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Now, parents encourage kids to take up gaming

June 29, 2009 13:05 IST

R K Sharma was earlier opposed to his 11-year-old daughter Akanksha's gaming habits. Sharma now says he joins her occasionally in a video game match.

Sharma isn't alone. A host of parents are now warming up to gaming because of the significant improvement they have seen in their children's problem-solving skills ever since they started playing video games.

They would, of course, take inspiration from Rekha Purohit, mother of 10-year-old Harshit, who won a video gaming championship recently.

A beaming Rekha argues that there are lots of things kids can learn from gaming -- for instance games based on musical instruments or painting can be good for them. "We realised that a majority of video games require players to follow rules, think tactically, make fast decisions and fulfil numerous objectives to win," says the proud mother, basking in the success of her son.

Perhaps it is this realisation that prompted the Purohits to let Harshit hone his gaming skills by practising for two hours every day during his summer holidays.

However, there are some concerns as well. The problem is not the amount of time kids spend on video games, but it is with whom they play and on what site.

Harshit's mother Rekha says, "The Internet can be dangerous if you don't monitor it or educate your kids about it." Although she lets him decide the choice of games, she makes sure that Harshit goes to the site that's just right for him.

Mumbai-based Mohan Nair, father of an eight-year-old girl and a teenage boy, says, "I do allow my kids access to the Internet for playing online games, but I monitor their Net preferences." Nair also regularly joins his daughter in a multiplayer game of Chess, or in similar strategy games.

As members of Kolkata Raiders team, Akanksha, Harshit, Siddhant Agarwal, Prakhar Gupta and Srinjay Mahuri won the Paddle Pop gaming league organised by Zapak. They were among the 160,000 kids from across the country who participated in the event.

These fabulous five beat 27,000 young gamers of Mumbai Chargers team, 26,000 of Bangalore Rangers, 27,000 of Chennai Daredevils, 25,000 of Delhi Commanders and 29,000 gaming enthusiasts of Hyderabad Warriors.

The fact that more and more parents are now encouraging their kids into gaming is also reflected in the swelling number of participants in the Paddle Pop league.

"The number of participants in Paddle Pop gaming has soared from 35,000 in 2008 to 160,000 this year. This is directly related to our Zapakkids.com, the fastest-growing gaming segment on Zapak that already has 1.6 million registered users," says Zapak CMO Arun Mehra, adding that Zapak has about 7 million registered users who spend, on an average, 27 minutes on the site every day.

Mehra is serious about targeting the age group below 14 years with Zapakkids, that already has over 70 games with titles from the Cartoon Network, Edutainment, a virtual world for kids, and kids-specific community features.

The share of casual gaming -- the basic card, kids action and chess games -- is almost 40 per cent of the Rs 940 crore (Rs 9.4 billion) Indian gaming market.

Even Alok Kejriwal, CEO and co-founder of Games2Win, reveals that kids constitute the fastest-growing group on his portal. Games2Win has 5 million registered users, of which almost 25 per cent gamers are less than 18 years of age, adds Kejriwal.

"From seven-year-old kids to pre-teens, Games2Win attracts an eclectic mix of young gamers, including girls, who spend several minutes every day on games that let them build doll houses or dress up their dolls and pets," he says.

With 97 per cent of online gamers in India being casual gamers, and the fact that kids aged 14 years and below are thronging gaming portals in rising numbers, Games2Win is also looking to cash in on the stickiest and the most loyal users on its site with unique gaming titles.

Even though Kejriwal does not intend to organise any offline gaming event to attract more gamers, he does believe that parents are realising the need to rethink their attitude towards their kids' interest in online games that are educational and complementary to schooling.
Priyanka Joshi in Mumbai
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