PUBG Ban in India

The PlayerUnknown’s battleground is one of the most favorite online multiplayer games all over the world. Since “it has over 175 million downloads in India, accounting for almost a quarter of total global downloads” according to sensor tower. The PUBG has registered its significant credit in the development of the e-sports industry in India. Many Indian gamers have been indulging themselves in PUBG as it has economic benefits as well. But the total economy based on the game has come to an end with its ban. The reason for the ban is said to be a government action against the cyber misuse of player’s data, which is reportedly transmitting to the unauthorized servers outside India and in the interest of protecting the security of the state. However, this ban is said to be implemented in connection with the recent geopolitical conflict with China.

On reacting to this ban the PUBG Corporation has clarified its ownership and declared that it is ready to work hand-in-hand with India. But there were many attempts taken place all over India demanding the ban of PUBG since the players started to become PUBG addicts. Because of this addiction, lots of crimes were reported in the past couple of years. Even now despite the Ban, many were playing PUBG which is available in VPN (a virtual private network).  As this game is most likely to reinstate and being an obsession, the main concerns of the parents, psychologists, and the critics are on the mental and physical health of the children. Thus, the object of this article is to analyze the impacts of the battle royals as a whole and its prevailing ban.

Introduction:

PlayerUnknown’s battleground is an online multiplayer battle royal game which is the intellectual property owned and developed by the South Korean video game firm Bluehole. But in India, it has been published by Tencent Holdings Ltd. until the ban was imposed. PUBG saw its popularity skyrocket since 2018 after it was released in the mobile version as well. As being one of the most popular mobile games in India, it has its audience of over five crore people who have downloaded the game. The game has over 200 million players all over the world. Lots of Indian Gamers have fruitfully engaged with e-sports via PUBG. And also developed the money-making concept through participating in worldwide championship PUBG leagues and live streaming the same.

It was accounted that, a young pro player could earn up to one lakh per annum since the Chinese company, Tencent has been invested lots of money in India for sponsoring tournaments and regional activities. The multinational conglomerates like Oppo and Vivo have also were involved in sponsoring and conducting the PUBG championships, even prominent companies like OnePlus and Asus have collaborated with the YouTubers (PUBG live streamers) for promoting their products. A massive pool of money was involved in PUBG. But the entire economy depends on PUBG was dismantled with its ban.

Evolution of PlayerUnknown’s battleground:

Primarily, the concept of this game was inspired and brought up from the Japanese movie “Battle Royale” directed by Kinji Fukasaku. The story begins with a group of high school students who were forced by the government to fight to the death on a remote island and end up with how they fought for their lives, whether or not they survived. It was a survival-based film released in the year of 2000. This movie was considered to be a hit in Japan. But in a few countries, it was banned as it depicts the brutality and violence.

However, the movie gave birth to the survival-based genre game popularly known as PUBG.  The battleground was initially published only for PCs in 2017. Then the free of cost mobile version was launched in 2018 in addition to play stations. In India, this mobile version was distributed and entirely controlled by the Chinese multinational conglomerate, Tencent for the Korean PUBG Corporation.

The PUBG mobile attains its zenith in India, as it can run smoothly almost in any mobile unlike Fortnite and black survival. If the mobile cost less than 10K then the survival game like Fortnite will not run but the player can enjoy PUBG.

The winner winner chicken dinner!

PlayerUnknown’s battleground is a survival game where one hundred players parachute into an island. These PUBG pits marooned in that island scavenge for weapons and equipment to kill others while dodging getting shots and fighting virtually for their lives. The safe area in the map shrinks by time, and this will make the game even more interesting and force clashes. The last man or the team standing wins the match.

The controversy started here!

This online multiplayer game lets players talk, chat, and engage with the random fellow players. These will more likely amount to cyberbullying, sexting, and cyberstalking.

This is free of cost game but has features to build the gamer’s avatar through the option of “Buy now”. As this game became an obsession, many cases were filed all around India. One of the notable cases was registered in Jharkhand, where an 11th-grade schoolboy lost Rs. 6.32 lakh while playing this online multiplayer game for purchasing the virtual warrior’s outfit and ingame advanced weapons. He used his father’s card for this transaction, and the cops said that since it was a legit transaction there is no cyber fraud has taken place.

Similarly, In July, a Punjab young gamer proved his craze for PUBG by spending the amount of Rs. 16 lakh from his father’s account for buying virtual ammunition. Here, one more PUBG fighter spends his mechanic father’s money of Rs. 50,000 for buying in-game weapons and a PUBG controller.

