Newbie finally understood his team wasn't ready to tackle a Deus Ex. He grudgingly had me adapt the story to the original puzzle-based approach. Now, the player was the goddess Indrani; Venadatta used corrupt soma to strip her of her powers, then threw her down to Mother Earth. Indrani proceeds across a (sharply reduced) number of levels, progressing linearly by solving puzzles that, we hoped, would be integrated more or less gracefully into the setting. By locating gurus, she gains siddhi powers that help her return to her palace. There, she solves puzzles to purify polluted areas and opens the way to Venadatta, whom she can drive out by tricking him into drinking his own corrupt soma.

With that, I was done. My final check cleared. No one called again. Presumably, the furniture-store heir, having spent well over a year's allowance for not-so-much, finally pulled the plug in early 2001.

It all happened just this way. If I lie, may I be reborn as a worm.

***

I never got to visit Fairfield. Though the producer told me of his team's happy life of 20-minute Transcendental Meditation sessions twice a day under MUM's twin golden domes, I didn't apprehend the spectacular weirdness of the Maharishi community until much later, when I found a long list of Maharishi articles compiled by the cult-hunting Rick A. Ross Institute. Note the September 2006 Los Angeles Times story, "A lotus amid the Iowa corn" by Carina Chocano, about the glitzy new MUMburb under construction outside Fairfield, Maharishi Vedic City.

My Hindu shooter originated in Iowa, among Americans. Technically, the experience says nothing relevant about India in gaming. Still, it was a peep into the future; one way or another, whether with Hindu shooters or in a hundred likelier ways, India will eventually become a force in gaming, as audience, developer and, increasingly, as buyer of Western studios.

Currently, India is a minor outsourcing destination (in the game industry, that is) that pulls about $50 million annually in console and PC gaming, and a little more in the mobile space. So far, there's only one Indian MMOG development shop, Level-Up, which is a branch of a Philippine company that licenses the South Korean game Ragnarok Online for India, Brazil and the Philippines. But Indian gaming is growing fast, piggybacking on the exploding animation business. In September 2006, the Association of Bangalore Animation Industry staged its first conference on animation, visual effects and gaming. Onetime developers have become publishers. Just as large Indian companies outside gaming are going global and taking over foreign firms, Bangalore game publisher Dhruva Interactive plans to quadruple in size within three years, and is looking to acquire game studios in China and Eastern Europe.

One big problem is a lack of skilled workers. The Image College of Arts, Animation & Technology in Chennai, "India's first digital media college," is introducing game design classes this year. Wonder if they need an American instructor? Some rash student may conceive a nonviolent Hindu shooter, and someone should be there to slap him and wrestle him to the ground.

Allen Varney designed the PARANOIA paper-and-dice roleplaying game (2004 edition) and has contributed to computer games from Sony Online, Origin, Interplay and Looking Glass.

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