After constant protests, the Indian Supreme Court has agreed to re-examine a ruling that struck down a ban on women of menstruating age from entering the famed Sabarimala temple in Kerala. But now, a new video game, created in 2016 but simulating a similar scenario, is causing its own controversy.
Created by Padmini Ray Murray, Joel Johnson and KV Ketan at a hackathon contest, the Global Game Jam, the game is called ‘Darshan Diversion.’
In the game, women dressed in red saris make attempts to reach the top floor of a temple, but their efforts are thwarted by Hindu priests if a red blinking light indicates that the women are menstruating.
The game has been inspired by recent incidents of priests at Indian temples preventing women from entering, especially while menstruating, and hence diverting them away from their moment with god, or darshan, as it’s called in several Indian languages, according to the game’s description on globalgamejam.org. “Events are getting increasingly out of hand…so what better way to demonstrate the utter insanity of the situation than make a game about it - especially given this year’s theme,” it said.
In the game that is available for download on Window devices and Mac OS X, participants can choose their avatar: women or priest.
Murray, 41, a professor of digital humanities at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Bengaluru, told National Public Radio that she got the idea for the game after reading a news article about Sabarimala. The then-president of the temple board had been quoted as saying women between 10 and 50 would be allowed into the temple only after someone invented a machine, like a scanner, to detect whether a female devotee was getting her period.
Murray told NPR that at the hackathon, the participants were given 48 hours to create a game on the theme of “ritual.”
The game hit the headlines after Indian journalist Barkha Dutt tweeted about it, following which she was heavily trolled on the social media platform. It was later featured in many local Indian publications.