The ban on Tencent owned game PUBG in Ahmedabad, in the Indian state of Gujarat has been lifted, according to the Times of India, or allowed to lapse, according to DNA. It’s not clear whether the ban has been lifted in other cities in Gujarat, including Rajkotm Surat, Bhavnagar, Gir Somnath and Panchmahal. In fact, the ban was first issued in Rajkot on March 8th, and was applicable from March 9th to April 30th 2019. In January, the Gujarat government banned PUBG in all state schools, stating that children were getting addicted and their education was being adversely affected. It seems that the Ahmedabad commissioner has linked the banning to exams, as per DNA, citing them as a direct trigger to initiating the action, and with exams now over, they don’t intend to renew the order. “We have also taken public reaction into account”, he said. They’re considering a helpline and still do see the “extreme use of the game” as a cause for concern.
In March, Gujarat police arrested another eight people in Ahmedabad and Himmatnagar areas. The Rajkot police had also arrested 10 people for playing the game, and booked them for violating a government order. The Rajkot city police has also included, in its PUBG ban order, a prohibitory order under Section 144 order under the CrPC which disallows assembly of more than four people in an area.
Jagruti Pandya, the Gujarat state chairperson for the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), had recommended the ban, citing the negative effects of the game. Hyderabad-based activist Vijay Gopal from Forum Against Corruption had also sought a ban against the game from the NCPCR and MeitY. In February, 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.
How PUBG reacted
The game it seems introduced a time limit for gameplay, introducing a “health reminder” which popped up after 6 hours of gameplay.
A subsequent reminder also asked users about whether they’re below 18 years of age, and it seems that some users clicked on the “Yes” option my mistake, even though they say they’re above 18. One user has actually published his PAN (Permanent Account Number) on twitter to indicate that he’s above 18.
There are no age limitations applicable to games in India, and the idea that gaming is bad for children has been propounded by parents afraid of addiction for as long as gaming has been there. Digital games do allow exposure to more violent games, and thus there is perhaps a case for certification and disclosures. Banning of a game isn’t something that the state should take up, unless there’s something that is patently illegal. If parents don’t want their kids to play games, or play certain games, that’s something for them to figure out. At best, what governments can do is ask app developers to enable controls for parents, and provide parents with tools to ensure that kids don’t play the games that their parents don’t want them to play.