India, Jan. 6 -- Hundreds of gamers today descended on Ambience mall in Gurgaon for the start of BYOC, the biggest video game festival in India. The BYOC tournament has been taking place around the country since December 2007 and has grown a lot since then. According to Ashish Gupta, founder Xtreme Gaming Pvt Ltd, the organizers of BYOC, the gaming will carry on non-stop for 60 hours, with sleeping areas for those who need it. The morning had seen hundreds arrive in a steady stream, and Gupta says that the BYOC event that will continue till Sunday night is expecting a larger turnout than ever before.
BYOC grew out of a cyber cafe that Gupta used to run - he was a gamer himself and he saw that a lot of people would come to the cafe to play multiplayer games. From there, setting up the hardware as a gaming cafe was the next step, and BYOC followed as a celebration of gamer culture - the name itself is an acronym for Bring Your Own Computer. People can bring their own hardware and play with other gamers they don't know, all in the same room. Xtreme Gaming provides the infrastructure, with space, network connections and also computers that can be hired out if people can't carry their machine.
For the gamers, it's a social occasion to meet others with their interests, to see and to show off customized hardware that they've put together, and to trade stories about games. Those who want to show off their skills can take part in tournaments - the entry is free, and the prizes range from Rs 5,000 for StarCraft II to Rs 100,000 for Counter Strike, still the most popular video game in India because of the low system requirements, which mean that it can run on almost any machine.
The Counter Strike tournament is staggered across all three days, but other games such as racing game Need for Speed, Tekken and FIFA all have tournaments that take place on these days as well. Throughout this time though, is the LAN party, where you can book a space to set up your computer and play games with anyone. The charge is Rs500 if done online or Rs1,000 at the venue, and if you brought your CPU but not your monitor, you can rent one for Rs750. If you want to, you can rent a CPU for Rs750 as well, and keyboards and mice are available with both monitors and CPUs.
Many of the people who come will be taking part in the tournaments, but for others it's a chance to socialize, and almost everyone comes with a portable hard drive, and share their games and other media. Only the most dedicated will stay for the full sixty hours, but many will drop in, play for a day, and drop out of the games.
Game culture in India is still a long way from that of countries like South Korea, where Starcraft is a national sport, but events like BYOC show that gaming is definitely on track to become one of the a major entertainment industry in India in the near future.
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