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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chp 564. My greatest moment in Gaming

I got my first gaming console back in 1991 – A Nintendo Samurai (if I’m not mistaken, it’s called "Nintendo Samurai" only here in India because "Samurai" was the name of the distributor whereas everywhere else it was simply known as "NES" – Nintendo Entertainment System). 

I remember that moment so well because I went through hell trying to carry my Nintendo into Mizoram!

Back in the late 80’s, I had my first experience with video games when dad bought an Atari console. Our family spent sleepless nights playing Space Invaders and Tennis together. And as always, my eldest sister u Lapuii would lose her shit with the controllers and end up breaking the joysticks when they "didn’t behave the way she commanded them" :D 

That was when I fell in love with video games.

Back then, I was packed off to a boarding school in Calcutta - St. Thomas, Khidderpore. It was there that I heard about the next generation of 8-bit video games called Nintendo Samurai. After countless number of “DUE” stamped letters sent to my parents (those days, we could just write “due” on an envelope instead of sticking a stamp, and the receiver pays the postman for the letter, ahhh those good ol’ days), begging my parents for this new gaming console.

I begged and begged and begged.

Finally, when I was supposed to return home from hostel because of summer vacation, my parents finally gave in. They instructed my Marwari local guardian uncle Bhantia to purchase that gaming console for me. When uncle Bhantia came to our hostel to pick me up and told me the news, I was ecstatic!

He took me to AC Market (can’t believe the place still exists even today!) and bought me my first ever Nintendo Samurai. I also bought Super Mario Bros, Contra, Mega Man and Duck Hunt cartridges along with it.

The moment I reached my guardian’s apartment, I assembled the console like crazy. Uncle Bhantia's entire family all packed around me. It was a joint family so there was uncle Bhantia, his wife and 2 kids,  his brother, brother's wife and kids, and his parents. To this day, I still can't imagine how they all managed to live together in that tiny apartment :D But those were some great memories indeed. I still remember how much they too loved playing the games for the first time.

Now the reason why I said I went through hell to get that gaming console into Mizoram was because of this - The next morning was my flight to Mizoram, and uncle Bhantia woke me up, and like an obedient child, I got ready. My suitcase was packed and my Nintendo console was separately packed as a carry-on baggage.

I was just 11 years old then, but I had fair knowledge of what to do at the airport. After security check-in, I was on my own. That was when I faced the problem. The security personnel looked at my gaming console through the x-ray machine and thought it was a bomb! Apparently, they had never seen a gaming console before! I had to assemble my Nintendo Samurai right there at the airport for them to see. After a lot of hesitation and senior officers getting involved, I was finally able to convince them it was not dangerous and I was allowed to carry it through.

And no, the nightmare didn’t end there.

As we flew to Mizoram in the wobbling old Vayudoot towards Tuirial airfield, the 28-seater plane had to turn around and head back to Calcutta due to bad weather! And so back in Cal, uncle Bhantia was still there waiting for me. We headed back to his apartment and the next morning he dropped me at the airport again. And AGAIN, I faced an issue with the airport security. Apparently, the security guards had changed and they asked me to dismantle my gaming console again, and again a few senior officials had to get involved.

That is why I remember that incident so well. You really can’t forget something like that.

Fortunately, my flight was successful the second time and I reached home finally, and all my friends were amazed with my new gaming console. I was like the talk of the town!

Anyway, yeah, to cut a long story short, the gaming industry had greatly evolved since then. After the 8-bit consoles, came the 16-bit ones by SEGA, Nintendo SNES, NEC, NeoGeo etc and suddenly the electronics market was flooded with new gaming consoles everywhere. The graphics quality vastly improved, and very soon I was begging my folks to upgrade me from the NES to an SNES. The Mario Bros franchise too did extremely well, spewing out different sequels. Other favorite games of mine those days were Double Dragon, Heavy Barrel, Ice Climber, Circus Charlie, Excite Bike, Donkey Kong, Adventure Island, TMNT etc to name a few. Even the cartridges evolved from a single game cartridge to 4-in-one to a whooping 9999-in-one! :D

And then it was time for the computer era (aka Rise of the PC Master Race :P ). From simple MS-DOS games like Dave, Prince of Persia, Wolfenstein 3D, Carmen Sandiego and Oregon Trail that could fit in a single (or a few) floppy disks to present day PC games like the latest Wolfenstein version and Grand Theft Auto whose installation files alone are more than 60 GB in size, we have indeed come a long way since then...

