Like most young (I use the term loosely) middle class adults in big Indian cities, I spend a lot of time zooming around the streets on my two-wheeler (aka moped by non-Indians). I have often found myself thinking how well Indian roads would lend themselves to an excellent video game. Now granted I’m not an expert on video games, but I remember riding a motorcycle on Road Rash and kicking my competitors. Just empty roads and speeding along them. How much more exciting and challenging Indian roads are! So for all you game-makers out there, here’s my best shot, and I expect a chunk of the profits.
Level 1: Pedestrian
This is the underdog of the streets, but we must all start here. As the Pedestrian, you must dodge bikes, cars, buses, and excrement (human and animal) while trying to make it from Point A to Point B. You can choose between the streets or the sidewalk. You’d think the sidewalk would be the better choice, but you would find your way blocked by shop displays, parked cars, sleeping animals and drunk men. If you choose the street, you must face blaring horns, while darting across and swivelling your head back and forth to avoid oncoming traffic who ignore the 3 second pedestrian crossing light. If you miss the light (which you will), you must choose the right emoji to gain the sympathy of passing vehicles long enough for them to slow down and let you pass. You must perform tricky manoeuvres (carefully-used umbrella, to avoid the puddles splashed by rude cars during the monsoons. You get bonus points for not using your Curse Button. If you make it to your destination without dying and with relatively clean clothing, you can pass on to the next level…
Level 2: The Cyclist
The Cyclist has the advantage of speed (at least over the Pedestrian), but cannot control that speed as well. This can lead to an early demise while trying to cross roads. You as the Cyclist are equally prone to mud splashes, perhaps even more so as your cycle kicks up water. You may be excited by specially designated cycle tracks, but you still have to dodge motorcyclists who THINK it’s a MOTORcycle track, not to mention rickshaws with a slightly unrealistic perspective of their size. You also have to juggle a lunch bag on your handle bars, and occasionally a loved one on the back of your cycle. If you make it to the finish line, you move to…
Level 3: The Biker
The bikers have the power to zoom, but fear not, it won’t be too boringly easy. Even though you CAN go up to 70 km per hour, you never have the opportunity to because of the crowded streets. Instead of speed, you get to use your dodging, overtaking and slipping through cracks skills. For fun, sweet little puppies will shoot out in the middle of the road, and you must swerve without hitting anyone OR killing the puppy.
Cows chilling out in the middle of the road occasionally transform into frisky running cows being chased by a dog. You must have the balance in case you get caught in the middle of uneven slabs of road concrete, and the good judgment to know where a puddle is not just a puddle but a pothole. Traffic lights must be obeyed, but very cautiously so as not to get rear-ended by a less rule-abiding bus. Bonus points for peer-pressuring other traffic into stopping at lights, slowing down so pedestrians can cross, and not getting splashed by cars. Points will be subtracted if you speed up to prevent Pedestrians from being able to cross the road. Your focus on reaching your destination may be taken away by a Road Accident - all bikers MUST pull over to view the accident, join in the argument or just stare. If you get through this, you will reach…
Level 4: Rickshaw Driver
You have the super-skill of being able to rotate 180 degrees without needing to back up at all. However you may get delayed by irate passengers who flag you down and then refuse your services just because you ask for an extra fifty rupees for return fare. Also, if you catch sight of an Ola or Uber, all rickshaws MUST stop to get into an argument with their drivers. Even if you skip all these potential hazards, you must screech to a grinding halt if the Rickshaw Union calls a strike. Failure to comply can result in loss of life.
Level 5: Car
Your aim is to not only make it safely to the destination but also avoid any scratches to your brand-new car named ‘Mother’s Blessing’. You get points subtracted for using your Curse Button on pedestrians or cyclists from the comfort of your air-conditioned bubble. You must try not to hit bikes who have sudden changes of mind about their preferred lanes, while also trying to overtake buses stuck on the wrong side of the road, without anyone else hitting you. You can lose your life by getting in an accident with a Sumo full of men in dark glasses, and foolishly getting out of your car to argue with them.
Level 6: Bus
This is the highest level and takes the greatest amount of expertise. You will have the bulk but must have the corresponding agility of a very large man tiptoeing through the narrow aisles of an overstocked glassware shop (yes, my own take of a bull in a china store). You have the ability to kill, but not the license to do so. You are also on a tighter time schedule than all the other levels. Although you may think your large and threatening size prevents you from losing your life, this is in fact not true, as you will find when you hit a hapless pedestrian attempting to cross the road, and a violent mob materializes out of nowhere holding iron rods and hockey sticks. Your only option is to take to your heels and finish the rest of the race on foot.
Flash Monsoon Round for All Levels
The skies open and the rains come down causing all traffic lights to go off, instant traffic jams, immediate increase in the volume and duration of blaring horns, and angry, wet and muddy people, vehicles and dogs to swarm the roads. Each level must improvise to survive. The Curse Button will be disabled for this round for fear of being over-used.
Cheat Code: Call on your guardian angel. Only one provided per player. Guardian angels give advice and can help in sticky situations. However if you ignore the advice of your guardian angel, there are no guarantees for whether or not he will show up again.
Okay, this game is just waiting to be created. While we wait, let’s go for a spin on the streets for a little practise. Hope to see you all again on this side of heaven.
P.S. If not a video game, this could also be offered in real life to tourists as a Death-Defying Adventure Sport on the same level as bungee- jumping and paragliding, but without the safety features and more local colour.