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Venba and the Festival of Lights: A Diwali Gaming Feature

Diwali which occurs on Sunday, the 12th of November this year, is the Hindu festival of lights. Marking the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and many more, it is regarded as one of the most important religious festivals of the year for a wide variety of people.


Typically regarded as a time dedicated to community and family, the holiday shares similar key ideals to Visai Games’s narrative cooking game Venba, which focuses on the complexities of religious and cultural identity shared between Venba and her son Kavin as they explore familial relationships through food. Produced in part by Abhi, the studio’s primary programmer designer, and producer, the game tells an evocative and deeply emotional story of the obstacles and difficulties faced by immigrants moving to the West.



Screenshot from Venba presskit page (licensed under CC BY 3.0 DEED)


With a deep dedication to the portrayal of Tamil culture and South Indian cuisine remaining vital to the game’s central narrative, players are given the careful task of observing the struggles faced by Venba and her husband as they seek to adapt to a new language and culture whilst struggling to financially support their growing family.


When interviewed by Eurogamer[1] Abhi explained the studio’s intention to produce a game that focused on the challenges faced by the parents of immigrant households as opposed to most immigrant media, which focuses on the experiences of children one or two generations removed. By creating a narrative centered around the mother, Venba sets out to create a narrative experience that demonstrates the relationship between cooking and the maintenance of culture.


One of the main ways this is achieved is through the usage of puzzle-based mechanics as a central feature of Venba’s gameplay, with the core gameplay focused on the restoration of cultural food recipes through trial and error – allowing players to have a direct insight into the intricate processes behind making traditional food, and the importance that comes with maintaining the traditions behind them.



Screenshot from Venba presskit page (licensed under CC BY 3.0 DEED)


Between navigating around the challenge of working with incomplete recipes and the complex cookware and ingredients used in typical South Asian cooking, players are invited to look past the mechanical processes behind cooking to experience the warmth and comfort of family – which remains Venba’s most definable thematic element. Especially in the context of modern immigrant narratives, experiences of familial love and an openness to awareness around the power of food and its unforgettable role in establishing cultural identity remain important now more than ever.


Ultimately, Venba is a game that rises to the difficult challenge of portraying immigrant narratives and does so in a way that carefully balances the importance of cultural memory with a growing assimilation into Western culture. Whether or not players find an affinity towards the experiences of Venba and her husband or the experiences of their son, Kavin, Visai Games creates a perfect experience to meet both perspectives halfway.


Venba is available for purchase now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Windows, XBOX One and XBOX Series X/S.


Bibliography

  1. Emad, Ahmed (2021): “Venba is a cooking game obsessed with the emotional impact of food” Eurogamer https://www.eurogamer.net/venba-is-a-cooking-game-obsessed-with-the-emotional-impact-of-food [Accessed 10/11/2023]

 

Edited by Gio Eldred Mitre, Gaming Editor

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