A crime ring in Bangalore, India, whose hobbies included extortion, loan sharking, and using nicknames, has been taken down by the Organized Crime division of the Central Crime Branch (CCB), according to a report on ExpressBuzz. The group’s activities included doling out high interest loans to businessmen and "hawkers" (interest charged on a daily or hourly basis, no less), and extorting protection money from videogame parlors, bars, restaurants, and businessmen. Besides shaking down videogames parlors, the other relevant link is that this crime organization was allegedly working with a politician.
An Indian youth recently spent over 40 hours straight playing Grand Theft Auto IV, and instead of a one-way ticket to ReStart, he received congratulations and a spot in the record books.
That’s because Chirantan Patnaik of Mumbai set a Guinness World Record with his gameathon, surpassing the previous GTA IV-specific endurance mark of 28 hours and one minute, which was set by a U.S. gamer last year. Patnaik lasted a total of 40 hours and 20 minutes reports ZeeNews, with Guinness rules mandating a 10-minute break every hour.
Patnaik prepared for his binge by running and practicing yoga. He added that avoiding coffee and eating dates (the fruit) helped him stay alert during the session. An avid gamer, this was the first time Patnaik had played GTA IV.
Indian gaming portal Zapak sponsored the event and provided observers. The company’s COO, Rohit Sharma, offered the following about Patnaik:
We have always believed in the potential of Indian gamers. Chirantan's success is a proud moment for the Indian gaming industry. This will encourage more youngsters to take gaming seriously.
Returning to a theme that he touched upon often during the 2008 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama told the audience at a town hall meeting in Wisconsin that American kids spend too much time playing video games and watching television.
But Obama added a new wrinkle to yesterday's remarks, linking them to the United States' ability to compete in the global marketplace:
Even with the good schools, we've got to pick up the pace, because the world has gotten competitive. The Chinese, the Indians, they're coming at us and they're coming at us hard, and they're hungry, and they're really buckling down.
And they watch - their kids watch a lot less TV than our kids do, play a lot fewer video games, they're in the classroom a lot longer.
So here's the bottom line. We've got to improve, we've got to step up our game. While the average public school is actually doing a reasonably good job... we are falling behind when it comes to math; our kids are falling behind when it comes to science...
We used to be head and shoulders above other countries when it came to education. We aren't anymore. We're sort of in the middle of the pack now among wealthy, advanced, industrialised countries.
Angered by Sony's failure to recall a PlayStation 2 game which they find offensive, a group of Hindu leaders have called for a worldwide boycott on Sony products. The move comes on the eve of Sony's E3 press conference here in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
As GamePolitics has reported in recent weeks, Rajan Zed (left), a Hindu leader who lives in the United States, is spearheading the protest against Hanuman: Boy Warrior. In addition to Zed, today's announcement identifies seven other Hindu leaders from Australia, India and the U.S. Zed and the others believe Hanuman is an affront to the Hindu faith and they recently threatened to call for a boycott if Sony did not pull the game from the market. Today's announcement signals that Sony has not given in to their demands.
A press release issued earlier today announced the boycott, citing what the group calls the "stiff-necked attitude of Sony officials":
Vexed by stiff-necked attitude of Sony officials, various Hindu groups have given worldwide boycott call against Sony PlayStation products...
Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, in an earlier statement, said that in a video game set-up, the player controlled the destiny of Lord Hanuman while in reality the believers put the destinies of themselves in the hands of their deities...
Hindu leaders communicated their displeasure to Sony and tried to resolve the issue through discussions, but callous attitude of Sony officials frustrated their efforts, leaving them with no other alternative except the boycott call.
It is unclear what impact the call for a boycott might have. Hanuman is the first console game developed entirely by an Indian firm.
For the past several weeks some Hindu leaders have been urging Sony to withdraw Hanuman: Boy Warrior from the market.
The recently-released PlayStation 2 game, available only in the Indian market, is also the first console title to be entirely developed by an Indian firm. Some Hindus, however, are upset by the game's depiction of Lord Hanuman, one of the religion's deities.
To date, the protest - largely waged via e-mail - has been led by Rajan Zed, the Nevada-based president of Universal Society of Hinduism. In a press release issued last evening, Zed upped the ante by raising the possibility of a worldwide Hindu boycott of Sony products. Zed has given Sony until May 21st to respond:
Hindus upset over Sony’s “Hanuman: Boy Warrior” videogame and further frustrated by the callous handling by Sony officials, might give a boycott call of all Sony products world over... despite communication between Sony officials and Hindu leaders, the issue had not been resolved yet. Sony officials said that they would look into it and be back with the Hindu leaders, but they were yet to hear back from Sony...
