At first, the kid seemed like any other kid his age – head down engrossed in his mobile phone as we sat in a hotel lobby. Then started what can only be described as frantic, almost hysterical screaming at his phone as he started relaying instructions to someone via his earpiece imploring them to go left, right, or kill. This weird spectacle last year was my first encounter with Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds or PUBG, as it’s commonly called. Since then it has gone on to become a sensation and along the way garnered perhaps more than its fair share of notoriety with even Narendra Modi apparently aware of its ill-effects.
But while playing time is India has been capped at six hours apparently, the authorities in Nepal have gone a step further and banned the game outright. Although, this seems to have had little effect as players continue to play the game as before. In any case, like with the ban on pornographic content there are various ways to circumvent it that – unless the authorities have tools and means to enforce the ban – limits the entire idea of prohibiting something to a paper exercise.
But games come and go and for many of them even a faint amount of mass popularity brings with it all kinds of criticisms – from their addictive features to their apparent promotion of anti-social behavior. The hysteria surrounding PUBG is due to its mass appeal – as a game is easily accessible via smartphones (no expensive gaming consoles to obtain), has what gamers would call a very small learning curve and combined with its ability to interact socially while playing makes it perhaps more addictive than others.
But the ban on PUBG, one feels, has more to do with extreme and sensationalized cases resulting from addictive behavior rather than the merits or otherwise of the game itself. There are more violent games out there than PUBG and there are many more that are just as, if not more, addictive. Normally, the few cases reported in China, India and elsewhere would be considered outliers but given the mass popularity of the game it has set off alarm bells among parents and teachers regarding its detrimental effects.
In Nepal we tend to attribute cause and effect very simply without giving due thought to underlying issues. As with porn and its perceived role of promoting violence against women (VAW), PUBG has been charged with directly and exclusively fostering addiction and aggressiveness in children. As with everything in life, moderation is key and in this country there are thousands of people playing this game, showing up for college or work the next day and otherwise leading normal lives – or in other words not turning into aggressive, gun toting weirdoes.
If it helps you relax at the end of a hard working day, take a break from your studies or just pass some idle time then why should you have to pay the price for what a few idiots are doing or likely to do. It’s not too dissimilar to having a drink in moderation versus going overboard with it. Discipline, behavioral grooming, and access to gadgets are broader parenting issues and hardly likely to be solved by banning a game. If this sort of education and enforcement is not part of a child’s upbringing then banning a game that is rated 16 over anyway is just shifting the blame. I say this from my experience as a teacher dealing with adolescents and their parents. Teachers are often expected to inculcate in two hours of daily classes the discipline and behavioral traits that the parents haven’t managed to in the last 20.
When it comes to games, within the confines of a home or even boundaries of a school, it is better to educate and enforce than wait for the state to deal with it. As pointed out before, where there is a will there usually is a way. When it comes to parenting, modern technology is going to throw up many more challenges like these in the form of games, augmented reality experiences, social media interaction, online or even television content. You cannot seriously expect to ban everything and live in the dark ages.
Simply banning something on paper isn’t going to make it go away and parents, educators and the state have no idea about the viability and practicality of enforcing technology related bans. Instead of moving with the times and coping accordingly, we often choose the most simplistic and generalized solution. And, as you can probably tell, it’s not working.
The writer loves traveling, writing, and
good food when he is afforded an escape from the rat race. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org