Is gaming addictive? Poornima Seetharaman, Kerala gamer-turned-developer, explains

Poornima Seetharaman
Poornima Seetharaman. Photo: Special Arrangement

Video games often carry a negative stigma in India, particularly among parents with children entering adolescence. They are frequently viewed as a hindrance to more essential pursuits such as academics. However, the success story of Poornima Seetharaman challenges this perception. Hailing from Kalpathy in Palakkad, Poornima has embraced gaming as more than just a hobby – it's her vocation, reshaping traditional views on its role in one's life. Poornima now manages her own game development team in a California-based company in Bengaluru.  

Player to maker
Her journey began during high school, where she indulged in classics like Super Mario and Duck Hunt during visits to relatives' homes. With acquiring a personal computer in Plus Two, Poornima explored games like 'Age of Empires 2,' igniting her interest in creating personalized campaigns and levels. Poornima started reading about games to understand it better in an era when the digital trends had not set in like today. Little did she know that those early days of gaming marked the beginning of a significant journey.

Poornima pursued a degree in IT engineering, but it was in 2006 that she landed her first job at a gaming company as a programmer. Later, with some nudging by a friend, she transitioned into game design. She was handed over the most ‘authoritative treatise of gaming’ – the manual of 'Dungeons and Dragons.' She was asked to delve deep into it, learn its intricacies and then lay the groundwork for a new mobile game. It was the beginning.

Women in gaming
In the past, electronic devices were predominantly used by men within households. Nevertheless, as times evolved, women too started embracing mobile phones, engaging in gaming, and now even contributing to their creation. Today, games featuring women as central characters have gained prominence, such as Last of Us, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Hell Blade: Senua’s Sacrifice, she says.

Representative image: iStock/Girts Ragelis

Highlighting the persistence of prejudices and gender bias in the industry, Poornima notes the disparity in job interview questions between herself and her male counterparts. "I faced questions regarding marriage, parenthood, professional-personal life balance, etc.," she stated. Historically, it was typical for girls to use computers solely for educational purposes, while boys had access to gaming as well. Poornima expresses gratitude to her family for supporting her aspirations.

Hall of fame
People who work for gender equality in gaming on a global scale are the ones in the 'Women in Gaming Hall of Fame.' Until now, only individuals from Europe and the UK were part of their competitions. In 2020, those from Asia and America were also included and the competition was conducted in London. It saw the participation of 61 people. The top six among them secured a place in the Hall of Fame. in 2020, Poornima got enlisted herself in the ‘Women Games Hall of Fame’ by being the first Indian woman as a game designer.

Addictive allure of games
Poornima says gaming is definitely an addiction. “Just like how films, books, art, are all addictions,” she says. She emphasizes the importance of navigating the gaming ecosystem responsibly to avoid potential pitfalls.

How to make a career out of it
Similar to other creative industries, gaming offers diverse career paths, including scripting, direction, editing, art, and production design, with numerous online courses available for aspiring professionals.

Dream project
Poornima is currently working on her passion project, "Madhuram," a Carnatic music-inspired puzzle and adventure game, dedicated to her late aunt, the renowned Carnatic musician R Balamani (who taught Shankar Mahadevan and Bombay Jayashree).

Poornima, having worked with esteemed companies like Disney India, Jumpstart (Net Dragon), and GSN, now holds the position of Associate General Manager at Zynga, a gaming company in California. Additionally, she is a mentor at Google Indie Accelerator Program and founder of Women in Games India (WIGIN).

Poornima's family includes her father, T R Seetharaman, her mother, Meena Seetharaman, and her husband, Arjun Nayar, a freelancer in the gaming sector.

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