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New Town plays the teen wooing game

- Gaming hub opens on Sunday with contest

New Town might set itself apart from the rest of Calcutta with its wide roads, swank highrises and technology parks but there’s one aspect of the city it sorely misses: the buzz of a teenage crowd.

Come Sunday, the curtain will go up on a gaming zone that aims to make youngsters flock to New Town the way they do at fun zones elsewhere in the city.

Hidco is the brain behind the project, which like most other aspects of this township in the making, has been “different” in terms of execution. The first step was to hire a consultant who would go into the mind of the average gaming-savvy teen. And who better to do the job than a teenager himself?

Hidco hired 18-year-old gamer Rishiraj Rateria, who also runs a gaming parlour near his house in Salt Lake, last May to advise its team on everything from ambience to gaming equipment. The result: a state-of-the-art gaming hub spread across 500sq ft in Eco Park that had been originally reserved for a “bamboo interpretation centre”!

“We set out to make New Town and Eco Park attractive to teenagers and figured out that the best way to know about the needs of the youth was to ask a young person. So we hired one as a honorary consultant,” said Debashis Sen, chairman of Hidco and principal secretary in the urban development department.

For Rishiraj, of course, work was play. “Gaming is my passion and when asked by such senior officials to help out, I was more than happy to. Besides a few discos, there are few entertainment options for big kids in the New Town area,” he said.

Until the gaming zone came up, New Town had something to offer to every age group — from upwardly mobile executives to the elderly looking for some quiet — except the teeming teenage group that is the life of every leisure hub. Gaming was the choice of bait because of the way its popularity has spread among youngsters not only across the city but also its fringes.

From Belur to Bhowanipore and Ballygunge to Behala, gaming cafes have mushroomed like the STD booths of yore, spawning a generation of competition gamers who have won laurels even abroad. Unlike Internet parlours, these cafes, many of them tucked away in nondescript lanes and alleys, have only gaming on their menu. Business is booming.

At Eco Park, a free gaming competition has been organised as part of the inauguration on Sunday, the publicity for which is befittingly being done through Facebook.

Five categories of competition will see gamers from across the city and the suburbs fight it out over their consoles over two days.

The games chosen for the competition include multi-player events such as Call of Duty and Counter Strike as well as single-player favourites such as FIFA, Blur, Need for Speed and Age of Empires.

A knockout style competition will culminate in the final on Monday. The prizes include free gaming hours, gaming goodies and, of course, bragging rights for winning the first government-organised gaming competition in Calcutta!

Hidco chief Sen feels the New Town gaming zone would stand apart from the rest, like most facilities in the township. “This is perhaps the only parlour in town within a landscaped area and overlooking a pond,” he said.

Not only that, each of the 12 machines is equipped with Xbox joysticks. “We have installed only original games and have high Internet bandwidth to prevent any possibility of lag. The best part is that the pricing won’t be higher than in the other gaming cafes,” a senior Hidco official said.

To add to the experience, each time a round is underway, the lights will go off and the dim illumination atop each machine will turn on.

Officials said they were aiming to increase the number of consoles from 12 to 30. For gaming enthusiasts looking for console action in New Town, it’s time to press the START button.

How often do you visit gaming zones? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com