Guest Lecture: Playing Games with Karma: Indian Board Games as a Commentary on Life
Largely unknown to Game Studies, Indian board-games dating back from centuries ago have informed notions of game mechanics and play as a socio-culturally important phenomenon for quite a while now. The playful often engages with serious aspects of life, religion and philosophy through the ways in which play represents the complexity of karma. Moving away from the recent (Western) notions of karma as a simplified morality-bound cause-effect relationship, karma as it was originally defined in Indic philosophies is much more difficult to perceive. This paper will look at the early Indian board-game, Gyan Chaupar, its colonial adaptation into the oversimplified Snakes and Ladders (or Chutes and Rockets) and how a complex ludic representation of karma has changed to the current (and arguably, less richer) notion of it in Game Studies. Following this, the paper will try to link the complexity of Gyan Chaupar to the multi-relic structures of videogames.
Note: Members of the audience are welcome to join me in a game of Gyan Chaupar after the talk.