The PUBG Phenomenon: Fun Pastime or National Crisis?

The Battle Royale genre is huge right now, bigger than the FPS craze of a few years ago, the Battle Arena obsession of the last decade and the sim mania of the early 2000s. It combines elements of massive online multiplayer with non-stop action and it’s gathering a huge following, as evidenced by the rising popularity of one of the biggest titles in this genre, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).

On the surface, all of that seems relatively harmless. Gaming trends come and go, money is made, players get their fix, and then developers move onto the next fad. But here in India PUBG is taking part in another age-old video gaming trend: the controversy.

PUBG bans are being called for across India following a controversy that—as is usually the case with video game controversies—is borne out of a hysterical overreaction. And, as is so often the case during these media and governmental hysterias, the controversy is actually helping the game’s popularity, making it one of the must-play games in India right now.

Why do they Want it Banned?

PUBG is not banned yet nationwide, but it has been banned in many cities, where it is an offense to play it in a public place. Just a few days prior to writing this article 10 youngsters were arrested in Rajkot for playing the game in a public place.

So what is causing so much controversy? Is it an obscenely violent title like Manhunt? Does it promote bullying like Bully or drug use and prostitution like Grand Theft Auto? No. None of those things. In fact, while it could be argued that all video game bans are an overreaction, this one is even more so.

The issue here seems to be that PUBG is addictive. The game, which can be downloaded for free on mobile devices, is apparently luring kids into a gaming addiction, turning them lazy and unproductive as a result.

It’s all a little over-the-top and unnecessary. In fact, the first reaction that any self-respecting gamer has to these headlines is that it must be fake, or at the very least intentionally instigated for PR reasons. After all, the team behind the very first Grand Theft Auto intentionally tried to court controversy for their game, knowing that as soon as it became “the game that no one should play” in the eyes of parents and teachers, it would instantly become “the game that everyone needs to play” in the eyes of kids.

That seems to be having the same effect here, as Indian kids rush to download and play the game, something that they can still do on account of the fact that it hasn’t been banned nationwide and will remain available until it is.

PUBG Banned In IndiaWhere is it Banned?

PUBG has been banned to some degree in several Indian cities, some permanent, some temporary, they include:

  • Surat
  • Rajkot
  • Vadodara
  • Bhavnagar
  • Gir Somnath
  • Aravalli

Is There Anything to Worry About?

Video gaming addiction is a very real threat and one that can cause serious problems, but there are usually underlying conditions at play, and its these that trigger the addiction. A kid who is depressed, anxious and stressed is more likely to develop such an addiction and they do it because it provides them with an escape from their depressive, anxiety-ridden, stress-filled life.

Does this mean that PUBG is at fault? Of course not. That same kid could find a similar escape in drugs, alcohol, or an array of other games. If your kid is playing far too much PUBG and you think they may be addicted, the answer is not to take the game away from them and leave everything else untouched, it’s to sit them down, find out what’s wrong, and look for alternative ways to help them.

Is PUBG Safe for Kids?

Let’s ignore the “addiction” issues here, because if we used that as a reason to ban things then nobody would eat, drink or play and we’d all spend our days sitting still and eating flavorless slurry.

PUBG has an age rating of 17, but many parents who play it, and have spent their youth playing similar games, say that it should be safe for kids above the age of 13. It’s as violent as you would expect for a game where the goal is to kill other people, but it’s not as obscene or as gory as other games.

In fact, it looks pretty tame when compared to games like Call of Duty World War II, where players were asked with storming the beaches at Normandy and watching their comrades getting blown to bits around them.

PUBG is a great game for adults to play and it’s also free when played on mobile, with significantly less risk of the kids spending money on in-game items. In many ways, PUBG can actually be good for the economy, as it’s helping to establish many PUBG betting sites and is also kick-starting the eSport trend in India.

We’re lagging behind in this new sport, and games like PUBG are helping us to catch up, which is very important when you consider that many experts are predicting eSports will be the world’s biggest sport in a few decades.

Simply put, while PUBG can cause some issues for some people, it’s nowhere near as bad as the blanket bans would have you believe and everyone needs to lighten up and give this game a chance. Who knows, the kids that are “wasting their lives” playing games today could be the same kids winning titles and earning million-dollar checks in eSport competitions of the future.

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