NEW: Durga Puja Beyond Borders

Game Theme and Background
Durga Puja Beyond Borders is an educational video game that uses aspects of management games to playfully yet educationally introduce various layers of Durga Puja festival culture, such as joint Durga Puja organizations and especially celebrations. It conveys educational content about the festival’s history and past and present ways of worshipping and jointly celebrating, in India and beyond. Moreover, it allows a glimpse into how festivals are important events and locations for migrant communities to live and negotiate identity, heritage, and culture – beyond borders.

The festival Durga Puja has extensively traveled with Indian communities, beyond many geographical and cultural borders. Today, the festival is celebrated in many places all around the globe, places that have become home to Indian migrant communities. This game invites you to join the festival in an exemplary global Indian community, in the so-called Indian diaspora, in Helsinki, Finland. In Durga Puja Beyond Borders you play as Laura, who takes part in organizing and celebrating a Durga Puja event hosted by a local Indian community.

The player character Laura lives in Helsinki, Finland. Invited by her friend Shreya, she joins a video conference of a local Indian Durga Puja Committee as they begin preparing the annual Durga Puja event. The committee appoints Laura as the assistant to the group’s chair, Shreya, who in turn mentors Laura on the festival’s history and on past and present rituals and worship, iconography, mythology, and geographical travels, in India and beyond.

This mentor conversation (accessible through the button ‘Ask Mentor’) contains essential content information enabling the player to answer quiz questions later in the game. We advise playing it right after the level ‘Durga Puja Committee Initial Organizing Meeting’, before moving to the ‘Schedule’. The mentor conversation consists of four main themes, ‘Durga Puja history’, ‘Durga Puja ritual and worship practices’, ‘Durga, Durga Puja and pandal iconography and mythology’ and ‘Durga Puja geography, in and beyond India’. Each theme has two to four sub-options providing information and suggestions for further readings that are specified in the ‘Library’. In order to get the full picture, we advise playing all four themes and all options within each theme.

Laura then proceeds to the level ‘Schedule’ that lists the event’s rituals, cultural performances, meals and all other main happenings. Using the scheduler menu that provides contact details for all committee members and a selection of vendors, the player decides which committee member is the best fit for which task and assigns each event point to a responsible person. Clicking the optional ‘fast forward’ button before playing the ‘Schedule’ results in an automated opening of all dialogue lines and saves you some time.

Next, the player joins the actual festival celebrations lasting three days. This game level takes place inside a community hall which is shown in an isometric view. The player can now control the game character with a virtual joystick and walk through the venue, starting conversations with visitors or just exploring. The game progresses along the individual festival’s event points as introduced before in the ‘Schedule’ level, and depending on previous choices, minor goof-ups may force the player to adjust tasks or reassign responsible persons. This level’s main features are the player’s conversations with Durga Puja visitors (members of the community and friends) that give ample opportunities for knowledge exchange and reveal even new facets of Durga Puja. These conversations also include quiz questions that test the player’s knowledge and determine the final score. Marks on the game characters guide the player through the direct interactions during the festival.

The game takes about 60-90 min to play. Upon successful completion of all events during the three celebration days, the player receives a score based on their answers to the quiz questions throughout the game.

– Join a Durga Puja event from the planning stage to the actual celebrations.
– Converse with the planning committee in video team meetings.
– Take support from your mentor.
– Schedule the event plan for the celebrations and assign responsibilities.
– Use video calls to talk with the committee members.
– Micro-manage goof ups during the event days in real-time.
– Have conversations with members of the community about Durga Puja, in India and beyond.
– Use the library to get suggestions for further readings.

Target Platforms
Android phones and tablets

The game is a collaborative effort of the University of Helsinki (Finland), Xenia Zeiler, and the Kolkata (India) based award-winning game development studio Flying Robot Studios, Satyajit Chakraborty. It was funded by the University of Helsinki’s Digileap Initiative and is free to play. Enjoy!