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India Arrests Players of 'Addictive' Online Video Game

Labelled “a demon in every house”, PUBG is facing a crackdown in Gujarat.

by Pallavi Pundir
18 March 2019, 10:27pm

PUBG cosplayers at a gaming expo in Chennai, India. Photo: Sujay Kulkarni

This article originally appeared on VICE India

Certain things kind of need to be banned in India. Things like flashing a boner on an unsuspecting public in the form of a statue, telling young people to kidnap the girls they like, and the unleashing of wrath on people kissing rather than pissing in public.

You would not think a video game would be on that list. And yet, we continue to surprise ourselves. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)—a free-to-download, survival-themed battle game, in which online gamers are placed on an island and have to eliminate other players to be the sole survivors—has been upsetting a lot of Indians ever since its launch as a mobile app last year, even leading to a ban in the state of Gujarat. And now, acting upon an unprecedented response to the popularity, and the subsequent controversy around the game, the state police of Gujarat is cracking down on a very different kind of law-breakers: its unrelenting players.

Over the last one week, the state police has imprisoned 16 people, including students, for allegedly playing PUBG on their phones. Though now out on bail, the case will go to the courts, followed by a trial for not following the notification.

Gujarat became the first state to officially ban PUBG in January this year. The game, which has reportedly been blamed for being extremely addictive among the youngsters, has been under the radar of various government bodies for the last six months for being “a demon in every house”. Umm… ya, video games can be addictive and ruin student lives but so can be television, sugar and cigarettes.

In India, the game’s negative impact was first seen last year when a 15-year-old boy was admitted to a Bengaluru clinic for PUBG addiction. This year, a fitness trainer from Jammu ended up in a hospital for reportedly inflicting self-harm after playing the game. And just last month, a teenager in Mumbai committed suicide after his parents didn’t let him play the game.

At the moment, the ban can lead to prosecution under the Central Government Act under Section 188. However, the police, and educational and research institutions are exempted in order to play/use the game to investigate. The statement, released by the Rajkot police, has pointedly blamed the game for inciting violent behaviour among players, mostly school kids. The latest ones to be put behind bars were six people who were arrested yesterday in the city of Rajkot, where they were reportedly caught playing a game at a paan shop early in the morning. A police officer observed how the “accused were so engrossed in playing” that they—identified as university undergrads and private job holders— didn’t even see the police approaching.

"We have seized their phones and other belongings which will be given back after due procedure in the court. We hope it deters them from playing the game," a police officer told a media house. "The exercise is being done as many people are getting addicted to the game,” said Rajkot police commissioner Manoj Agarwal.

In the meantime, PUBG has issued an official statement, saying that the game is “meant merely for entertainment and should be enjoyed in a healthy and responsible manner.”

While at that, PUBG Mobile has now announced that it will reach “more players” by coming up with PUBG Lite for low-end PCs.

Follow Pallavi Pundir on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on VICE IN.