And also many cyber crooks and hackers are targeting the young gamers and fruitfully made the online gaming servers as the platform of cybercrimes. As a result of it, a cyber fraud was taken place in Haryana, where a Gurugram businessman has lost a huge sum of money as a result of his Xth-grade son’s PUBG addiction, Who had given UPI detail of his father’s bank account to his unknown fellow player for changing the real money into gaming currency.

These sorts of online games surged its popularity during this lockdown. As the number of gamers and time spent on online games is drastically increasing, this virtual gaming industry became more susceptible to cybercrimes.

PUBG a crime pusher:

Just like the blue whale game, many cases were also registered over the PUBG game including abetment of suicide, exposing children and youngsters to the world of negative thinking that leads to misconducts, looting, abusive behaviors, murders, cyber crimes, frauds, duping, domestic violence and loss of concentration in studies.

This statement can be substantiated by numerous criminal cases that have been reported in the past couple of years. In Karnataka, a 25 years old son killed his father, who had been trying to get his son off PUBG mobile game for months. But the man said to be a PUBG addict beheads his dad and also chopped off his limbs. The son even locked his family members in a room before killing his father.  According to section 302 of IPC, that person can be punished for committing a brutal murder. But it was suspected that the son has a mental disorder. The act of a person of unsound mind is exemplified in section 84 of IPC accordingly the investigation will proceed further.

Earlier, In Maharashtra 15 years old boy stabbed his 19 years old brother repeatedly with scissors to the death. Since his elder brother was scolding him overplaying PUBG game on his mobile phone. The 15 years old boy’s case was registered under section 302 of IPC.

In Pune, a 19 years old boy was stabbed by his friend with a chopper knife for refusing to give his smartphone to the accused who wanted to play the PUBG game[1]. Later the victim was hospitalized and the case was filed under section 307 of IPC (attempt to murder) and other relevant sections.

The game has developed a strong addiction towards it, and most of the gamers are being teenagers or below 25. The concept of survival till the death and play until winning tends to invoke the addiction for this game. This addiction is ultimately driving virtual shooters to real-life criminals. The PUBG game not only producing criminals but also affects the mental health of the players.

Everything for PUBG:

In Mumbai, it was recently reported that a boy allegedly committed suicide after his family denied to buy him a mobile phone cost Rs. 37,000 exclusively for playing PUBG. Even though his family was ready to buy him a phone worth Rs. 20,000 but the boy was glued to the expensive phone where he could get a better gaming experience. From this case, it is understandable that the game harms the children’s brains.

A 20 years old youngster in Telangana has died while playing the game. In the report, it was explained that the boy constantly played the game for 42 days and suffered from neck pain. He died during the treatment and the cause of the death was severe nerve damage in his neck.

Similarly, a young man from Madhya Pradesh mistakenly drank acid instead of water while he was engaged in shooting a stranger on the battleground. Then he was rushed to the hospital. One step ahead of this all, a 16 year- old PUBG addict faked his kidnap and sought ransom from his parents after they took away his phone.

Thus it is clear that the gaming disorder is prevailing among the Indian gamers. The world health organization defined the gaming disorder as a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.[2]

Reportedly, many youngsters also faced the stroke and heart attack after losing the battle. All these physical and psychological health issues of the players ultimately contributed to the voices raised against the PlayerUnknown’s battleground game.

Attempts to Ban:

Amid heavy criticisms, around the 2nd week of March, The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has sought a report from the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on the steps taken to ban online game Players Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBG) that is a rage among young children.[3] This action was brought up by the NCPCR after the death of a 9th-grade student, who was given psychiatric medication for his addiction towards the PUBG game.

Earlier, in 2019, public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Bombay high court against the game by an 11 years-old boy. He said that it is an “appeal to forthwith ban online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds [PUBG] as it promotes immoral conduct such as violence, murder, aggression, looting, gaming addiction and cyberbullying”.[4]

A lawyer HC Arora has also filed a PIL regarding the same in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. In his PIL he has mentioned that PUBG is as addictive as a drug. And he also claims that the game “normalizes” violence, which affects the mental health of the child and provokes immoral conduct.

The attempt to the ban of PUBG was taken in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Vadodara, and Bhavnagar in March 2019. The ban was said to be implemented under section 188 of IPC (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant). Even the local police have arrested several youngsters for playing PUBG despite the ban. But within a week the ban was lifted.

