The PUBG Fiasco: Is Banning Online Games the Solution?
Slug: Numerous accidents have been reported from all over India prompting several cities to ban such online games.
In December 2018, Vellore Institute of Technology banned the online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or PUBG on the grounds that it spoilt the entire atmosphere of the hostel. The institute said that banning the game would help students concentrate on physical games and sports and give more importance to their career growth. This sparked the beginning of a controversy regarding the effects of online gaming on young minds. Barely a month later, the Gujarat government banned the game in state schools. Several cities in the state such as Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Surat and Bhavnagar followed suit and banned the game from being played anywhere. In fact, ten students were arrested in Rajkot for violating the ban.
The addiction to the game has even led to fatal incidents. An 18-year old committed suicide in Mumbai for not being allowed a smartphone to play PUBG and two young men engrossed in the game were mowed down by a train. These PUBG-related deaths have led parents, educators, and politicians to debate on online gaming addiction. In the light of WHO’s recognition of gaming addiction as a mental disorder, the concern has become pronounced now.
Why the debate on online gaming now?
Games involving shooting and destruction are nothing new. For instance, games such as Counter-Strike, H1Z1, Fortnite and Rules of Survival follow the same ‘battle royale’ style of gaming as PUBG. But the latter became popular due to its easy accessibility on smartphones, the opportunity to team up with friends, its amazing audiovisual features and its marketing through online gaming events.
According to Dr Manoj Sharma of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, games such as PUBG have become a way of life for several children across the country, since the thrill of survival in a fictional world is more important than the humdrum of daily life involving academics and a couple of friends. It is, therefore not surprising that children are more attracted to online gaming than studies or social activities.
Problems created by obsessive gaming
While playing online games has a positive impact in terms of developing problem-solving skills, enhancing mental abilities such as concentration and multitasking, etc; an excess of anything is harmful. Spending too much time on gaming
- has a negative effect on the mental health of children as they tend to become withdrawn from the social-emotional sphere.
- can cause certain cognitive and perceptive changes in the sights, sounds and trained reactions within the real world, that is, cause hallucinations related to the virtual gaming world.
- can cause lack of sleep, poor vision and other problems due to lack of physical activity and increased levels of screen exposure.
- can cause children to fall prey to cyberbullying and mortally harmful games such as the “Blue Whale Challenge”, “Momo Challenge” or the “Bird Box Challenge”.
How to curb gaming addiction
Banning or stopping children from playing online games is not a viable solution. Instead, parents should monitor the screen time of their children and what kind of games their children are playing. Parents can also consider playing online games with their children to keep track of their children’s interest and steer them towards educational games such as Minecraft. Furthermore, with the efforts of edTech companies, pedagogies such as game-based learning and gamification of learning are able to motivate and engage children with their academic curriculum and successfully divert the attention of children from these video games.
With respect to policymaking on gaming, the government needs to impose age restrictions, rather than ban games altogether. Creating restrictive laws on gaming content and online gambling can impede sexually explicit or biased games such as Rape Day and gambling games involving virtual money such as Game of War. The increased popularity of online gaming necessitates having a regulatory board and a rating system in the Indian socio-cultural context as well.