Indian Air Force is no game! IAF gaming app showing Abhinandan Varthaman undermines its own seriousness
The Indian Air Force thinks the game would inspire people to join the forces. Unfortunately, the opposite could happen.
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He tilted his head a little, he raised his eyebrows a bit, and he looked straight into the eyes of the enemy — even as he carefully drank his hot tea.
His calm and composure was so formidable, it could have made the most deadly opponent nervous.
In perfect control of himself, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman said, "I'm sorry. Am I supposed to tell you this?" Framed as a query, Varthaman's question was in fact an answer: "You won't get any details that I am not supposed to give out as a soldier of my country."
That was Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, in the captivity of Pakistani armed forces.
Those serving in the Indian armed forces are known to exhibit such valour while guarding India's borders, fighting militancy within the country or rescuing people in regions hit by natural disasters.
And Varthaman's valour was truly inspiring.
Upon his release from captivity, Varthaman crossed over to India in measured steps, his head held high, showing no visible signs of pain, despite suffering injuries to his spine as a result of ejecting from his MiG-21 Bison jet, shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets following the Pulwama outrage.
For those who did not know what it means to be in the Indian Air Force (IAF), Varthaman presented a live example.
Today, the same IAF that Varthaman is serving in is asking people to reach to their phones and download IAF: A Cut Above — a mobile gaming application to feel inspired and join the Air Force.
It's not a time-pass! The IAF's mobile gaming app is no way to inspire people to join the force. (Photo: Video grab)
In doing so, the prestigious force could be risking its own value.
Let's understand what this game offers.
Those playing the game are able to handle various aircraft, including fighter jets, choppers, cargo lifters as well as heavy gauge anti-aircraft machine guns, to hunt down enemy planes from the land. The teaser also features a character who looks similar to Varthaman, sporting the trademark moustache.
The game was launched today, July 31, by none less than the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa.
#MobileGame : Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee & the Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa launched IAF’s latest 3D Mobile gaming application ‘Indian Air Force: A Cut Above’ on Air Combat at National Bal Bhawan, New Delhi, today.@SpokespersonMoD @PIB_India pic.twitter.com/9JlsGFxybv— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) July 31, 2019
This game would serve no purpose beyond being just that — a game people play to while away their time.
Now, this is no value judgement on people playing games for entertainment — their life, their choice.
But launching a gaming app on the notion that it would inspire people to join the IAF means the IAF undermining its own importance, its own seriousness.
Yes, gaming apps are serious business for a lot of people. A very famous online game, very similar to what the IAF has come up with, is PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), being considered for a ban by many state governments in India in light of how it has got people addicted. PUBG is also facing a tough time globally.
A Cut Above, which for now is a single-user game, will reportedly soon have a multi-player variant. People playing the game will sit in their homes, even offices and schools, get into gamely dogfights with unknown people, sometimes winning, sometimes losing.
The IAF seems to believe they will then feel inspired enough for real action and prepare to join the forces.
But why will they when they can get the thrills of the moment without any of the genuine effort, the real pain, the true dedication — and the very real danger — that a serving IAF member goes through? These video gamers will enjoy the 'IAF experience' without any greater effort than sitting down on a comfortable couch, finding a cosy seat on the metro or seeking a quiet spot in the office.
Isn't that devaluing the true effort it takes to be an IAF warrior?
What Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman did was no joke.
It is nowhere near what gaming apps can even attempt to simulate.
Abhinandan Varthaman's story was a saga of inspiration.
The IAF seems to be attempting to retell that story — and the first draft is pretty disappointing.