Ludo is a great game that teaches us how to live in a pandemic. You’re safest when you’re home and if you come in c…
— Fake Peralta (Rohit) (@rohshah07)
It gives an impression that Shah has a deep understanding and appreciation for the game, built over years of playing and learning from every victory and defeat. But this epiphany dawned on him only a week after playing ludo regularly during the lockdown. Before this, the 28-year-old writer and stand-up comic had barely ever played the strategy board game.
In the first week of the lockdown, his cousin asked if he was free to join them for a round of ludo on the gaming app Ludo King. Shah responded in the affirmative, and things have been a bit crazy since then.
Forget the fact that he plays hour-long matchesa day with different sets of people ¡X including strangers from Twitter who are now his ludo buddies – Shah is likely to have a frayed relationship with one of his cousins because of the game.
‘We now have a WhatsApp group for ludo with 20 cousins. At any time during the day, one person pings to ask others to join. We start as soon as there is a quorum.’ The app allows up to six players for a game. The above-mentioned cousin silently watches this mad frenzy unfold. ‘As soon as we share the code – which is generated by the person starting a game room – to join the game, he immediately joins in, invariably leaving one person out.’
Two weeks ago, film critic Hemanth Kumar earnestly asked of his 73,000-plus followers on Twitter: ‘Is #Ludo the biggest addiction during this lockdown?’ Kumar should look no further than Shah’s ludo WhatsApp group for answers.
Anecdotes aside, plenty of numbers capture the craze around ludo during this lockdown. For starters, Ludo King is the top free gaming app on Google Play Store in India now, with over 100 million downloads. There are over 1.3 million views for #LudoComedy on TikTok. Amusic video titled ‘Lockdown Mein Ludo’ has fetched over 36 million views and 12,000 comments within a month of releasing on YouTube.
Ludo has also come under the radar for inciting violence during this lockdown, what with cases of people shooting co-players for sneezing during a match, or partners physically abusing their spouses after losing a game.
On a lighter note, of the 15,000 #LudoMemes on Instagram, 12,300 were posted in the last three months, according to Qoruz, a Bengaluru-based influencer data analytics company. About 40% of live-streaming on sports and gaming content platform Rooter is for ludo these days, says its founder Piyush, who doesn’t use a surname.
Ludo has effectively gatecrashed all his binge-watching plans for this period, the Delhi-based entrepreneur tells ET Magazine. ‘People are boastfully sharing screenshots of their game. They have turned it into an esports championship,’ he adds.
The 39-year-old has a little championship going on in his own WhatsApp group of 15-18 ludo players, aptly titled ‘Kaat-Kaat’ – an expression familiar to people like Mumbai’s Shah who play the game for the ‘blood bath’, i.e., to kill the next player’s token.
‘Kaat-Kaat’ is an emotion even Yashi Jain relates to. Recently married into a family of workaholics in the civil construction business in Mumbai, Jain is a demure girl except when she is in the ludo battlefield. ‘When I am out to get someone¡¦s token, I don’t care even if it is my father-in-law’s. I go for the kill,’ says the 28-year-old.
Every day, a new story emerges out of these ludo-ites. Some evoke nostalgia of that near-win turned into a colossal beating because of an endless wait for that one point needed to make it home. Others involve a few members ganging up against a smug player to make sure they didn’t win even if the former lot lost in the process. The game is a means to let go of inhibitions for some. It is also an escape.
Shasvathi Siva, 28, finds in ludo a great distraction from the sadness of these times. She plays the board game online with her close friends from Hyderabad. The frenzy has caught up with her 4-year-old niece in Dubai as well. ‘She learnt to play ludo because everyone around her was talking about it. We play regularly now and I let her win. Then she consoles me,’ says the vegan entrepreneur from Navi Mumbai.
People are playing ludo across age-groups and time zones. In Noida, Akshita Deharwal and family are playing it across separate rooms in the same house. The 23-year-old is currently under home-quarantine after returning from.
‘When we were kids, ludo was a lifesaver during train journeys,’ says the motion graphic artist. Right now, it is the only thing that penetrates the walls between her parents and her as she finishes her time in self-quarantine.
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