Ban on PUBG and its aftermath:

On September 2nd, 2020, the PUBG mobile game and other 117 apps have been banned by the government under section 69A of the information technology Act, because “they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, the security of a state and public order” said the ministry of technology and IT. They also mentioned that as the ministry of technology and IT has received many complaints against the misuse of some mobile apps available android and iOS platform. To ensure the sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, and security of the State. And using the sovereign powers, the Government of India has decided to block the usage of certain Apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet-enabled devices.[5]

Section 69A of IT Act, 2000 was introduced by an amendment to the Act in 2008.“ The power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource”. Thus, this section allows the central government to block contents where it believes that this content threatens the country’s security, sovereignty, and the integrity or defense of India.

This ban on 118 Apps is said to be in link with china, but nowhere government has explicitly mentioned the word like “China” or “Chinese” in any of its statements.

But this action of banning 118 apps was said to be a backdrop of the prevailing tension along the border after the Chinese provocation in Ladakh. And after this constant border tension, India has also started the boycott china movement.

In responding to this ban on PUBG mobile, the PUBG Corp. has decided not to authorize Tencent games to publish PUBG mobile in India. And also gave clarity over the PUBG ownership as, the PUBG mobile the mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s battleground is owned and developed by the PUBG Corporation, a Korean gaming company.

“It hopes to work hand-in-hand with the Indian government to find a solution that will allow gamers to once again drop into the battlegrounds while being fully compliant with Indian laws and regulations,” said the PUBG Corporation.

Conclusion:

Many believe that these moves taken by the PUBG Corporation will fruitfully reinstate the game in India. Even though the Indian government has not mentioned the word china apps or Chinese apps in the press release of banning 118 Apps. It was considered to be a strong economic tactic used by India against China. But this recent conflict has led to the development in the Indian market as India started to promote the idea of a self-dependant nation.

On the other end of the spectrum, the reinstate of PUBG mobile will affect a player’s mental health. Earlier many attempts were made to ban this game only on the grounds of the mental and physical health of the players not on geopolitical concerns. The controversies of the game started with its addictive and violent nature, which is the root of all other consequences that happened. So there is a need for stringent personal data protection law accompanied by regulation of the game that should be implemented. The obligation is on the parents to monitor their children, who are indulging themselves in the virtual world. Not every gamer could develop an affinity for aggression or addiction towards the game. It depends on how much time the child has spent on the game. For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months – world health organization on gaming disorder.

Despite the ban, gamers are still enjoying the game which is available in the VPN.  It is reported that a gamer can play PUBG if he has not uninstalled the game, and he can jump into the battlefield since the game is still loading. In Samsung and Xiaomi phones, the updates can also be downloaded through its native browser. Hence the game is still playable in India and if it is so, then a casual PUBG player can play it without any consequences. But the impact of the ban is mainly concentrating on the economic aspects of the game. The e-sports side of the PUBG has terminated as a result of the ban.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions):

  1. What is the reason for the ban on The PlayerUnknown’s battleground? 
  2. Does this sort of online multiplayer games could affect a child’s mental health?
  3. What is gaming disorder?
  4. Are any attempts were made for the ban of the game PUBG?
  5. Does the game is still playable in India despite the ban?
  6. What has the ban accomplished?
  7. Whether or not the PUBG could be reinstated in India?
  8. How far this gaming addiction could affect the player’s real life?

References:


[1] Pune Crime: Man Stabbed By Friend For Refusing To Give Phone To Play PUBG, https://www.mid-day.com/articles/pune-crime-man-stabbed-by-friend-after-refusing-to-give-phone-to-play-pubg/21580175, (21 Aug 2019)

[2] Gaming Disorder, https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/gaming-disorder#:~:text=Gaming%20disorder%20is%20defined%20in,the%20extent%20that%20gaming%20takes, (14 Sep 2018).

[3] NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR PROTECTION OF CHILD RIGHTS SEEKS ‘ACTION REPORT’ ON PUBG MOBILE BAN FROM IT MINISTRY: REPORT, https://www.digit.in/news/general/national-commission-for-protection-of-child-rights-seeks-action-report-on-pubg-mobile-ban-from-it-mi-47026.html#:~:text=Amid%20heavy%20criticism%20from%20the,PUBG%20Mobile%20banned%20in%20India.&text=The%20Police%20says%20that%20both%20the%20victims%20were%20playing%20PUBG, (18 Mar 2019).

[4] 11-year-old writes to the government seeking a ban on PUBG,

 https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/jan/30/maharashtra-boy-writes-to-government-seeking-ban-on-pubg-game-1932003.html, (30 Jan 2019).

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