If nothing was heard by Hindu leaders from Sony by May 21, then all the protesting Hindu groups and leaders would re-evaluate the protest and announce the future course, which might include calling for boycott of Sony products world over by Hindus and other likeminded people and supporters...
GP: It is unclear whether Rajan Zed and the other Hindu leaders involved in the protest to date have the clout to bring a meaningful boycott about against Sony. Also unclear is how well Hanuman is selling in India. The game has received some withering reviews.
Hindu groups protesting the recent release of Hanuman: Boy Warrior for the PlayStation 2 have apparently run out of patience with Sony.
As GamePolitics reported last week, U.S.-based Hindu leader Rajan Zed said that Sony was looking into claims that the game, released only in India, is offensive to Hindus.
However a press release issued by Zed earlier this week seems to indicate that Sony will not intervene in Hanuman's distribution. Bhavna Shinde of Forum for Hindu Awakening (also based in the United States) is quoted in the release:
So now we are left with no other alternative except to intensify our protests. Lord Hanuman is a highly revered Deity for us Hindus and we cannot accept any more denigration of Him...
We are shocked at the stubbornness of Sony Corporation not to withdraw the PlayStation2 game 'Hanuman: Boy Warrior' despite our repeated requests. Sony Corporation is held in high esteem the world over with high ethical principles. We were expecting that Sony would not hurt the feelings of the one billion strong Hindu population for a minor product like this game.
Although Hanuman is the first console game developed completely in India, it has received very poor reviews from Indian gaming sites.
The U.S.-based Hindu leader who initiated what has turned into a multinational Hindu protest against a PlayStation 2 game sold in India claims that Sony has agreed to look into the issue.
As GamePolitics reported last week, Rajan Zed (left) criticized Hanuman: Boy Warrior for trivializing the Hindu faith. The game was developed by an Indian firm, Aurona Technologies Limited.
In a press release issued earlier today Zed writes:
Replying to the communiqué of Bhavna Shinde of Forum for Hindu Awakening, Keita Sanekata of Sony Electronics Inc wrote, “We will review this issue, and get back to you as soon as possible.”
Advancing the protest spearheaded by acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, Shinde earlier wrote Sanekata to “look into withdrawing this game and publishing an apology, so as to prevent further denigration of our Deity Sree Hanuman and intensifying of our protests..."
Zed is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, a group which also apparently protested the 2008 Mike Meyer film The Love Guru.
An American Hindu leader's protest against India's first homegrown console game appears to be gaining momentum.
As GamePolitics reported last week, U.S.-based Hindu spokesman Rajan Zed criticized Aurona Technologies' Hanuman: Boy Warrior for supposedly trivializing the Hindu deity.
Zed's protest against the critically-slammed PS2 title has gained support among Australian Hindus, according to a press release issued by Vamsi Krishna of Australia:
[The game is] very disrespectful, disgraceful and an insult to all those devotees of Lord Hanuman and followers of Hindu dharma.
[Sony should] remove this video game with immediate effect from the market before this causes further unrest in the Hindu community worldwide and issue an apology to all those who have been hurt by this insensitiveness.
Meanwhile, Indian site TopNews reports comments by SCEE spokesperson Atindriya Bose who said that Sony has not yet worked out its response to the protests:
Hindus in Australia and USA have started this movement and posted their requests on the web. Till this time, there has been no direct communication with the said groups and we haven't received any intimation from them officially.
Since we are not aware of [the protesters'] exact point of objection, we are in no position to comment on our plan of action. However, we are keeping a tab of the situation and hope to resolve it soon.
While the Zeebo claims to be competitively priced... [it is] not competitive, but it’s fairly expensive for what the console offers... Compare it to India’s largest selling and still very popular console, the PlayStation 2, which is priced at Rs 6,490 ($125), and it’s easy to see that the Zeebo won’t be making much of a dent in the Indian market, which is heavily influenced by prices.
[Another] advantage with PS2 games is that once you purchase a game, it’s yours for life, whereas on the Zeebo it’s only yours while it’s stored on your Zeebo’s 1GB flash memory. If you delete it to make room for something else, you’ll have to buy it again to get it back...