Till today, I have played hundreds of games across different platforms, categories and genres. I’m not going to bore you with all the games I’ve played, but I must admit, I am indeed happy to be working in an industry I am extremely passionate about. From quitting the advertising industry to starting our own mobile gaming company with friends, to getting acquired by a bigger company specializing in celebrity gaming, it had been a most wonderful journey so far.

Just the other day, we were reminiscing and discussing about what our favorite moments in gaming were, and this led me to a deep thought. There are just too many to name for me, ranging from those days I would skip classes in Engineering college just to find the damn Zod runes in Diablo II, to staying up for 3 days straight trying to complete the (then) newly released Age of Mythology, Rise of Nations  & Warcraft III campaigns, or actually staying up the entire night in office under the pretext of completing a project deadline, when in fact it was actually because my tribe was currently at war with another tribe at an MMORPG browser game I was deeply involved in! 

Even now, if we take the computer gaming era aside, the whole gaming industry is still on a steady evolution, moving from normal consoles to motion detection consoles like Wii, PS Move and Kinect, to the rise of the mobile gaming industry that gave a new definition of gaming experience known as "mobile-first games", not to mention new entrants like Oculus Rift guaranteed to take Virtual Reality gaming by storm. So many experiences to choose from...

And then it struck me.

Yes, the best moment in gaming for me is definitely this -

Yup, nothing will ever beat the joy and exhilaration I felt when I discovered the warp zone of Super Mario Bros all on my own! And this was after I had completed the entire Super Mario Bros quest.

Those were the days when there was no such thing as the "internet", so there was no question of going online to look for walkthroughs, cheats and strategy guide. You had to do everything the hard way back then, all on your own.

After playing Super Mario Bros more than a hundred times and even managing to rescue the damn princess from world 8-4 (and all she freaking did was present me with a new quest!), it was such an exciting moment for me when I was replaying the game and accidentally went up the "elevator" on world 1-2 and I didn't die, and so I got curious and went and explored further, only to discover the hidden shortcut!

Of course I was aware of all the "easter eggs" hidden within the game as I discovered many of the secret 1up boxes, coin rooms and coin heavens across different levels. But I never expected the warp zone at all. Later, when I discovered the second warp zone (world 4-2), I was happy, but not as excited as I was when I discovered the first warp zone. And an even bigger rush for me was the realization that I completed world 8-4 without having any knowledge of the warp zones! :)

So I guess that was my favorite moment in gaming. It is a memory that will forever be etched in my head and a moment that made me cherish gaming on a whole new level. So what was your favorite gaming moment and why? Do tell me your story.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Chp 563. Birthday Party in Pune

When you’re in your mid-thirties and still single, you have no other option but to love kids. By that time, most of your close friends or relatives in your age group have kids of their own, so you gotta stay in the game and act like you love kids in order to blend in. :)

Whether you like it or not, all your office water-cooler conversations or weekend hangout with friends now revolve around topics on diapers and pre-school admissions, and you shake your head wondering whatever happened to the good ol days when the topic of conversation used to be just about breasts, not breast feeding.

At work, my fellow Co-Founder and partner of FITH Media Sumeet just had a baby boy, and his life changed forever every since :) And another close friend Abhilash our Art Director is expecting his first child next month. Bloody hell, we singles are becoming a dying breed day by day.

Outside work, things are pretty much the same too. Just this Saturday, I was invited to a birthday party by my dear friend Daniel. It was a combined birthday party for his daughter (4 years) and son (1 year).

By the way, this was not my first kid's birthday party. Back in Mumbai too, I had been a regular invitee at various children's birthday parties too. A kid's birthday party is not exactly a Spring Break kinda party, if you know what I mean.

Remember how much you used to look forward to birthday parties back when you were a teen? Oh yeah, that was the shizzle back then. Birthday parties back then meant having the time of your life, painting the town red, experimenting with stuff and having a memorable experience you’ll remember for a very long time. Sometimes, I still think I’m a teen deep inside.

I’m not going to give the clich├ęd old "Age is just a number" line by NKOTB (oh snap, did I just quote NKOTB?) but the reason why I think I’m still a teen deep inside is because a part of me refuses to grow up. While this may be a good thing if one is developing products meant for this particular market segment, it kinda leaves you out in the lurch when you’re with your own age group.

So yeah, coming back to Daniel’s birthday party for his two kids, I was a bit apprehensive about my role and responsibilities, especially since he asked me to come early before other guests arrived to help him with the arrangements and preparations.

