Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, popularly known as PUBG, has become the raging topic of discussion and censure in India as reports of PUBG addiction causing mental harm to kids and teenagers have started surfacing. There are many youngsters who play this game daily and for hours together. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aware of the game’s popularity. During the Pariksha pe Charcha session in Delhi, a woman concerned about how she could keep her son, a Class IX student, away from online gaming, asked PM Modi what to do about it. And the Prime Minister was quick to come up with a witty response saying, “Ye PUBG wala hai kya?” PM Modi’s reply received a huge round of applause from the audience.
Recently, a 19-year-old PUBG addict was arrested in Delhi for allegedly killing his parents and sister. In another case, a fitness trainer from Jammu grew addicted to it in mere 10 days. According to reports, the man began to hit himself with blows after completing a round of the game, and had to be hospitalised. Another 15-year-old Bengaluru boy is believed to be receiving treatment for addiction to PUBG.
In the light of such cases, the Gujarat government has issued a circular to ban students from playing PUBG in schools. Issued by the State’s primary education department after a recommendation by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the circular directs District Primary Education Officers to take all precautions and steps to enforce a ban on PUBG in primary schools.
While one might think that that playing a game for a few hours cannot be that harmful, doctors clearly differ.
“I would like to first explain that not all video games are bad. However, PUBG is a highly addictive game, mostly because of the violence in it. Kids are very vulnerable and may repeat the actions that they see while playing the game. Such games can blur the line between right and wrong for a child,” opines consultant psychiatrist and therapist Dr Purnima Nagaraja. “Children do not know how much to watch or what to watch, so parental control is extremely important,” she adds.
The last two decades have seen substantial increase in mental health problems emerging from the internet and gaming addiction, which has led the World Health Organisation (WHO) to recognise “gaming disorder” as a diagnose-able condition.
Explains Dr Baijesh Ramesh, a psychologist, “Excessive gaming behaviour (games like PUBG) also tend to result in increased aggressive behaviour, poor academic performance, sleep difficulties, feelings of loneliness and other serious emotional and behavioural problems among children and adults. In the last six months I have had many clients who sought treatment for addiction to PUBG. Though the majority is between 12 and 24 years of age, I have had a good number of middle-aged individuals also seeking treatment for it.”
However, professional gamers and gaming experts feel that a person’s aggression cannot be blamed on a game. “Games can’t be the reason for a person’s violent behaviour. On the other hand, games help raise the level of good aggression. Targeting PUBG is unfair as there are lots of other games which have the same game play. According to me, the government should focus on the real issue behind the rising violence amongst youngsters rather than banning games,” says Balaji Ramnarayan, professional Dota 2 player.
Resonating the same, Aditya Dogra, game beta tester and an avid gamer adds, “Banning the game over aggression is not a right decision. There are multiple games on shoots and loots, PUBG is not alone. But even if the Gujarat government is banning it, there are many APK files easily available on the internet. That accessibility can’t be monitored. Moreover, the government should focus on raising awareness about how youngsters should differentiate between a game and real life.”
Supporting the voice of the gamers, Dr Ramesh adds, “Many times children identified as having gaming disorder are also suffering from other co-morbid behavioural and emotional problems. There are also researchers viewing the excessive gaming behaviour as a coping mechanism associated with underlying problems of a different nature.”...