Stories from the lakes of Bengaluru, via an online game

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Once upon a time there was a lake, an interactive online game that chronicles the oral histories, mythologies, anecdotes and official records of the Lakes of Bengaluru, is a unique digital entity that came into being thanks to the pandemic.

Designed by Bengaluru-based playwright Chanakya Vyas and funded by the Indian Arts Foundation as part of its Project 560 grant, which supports artistic engagement with the city of Bengaluru, the game was originally designed as a game of performative and participative society. In its physical avatar, the game would be played by 12 players on stage (either actors or audience members) who would take on the roles of residents of a fictional, unnamed neighborhood – where there was once a lake.

Their goal in the game would be to bring the lake to life by making crucial decisions and listening to stories that reveal truths about the neighborhood’s past and present. Once it became clear that the live and performance aspect of the game would not be possible due to pandemic restrictions, the game has now been redesigned for single player in the digital version where the focus remains the same. It now also includes stories recorded as an audiobook, which can be experienced independently of the game. The game can be played on a standard browser like Chrome / Firefox, and has a tutorial with subtitles to help players navigate. to start up.

Vyas, the current Artistic Director of Indian Ensemble, is a Bangalore-based director, playwright and teacher whose most recent work as a director includes Algorithms (2018), Mi’raj (2016-17) and Hayavadana (2014-2015). He received grant from the Indian Foundation for the Arts as part of their Curated Artistic Engagements program under Project 560, to create a series of year-long artistic and cultural engagements that reflect, pose questions and offer multiple imaginations of Bengaluru. Through this project, Chanakya wants to highlight the loss of commons in the city and the struggle to solve the environmental problems facing Bengaluru. “The invitation to the public would be to protect, revive and transform a common space of the city, the lake, which has dried up, encroached and filled with waste due to rapid urbanization,” explains Vyas.

To play the game, visit oncetherewasalake.org


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