Hyderabad ‘Games for Good’ workshop aims to live up to its name

Game development scene in India is constantly leaping and the Indian gaming enthusiasts are diving into gaming as a viable career option. Games for the wellness of society are one of the areas which game developers have been exploring over the years. Being one of the gaming hubs, Hyderabad has recently launched four-day program  Games for Good: Designing Games starting from 25 July to 28 July with a social impact at T-Hub in the association of the U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad and the Indo-American Centre (IAC). On hand to open the event were U.S. Consul General in Hyderabad Katherine Hadda and Government of Telangana IT Secretary Jayesh Ranjan. “As IT Secretary, it’s always very inspiring for me to see our best technological talent thinking about how they can use their skills to impact their communities and the world around them. Gaming has exploded as a medium in India and across the world, and I’m glad that the U.S. Consulate here is helping creators to understand that it can be a medium for social change as well as enjoyment. This program also provides local game companies with an opportunity to test their mettle, showcase their creativity, and enhance their reputations,” commented Ranjan during the inauguration of the event.   The idea of the workshop is to communicate and inspire more video game designers to use their skills in creating video games that address social issues. In a candid conversation, Animation Xpress spoke with U.S Embassy and Consulate India assistant public affairs officer Akash Suri said, “Diplomats are always thinking about how we can get our messages across to people. Countries like India, our messages are often the same as what the Indian government wants to talk about. We also want to talk about trafficking, water rights, water scarcity and so on. We typically might use stuff like film diplomacy or music diplomacy and others but in this case, we thought why don’t we try gaming diplomacy for the first time?” That is the reason they brought together talents in Hyderabad which is according to him is an amazing ecosystem for video game development. “We brought trainers from the United States; video game developers, instructors from some of our best game design school. We also brought in experts who can talk about issues related to water, inter-state co-operation. So that the participants will get a good mix of everything that they need to conceptualise a game that could change people’s mind about issues that important to India and the United States. That’s the basic idea.” The program will include a two-day workshop which will be led by American games design expert Sean Bouchard, of the University of Southern California’s Media and Games Division, American gaming industry veteran Vijay Lakshman, and IIIT Hyderabad Professor Dr. Kavita Vemuri who specializes in game design and engineering.  The workshop will be followed by a two-day game jamming during which participants will form teams and conceptualise their own games that address social issues. In addition to that Suri expressed that the idea of games for social exchange is very popular in the United States. According to him the experts that they have brought over actually specialise in narrative, user choice, design aspects of the game and so on. Apart from that, there are also some who are right here in India. Citing an example he said  “One of the trainers, Indian doctor Kavita Vumaresh, she talks a lot about serious gaming. Still, I would say that the U.S has very unique experts on the topic. So by bringing them here to interact with the game developers, it’s going to be a very unique experience because a lot of Indian game developers haven’t had formal game design courses. So along with the technical aspect, they can also merge the narrative aspects of gaming. So that’s what we’re bringing to the table. Over the next few days, Saturday and Sunday the game plan would be to get the participants get acquainted with the core concepts of storytelling and interactions to see what comes out of it.” According to him, it is always good to bring out social topics like trafficking and so on to empower and create awareness among people. Additionally, the best part is that there is also money involved where the designs can actually get funds for the development of the concept. “Usually programs like this there is no fast forward and we are here actually make the game. Hoping this weekend we will come out with cool ideas and find some money to actually make them,” he added. Also, there is a hunch that the top five game development ideas at the end of the workshop might get funds from Government of Telengana through this initiative. However, in respect to that, Suri expressed that it is the new aspect which was added on the spot yesterday, therefore, there is not too much to say about it. He elaborated “That also surprised us actually. One of the senior delegates surprised us on the stage when he asked about the top five ideas and he wanted to see how we could fund them. And companies also said that they could do the same thing. This is a new aspect so I don’t have too much to say about it except that if good ideas come out of this that I could see a path forward to getting them actually made. And that’s really interesting.” He further added this will also boost global collaborations as the best experts from the US gaming sector has joined the initiative to make  Indian gaming ecosystem similar to US. The m participants are also getting chance to communicate and build connections which might further help them in the long run. And almost all the resources an Indian game developer requires to develop games are already here from Microsoft to Amd and Nvidia. More than 60 participants in the program were competitively selected and represent a broad spectrum of the gaming industry in Hyderabad, including developers at independent gaming studios, employees at multinational technology companies operating in Hyderabad, and students studying game design and graphic arts.  So we were really curious to know what is their plan in respect to the expansion of the initiative in the other parts of the country, on the same  he has expressed the embassy in Delhi is interested in the programme and whole expansion thing is depends on the response although it is too early for them to comment anything maybe post the event they might have a concrete answer on the same.