Multiple areas in Gujarat have now banned mobile games PUBG and Momo following notifications from the state home ministry, according to multiple reports.

Per the notification, anybody can report a person who is playing the game, and violators can be prosecuted under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.

Officials have said that the games incite violence among players, who are mostly children, affect children’s education, and change players’ behaviour after sometime. Jagruti Pandya, the Gujarat state chairperson for the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), recommended the ban to the body, citing the negative effects of the game.

PUBG or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was created by Chinese company Tencent Games and launched in March 2018 on smartphones. A Quartz study from December 2018 found that PUBG was the top-grossing game on Google Play Store, and about 72% of PUBG gamers were making in-app purchases of up to Rs 350. The game has seen over 200 million downloads, and has 30 million daily active users globally.

Also readThe phenomenon that is PUBG in India

The Momo game, presumably refers to the Momo challenge, which has been found to be an internet hoax. The ‘Momo Challenge’ was thought to be a game in which a person ‘Momo’ would lure children into performing a series of tasks – possibly involving self-harm – without informing their family. The people targeting children would contact them via WhatsApp. 

The petition seeking a PUBG ban in all Maharashtra schools

Last month, an 11-year old boy petitioned the Bombay High Court seeking a ban on PUBG in all Maharashtra schools, stating that the game promoted violence, murder, aggression, looting, leading to game addiction and cyber bullying.

  • The PIL pointed out that India does not have an online ethics review committee to check such volatile and violent content. It states that PUBG was banned in China by such a committee for inducing violence.
  • It cited a WHO report about gaming disorders and their adverse impact on children
  • The PIL sought direction from the Maharashtra State Education Department to ban PUBG in all schools.
  • It also sought direction to MeitY and the Union government to form an Online Ethics Review Committee to monitor such content.

Sneha adds: It is unclear how the Gujarat government plans to enforce this ban. Some ways we think the ban could be enforced: Asking app stores to block certain geo IPs, asking ISPs to block pages on which this game is circulated or distributed for download. Readers will know that there are multiple ways to bypass all of these restrictions. More so, government officials do not cite any studies which link certain types of behaviour with games (mobile, video, any other). It would be good to see evidence with respect to this relationship. The government could also hold the game makers responsible and ask them to have checks and balances in place, like age restriction, for example. Time and again, we’ve said that banning is a knee-jerk reaction which is not productive. Transparency in the process, checking with global experts, and providing us with more details will go a long way. 

Also read: Shashi Tharoor: Regulating online sports gaming can increase revenues and weed out black money