Daniel had been an awesome friend of mine. He’s one of the few people I became friends with through my blog. He had been a regular reader and commenter of my blog since 2006. As I have said many times in my past updates, blogging sometimes help us pick the best of friends because it brings out a connection even when the two concerned parties haven’t met each other personally. We just feel comfortable and build a bond with that other person even if we’ve never met him or her in real life, just because we read his/her blog updates all the time.

On the day of the birthday party, another close friend and blogger "Not Good" aka "Blackest Red" Samuel (Sanga) picked me up from my apartment. When the two us reached Daniel’s place (we were the first to arrive), Zodini, Daniel’s wife, immediately handed us our tasks - Sanga was to help with the kitchen work and preparing food while my responsibility was to hang the balloons and look after the kids!

See, that just shows how much people value your usefulness :P But I made sure I did the best damn job of hanging up balloons. Check out my balloons yo. I’m pretty damn proud of my work. :)

Check out the symmetry and alignment of each balloon above! I calculated the placement of each balloon using Pythagoras theorem divided by a Fibonacci series of higher order so as to derive the perfect Euler’s equation of complex analysis while taking into consideration the speed and velocity of wind at that moment. But does a child cares anything about that? Nah, all they did was rush straight to the balloons and burst them. See, this is why I hate kids :P

But yeah, you have to love them or else you end up being a social pariah :D But all jokes aside, I love the kids especially little Jonathan as he and I spent a lot of quality time while the "adults" were preparing the food…

The daughter on the other hand had just woken up from her afternoon nap, so she was grumpy as hell. Best to leave her alone :D

While I was hanging the balloons and babysitting the kids, Sanga was busy helping with the food preparation...

As you can see from the photo above, he was busing grinding the salad... He could move his wrist up and down really really fast... definitely looked like a man with a lot of practice... somebody who would do this every day, from the time he woke up to the moment just before sleeping... I'm talking about grinding food by the way, you filthy mind...

Daniel, Zodini and Sanga made the salad including awesomeeee "Vawk lu bawl" which is a Mizo delicacy made from pork.

The rest of the food were ordered from a Manipuri caterer in Kondhwa.

And then came that dreadful moment when hard physical labour was required and there were no signs of any youngsters around. In our Mizo community, in any social gathering, we usually delegate the heavy physical work to the youngsters. That is something we all went through while growing up. But that day, the "young" dudes had not arrived yet, so it was up to Daniel, Sanga and me to do the dirty job of transporting the rented chairs from the vendor. And so the three of us walked across miles carrying 10 heavy plastic chairs each back to Daniel’s place. That moment made me realize how unfit I had become. It also made me realize I was no longer a teen. :(

Soon, guests started arriving. I never imagined there would be so many Mizo families and children living here in Pune. Like I said before, I’m still new to Pune and don't know most of them, so I was just sitting at a corner by myself while the rest of the guests socialized.

And then it was time for "hunserh" - a short speech and prayer to thank God for the wonderful occasion.

Once this was over, it was time for the cake cutting ceremony. All the children screamed in excitement as the cake was brought out...

After this, the adults sat around talking to each other while the kids played together.

This was quickly followed by dinner time as it was past 8PM already. Some of the guys fooled around with the camera, like for example this useless Foster who wasn't around when it was time to help with the food prep or heavy lifting, and only showed up when it was time to eat...

...whereas people like me were busy coordinating with the food preparation...

Even Daniel's non-Mizo friends really enjoyed the food that was made that day. Some of them found the taste to be a bit "different" but nevertheless ate their fill.

Here's a couple of pics I took of the food, which, as mentioned earlier, was made by a Manipuri caterer in Kondhwa.

Time to eat for the hosts too. Looks like there is no rest for a mother even on her kids' birthday party!

Hard to eat with these two popping up every now and then to take a photo... They seemed to be in really high spirits... They're Pune's version of Kelkang Kal I guess. :P

After dinner, when most of the guests had left, it was present opening time!

As we ended the day, we took a few more pics together here and there, so as to remember the moment.

And so that was the memorable birthday party organized by Daniel and Zodini. In a way, I got to meet many of the Mizo families residing here in Pune so I don't feel like an outcast anymore. And surprisingly, when I was introduced for the first time, many of them asked, "Hey, aren't you that blogger?" Dayymmm!

Much thanks to Daniel and Zodini for managing to pull this off. Throwing a birthday party for 50+ people is by no means an easy task.

All in all, I would like to end this post with these photos of little Jonathan who somehow managed to find my hidden empty coke bottle... :D :D :D

So until then, take care y'all.