In India, concerns over the impact of gaming app PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, or commonly called PUBG, have risen again after a 17-year-old boy from Haryana’s Jind district killed himself on July 7. The boy reportedly hung himself after his mother scolded him for playing PUBG and took away his phone.
Local reports state that the teenager used to spend a large amount of his time playing the popular and highly addictive game, and had “given up on studies” after grade 10, a year ago. The victim’s father, a policeman, told the media that he would often scold his son for slacking on his studies to play the game. “I was on duty on Saturday evening when my wife found him playing PUBG in his room and snatched his mobile phone. She found him hanging in the room the next morning,” he said.
A similar incident had taken place in April this year when a 16-year-old boy from Telangana died by suicide after being scolded by his mother for not studying for his exams. The grade 10 student had reportedly locked himself in his room and when the parents knocked down the door, the minor’s body was hanging from the ceiling fan. Yet another report came from Guwahati last month, where another grade 10 student hanged himself to death after his mother scolded him and locked away his phone for not studying.
So far, no case of mental health issues has been reported in any of those cases. However, they all seem to come from a similar age bracket and facing similar parental pressures of studying for grade 10 examinations, which in India, come with a lot of premium attached to them. In the past, the game has mostly been linked to severe consequences of addiction. In May, a 16-year-old boy from Madhya Pradesh reportedly had a cardiac arrest after spending six hours straight playing the game. Yet another report came from Maharashtra’s Bhiwandi district, where a 15-year-old stabbed his brother to death for scolding him for playing PUBG.
The gaming app has been stuck in controversy in India since early this year, when Gujarat became the first state in the country to ban PUBG, leading to an unprecedented number of young Indians being arrested. Then in May, the World Health Organization declared video gaming addiction a mental health disorder. The game remains banned in countries like Jordan, China and Nepal, among others, for having a negative mental impact on the users.
In the light of the ban in India, PUBG issued a statement in March, saying that it’s meant “merely for entertainment and should be enjoyed in a healthy and responsible manner.” “We are working to understand the legal basis of such bans, and hope we can have a constructive dialogue with relevant authorities to explain our objectives and that they withdraw the prohibition. To PUBG Mobile players, we want to assure you that we are on your side and we will try our best to find a reasonable solution,” they said.
At the same time, digital activists such as the Internet Freedom Foundation have called these bans “arbitrary” and forcing “youngsters to give up recreational activities”. “The PUBG Ban is fuelled by moral panic and the harms from video games require scientific study and then non-legal methods of engagement,” the organisation has said.
Government bodies such as the National Child Rights Commission are taking a cue from stakeholders such as politicians, parents and teachers, and demanding a blanket ban on the game in India. But it remains to be seen whether these reports will bring in further crackdown in the country, or give in to the supposedly flawed correlation between aggression in teens and gaming culture.
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This article originally appeared on VICE IN.