhone or iPad know these games. You will see people playing these games when the flights are delayed or when they are in the aircraft or when they are trying to reach their destinations on arrival and are stuck with a traffic jam”

I said I don’t fly that much and if I fly then I don’t take Jet Airways where flights are often delayed (while paying a premium price) or I don’t  go to Delhi where time taken from airport to Noida is more than the flying time between Mumbai to New Delhi.

Professor was not amused with my explanation. He continued

“My friend’s son has opened up a Game Parlor at Shivaji Park. Today is the inaugural. Why don’t you join me and take a look at some of the latest games he is offering, be at least a game-literate

I was reluctant but agreed when Professor told me that Preity Zinta is inaugurating the Games Parlor. She has been rather out of the games lately (I mean IPL) for various reasons. I like Preity Zinta and her acting

Vikram, Professors friend’s son greeted us at the entrance of the Parlor that had a neon sign “Games of Tomorrow – Play Today!” The Parlor was really well designed with hi-tech consoles fitted with gadgets such as peddles, wheels, levers, gears, track balls and the like. It gave a feeling of the future or the outer space. All consoles were occupied by the guests who had come for the inaugural. There was a lot of noise around, gurrs.. & blips !! & poops ?? from the machines; yelling and screaming dotted by shouts like “Oh Shit”, “You Smuck”, “I Got you” etc. Vikram asked me to “tour around” and see the kind of games that were being played. I had to weed through the people who were watching and waiting for their turns. I noticed some NSG or commandos. They were at the Parlor in disguise as apparently games of tomorrow had a potential to become a source of inspiration to the amateur terrorists. The NSGs had a special console with games of different kind.

I saw on the first gaming console, a friend who works as the Head (Environment) of a major Chemical industry operating in Vapi Industrial Estate.

“Hey, Patel bhai”, I tapped on his shoulder and asked “what’s the game you are playing?”

“Oh Dr Modak, didn’t know you are here. I am playing a simply fascinating game” Patel exclaimed. I saw that the screen of Patel’s console showed a complicated maze of streets with buildings, nallahs or drains, open spaces etc.  with a huge tanker and several blue colored little wagons racing around.

Patel turned around and explained “Look, I am here with a tanker full of hazardous waste and my job is to dump this waste illegally at some place without getting caught by the environmental crimes department or get under the scanner of the CCTVs placed at locations unknown. See these blue colored police vans chasing me all over? The game allows me to jump the traffic signals, take one way streets in any direction, hide under a flyover, cross speed limits and even clone as an ambulance (but allowed only twice). My objective is to dump the hazardous waste somehow and if I can do this within the time allotted (10 minutes) without getting caught or confronted then I win!! “Patel winked and said “Real case isn’t it?” I couldn’t disagree.  Vikram told me later that this game (called “Run to dump”) was going to be one of the most popular games in the Parlor.

I moved ahead and found another friend on the gaming console who was doing a great business with municipal corporations on solid waste. “Hey, Reddy – Dr Modak here. How come you are here and what kind of game are you playing?” I asked Reddy who was fully concentrating on the screen with his hands firmly on the track ball. He did not even turn around to talk to me

He screamed (as there was already too much of noise) “Dr Modak, This game is called “Dig for the Gold”. See these waste heaps on the screen? You have a vehicle to reach these waste heaps and are given “tools” to dig (amount of waste you can scoop at one time) and extract any “gold” that you may get to make money. To illustrate, Reddy reached a waste heap, “applied” his extraction tool that could mine 1 ton of waste. In return, he got only the muck and not the gold. Reddy  then attempted second time a scoop of 3 tons and in this attempt managed 1 kg of gold. He got points or was rewarded raising his score

” Oh, why don’t you scoop 10 tons at a time then you will have more chance to get gold?” I asked a stupid question. Reddy laughed and said, “Well you try scooping more then you have to pay more (you lose points) plus  you have to pay for the muck as well as the “tipping fee”.  If you scoop less then you have less chances of such liabilities but then you may not get that much of gold – so it’s more like risk taking – something I do in my real life!” I understood the complexity of the game now. “Are there any levels in this game” I asked. This question was answered by Vikram. He said that higher levels of this game present you more number of waste heaps, shorter time and with more complex composition of metals like aluminum. “This game must be making folks real waste-hungry, I guess” I mused. You would like to see waste heaps everywhere as an opportunity. I was convinced that people who will become master of this game will certainly hate Swatch Bharat Abhiyan 

I saw many such novel games or games of the future running on other consoles. There was a new SIMS Version for managing flash floods in a city due to climate change and a new version of the Farming Simulator was around where it was found that spurious pesticides were used contaminated with metals in farming. All these games were very challenging and looked pretty real to prepare us for tomorrow.

In this while, the Professor was looking for me as Preity Zinta had arrived. She was asked to inaugurate one of the latest games called “Water Wars”. She inaugurated the game by pressing the “start” key. (I don’t know how many of you know but Preity Zinta did something commendable for drought-hit villages in Nashik during the IPL matches by funding a new well in Nirhale-Phattepur. Apart from providing water to the village via water tankers, Preity put in a lot of efforts to address the village water scarcity. So I thought that she was the right person to be asked to inaugurate the game “Water Wars”. She seemed like an actor who “acts”)

This game was to be played by two people at the same time. On the screen was an interstate river crossing two States (I thought the river was Cauvery but Vikram vehemently denied). There was a menu of options for water use or for water withdrawal for a player to exercise in the interest of the State the “player” belonged. The flow and quality of the river would change whenever a choice was made affecting the State downstream. In the gaming period of 10 minutes, a player could take a maximum of 10 decisions, but sequentially. (I thought that this was not a good idea – fundamentally!)

The underlying “model” of the game must be real complex (and I could see Professor’s hand there) as it accounted for variations in the rainfall. It had the “groundwater connection”, it factored the impact of cropping patterns, accounted for drinking, cattle and industrial water requirements. River use for waste assimilation and impact on river biodiversity were also addressed.

The player in the upstream of the river was making life miserable for the player downstream who was expected to use “coping tools”, political response and take support of the judiciary for fairness and justice. The judiciary in some cases would stop the player upstream and “penalize” for the unfair decision and lower the score. This “water war” would thus continue and at the end of the 10 minutes, winner would be the player who will meet interest (economic, social and environmental) of both the States in an amicable manner.

As we watched the game, we realized that this was not going to be true. Both the players were doing their best to meet their own State’s interest and kept exploiting the river in a manner that seemed reckless.

When nine minutes crossed and the last option or decision was to be exercised by the player upstream, a loud and screechy sound came from the console and the screen started blinking like a malfunctioned traffic light. Everybody was stunned as game had halted.

“Oh my mistake” Professor said sheepishly. “I never thought that in the gaming process there will be a situation of no water in the Cauvery – I will need to refix my simulation model Vikram”

So the beans got spilled. It was indeed the river Cauvery.

But was this only a game or a reality? I said to myself after getting an autograph from Preity Zinta.

I got home with a membership form for the Parlor that Vikram tucked in my pocket


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