Digital distribution... just doesn’t work here. In India, buyers are most comfortable exchanging cash over a store counter. Online shopping has failed to pick up in India, and even the well-educated are wary of buying products and content over the big bad internet...
UPDATE: xbitlabs writes that Sony's just-announced PS2 price cut is to a certain extent a pre-emptive strike against Zeebo.
The first console game developed entirely in India is about to launch, reports Gaming Indians:
Sony had tied up with a bunch of Indian studios to develop games for the PS2... of those, Hyderabad-based Aurono Technologies’ Hanuman game was the farthest along and would be the first Indian PS2 game to hit store shelves...
Aurona’s game, it seems, is finally ready for release. It’s titled Hanuman: Boy Warrior and is pegged as an Action-Adventure game. Targetting the casual PS2 owner, the game is priced at an attractive Rs 499 [US$9.61]. There is still no release date announced, but it should be available around the second half of this month.
Hanuman: Boy Wonder is not only targetted at the Indian market, but also at Indians abroad, and the game may well see a release in other SCEE territories, particularly the UK...
Over at GamerTell scribe PJ Hruschak is a bit frustrated with a security analyst who likened the Mumbai terror attacks to a "video game killing fantasy."
RAND Corp. analyst Brian Jenkins made the comment during a recent interview with NPR's Talk of the Nation:
We’re talking about a warrior subculture here. And I suspect that those who actually carried out the attack certainly were convinced that going down shooting was better than secretly planting bombs in public places... This in a sense for them was an opportunity to demonstrate their conviction, courage, although it doesn’t require a lot of courage to gun down unarmed people, but it becomes a kind of a real-life video game killing fantasy for the actual attackers themselves.
Jenkins probably meant no offense, but his remarks will likely rile some gamers. Hruschak explains:
Taken out of context, that sure sounds like Jenkins is a gamer hater. Really, he’s just trying to give a visual way of describing the attacks for an aural media. It’s more trying to describe the psychological state of the terrorists rather than specifically likening games to terrorist acts.
Even so, describing bombings as “unmanly” (inferring that gunning down innocent people is manly), indicating these terrorists are part of a “warrior subculture” and that “going down shooting” is a “a more attractive ending” and then summarizing it all as a “real-life, video game killing fantasy” should not sit well with many gamers.
After all, how many people has Cooking Mama, er, Mario killed?
The CBC reports that a Canadian voice actor with video game experience was among those wounded in yesterday's terror rampage in Mumbai, India.
Michael Rudder was one of two wounded Canadians who were part of a delegation on a trip to India...
Rudder, who has worked in film, theatre and television, is a voice performer who has played roles in cartoons, commercials and video games, including top sellers Assassin's Creed and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3. He has also performed in the animated PBS series Postcards From Buster.
Rudder's other game work includes:
GP: Thanks to GamePolitics reader Sean Bustin for the tip!
Citing "cultural sensitivities," GamingIndians reports that Fallout 3 won't go on sale as scheduled next week in India.
By way of explanation GamingIndians cites a terse statement from Microsoft India, which is - or was - handling Fallout 3 distribution there:
Microsoft constantly endeavors to bring the best games to Indian consumers in sync with their international release. However, in light of cultural sensitivities in India, we have made the business decision to not bring Fallout 3 into the country.
Only the Xbox 360 version was planned for the Indian market.
GP: It's a bit of a mystery, but if I were a betting man, I'd speculate that Fallout 3's post-nuclear apocalypse theme has something to do with the decision.
After all, India has been in a stare-down with neighboring Pakistan for decades. Both sides are nuked up and as recently as 2002, almost went to war.
The Flash game, posted on an Indian website, parodies the numerous political struggles faced by India's Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh:
Singh Is King's charm and goofball mood belies the black humor behind the game's obstacles. There's the obvious, such as a grinning President Bush floating in air with an outstretched arm, but there are also references to the PM's frequent clashes with India's communist party... as well as India's failure to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Perhaps the darkest token, however, are the Indian farmers that Singh is occasionally forced to leap. In 2003 alone, more than 17,000 farmers committed suicide in India, swallowing pesticides to avoid the shame of debt and family financial ruin brought on by an agricultural economic crisis...
Singh Is King is, therefore, worth a look on two fronts. It's a reasonable way to pass a few errant minutes and gives a peek at how politics are penetrating game culture around the world.