What is the next step for an engineer with a PhD in astronomy who spent more than a decade developing electro-optical systems for Silicon Valley, and was part of the design team for the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera? Developing a table cricket game, of course.
Aditya Dayal, the 46-year-old founder and chief executive officer of ThrowMotion, a start-up based in California, US, that designs and builds table games, has done just that. ThrowMotion launched its first (and so far, only) game, Live Action Cricket, in 2013, with one unit placed at the main lobby of Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, where it continues to give joy to homesick engineers from cricketing nations. Dayal’s unique career trajectory too has been fuelled partly by nostalgia. A bunch of his uncles played state-level cricket, and his grandfather—Mahabir Dayal—captained the cricket team of the former princely state of Rajputana in the 1930s and 1940s.
When Dayal moved to the US 25 years back, he missed cricket. “A few world cups ago, I was lamenting the fact that I could not watch it (in the US) because the coverage of cricket was not strong then,” Dayal says. “I started thinking whether it will be possible to do a 3D game on a table with the same physics as the real game.”
Pitched as the cricket lover’s alternative to the ubiquitous foosball, Live Action Cricket is a far more complex piece of table-gaming than we are used to. Though the main action is simple—a bowler operates the controls for the bowling machine, a batter controls the batting figure, and plastic fieldsmen are placed at strategic points around the table by the bowler—a wide variety of electronic aids “bring the physical game to the new world”, Dayal says. These include real-time commentary, a live scoreboard, an Umpire Review option and a central database that can track scores and individual player/team statistics—bringing into play the other great love of cricket enthusiasts: game statistics.
“When I went to get funding, people said you are going backwards; the hot area in gaming is the mobile app, virtual play,” recalls Dayal. “For me, it was simple—foosball has been around for over a hundred years. These are social games where you can look each other in the eye. With virtual games, even when you are playing multiplayer, you are disconnected.”
Dayal began tinkering with the idea of a “modern” table game while still working in Silicon Valley, but decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge four years ago—“when I realized that’s the only way to get things really going”.
The next three years were spent with a small team of people in his garage developing the cricket game. “It (the garage) is a bit of a museum now,” Dayal says. “There’s an alpha model, a beta 1, a beta 2…”
ThrowMotion closed last year with 750,000 runs scored on the 19 tables that are operational right now in the US, United Arab Emirates and India.
The table cricket game is available only to corporate houses on order. Try your hand at the game at Monkey Bar, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, on 14 March.