Lucknow park turns haven for addictive gaming passion at night, stakes high
As night descends, groups of online gaming enthusiasts take over Buniyaad Bagh in Old Lucknow’s Kashmiri Mohalla.
Soon, the sound of gunshots, bombing, loading and unloading of guns and hushed shrieks break the silence. The Nawabi-era playground meant for outdoor games sees a complete transformation as it turns into a safe haven for BGMI (Battle Ground Mobile India) gamers, which they say is an Indian version of PUBG (Player Unknown’s Battle Grounds)—the multiplayer battle mobile game.
SAFE HAVEN FOR BGMI GAMERS
People belonging to the gaming community that largely includes those in the 11 to 38 years age group begin pouring into the ground late evening. Their number increases to 60 or so by midnight. Old timers residing in Kashmiri Mohalla and the nearby pockets say that the change is of recent vintage.
“Such crowd was not seen three or four years back. And now it remains a constant affair at night. Allah jaane kya dekhte rehtein hain ye bacche mobile mein. Is mobile ne naslein kharaam kar di hain. (God knows what they keep on staring at in their mobile phones. These smartphones are spoiling our future generation),” says Fehmi Naqvi, a local resident and electrician.
Other locals say the gathering has become all the more evident after the Covid lockdown.
GAMERS WELCOME TREND
While locals find it an unusual and “insane trend”, people from the gaming community welcome it.
“We are not bothering anyone, just playing our game and minding our own business without disturbing anyone else. It’s no different from any other game like cricket, badminton or any other sport that requires physical labour. The only difference is that this game requires more of a mental labour. I think it’s a welcome trend,” says Sayed Zafar Zaidi who owns a game ID under the name “Katai Zehar” (extremely poisonous in local parlance).
Zaidi, who calls himself a pro level BGMI player, is at the park here along with his squad of four to play. He has been playing the game since 2018.
“I am a game lover. Initially, I used to play a game called—Rules of Survival that was more or less similar to PUBG. But in that game, hackers were more active. Hence, I switched over to PUBG that is less prone to hacking. Initially I played one season, then second season and so on…and today I am a pro-level player,” says Zaidi, who has a big fan following among the gaming community.
REAL-TIME GAMING MAKES IT ADDICTIVE
However, the gamers cannot deny that the game is addictive.
“Indeed, this game is addictive and one has to set limits. In my initial days, I used to play almost 9 to 12 hours a day. However, now I have restricted it to two to three hours a day as to me this is a stress buster,” says Zaidi, who is into the food supplement business.
Perhaps, it’s the real-time nature, which the gamers say, makes this game more addictive.
“One squad comprises four players, who can be your friends too. And at the maximum, there can be 100 players in the game. It is more of a mission game that becomes more interesting and tougher with each level. We have to land on strategic locations, with loot weapons and supplies and we have to survive to become the last team standing across the diverse battleground. What makes this game more interesting is its real-time nature. When in the game, we can interact freely which also gives us a feel and look as if we are in the battle field and are virtually a part of a mission. It is this thing that makes it more addictive,” says Mohammed Amir, another pro-level gamer.
IN-APP PURCHASES PROMOTE CRIME
Some gamers, while highlighting the recent incident where a 16-year-old Lucknow boy shot his mother who was stopping him from playing PUBG, say no doubt the game is all about violence, but this is not the only reason that forces players to commit crime.
“I think it is also the need for money that arises while playing the game. This game has lot of in-application purchases that that go into lakhs. And this need of money is also acting as a catalyst,” another gamer says.
GAMERS SPEND ₹2.5-6 LAKH TO UPGRADE THEIR GAME ID
They say one needs money quite often to upgrade ID, which is more of a status symbol now.
“One needs to buy UC (game currency to make purchases within the game). And 300 UC comes at a cost of ₹300. Now to buy skin or to upgrade a weapon, one needs to spend 50,000 UC to upgrade a particular gun or even more to buy something else that may include binoculars, upgrade car, armour, costume, gun, backpack, glasses and so on. For instance, I myself have spent around ₹2,50,000 so far in upgrading my ID. Some people use fair means to meet out the expenses while a few use unfair means,” says a gamer.
Another gamer named Mohammed Rashid from Varanasi claims to have spent around ₹6 lakh in upgrading his game ID.
“Upgraded ID is a status symbol in the game community. Having an upgraded ID means a pro level player and that is visible to all the players in the game, who often praise you for holding such an ID. Among others, M 416 Glacier, AKM Glacier, M 416 Fool, Desert Fozzil-AKM are perhaps the most expensive gun skins in BGMI with the price running into lakhs.
Other than the regular gamers, there are some tournament organisers as well who are present at the park. They say BGMI tournaments are quite common these days where teams of players can participate virtually.
“Any person holding a room card can organise a tournament. The players can participate in the tournament just like any other sport and have a chance to win the winning amount that could be from ₹5,000 to ₹50,000 or even more,” a tournament organiser says.
‘PUBG MAKES A PERSON AGGRESSIVE, VIOLENT AND INSENSITIVE’
Gamers say they find no difference between PUBG, BGMI and any other sport. But psychiatrists have altogether a different opinion about the game, which, to them, badly affects the unconscious mind.
“Our brain learns things in two ways—consciously and unconsciously. Consciously means the things that we want to learn. Unconsciously refers to the things that are getting registered in our brain automatically, without being noticed. And such violent games affect the unconscious mind that reacts perhaps in the same violent manner if it comes across a similar situation,” says Manini Srivastava, assistant professor department of psychology, University of Lucknow.
She says a study of the cartoon content being served to children across India revealed the children exposed to the violent cartoons are more aggressive in nature as compared to other kids.
“Violent games like PUBG or BGMI are totally different from traditional games like chess, carom, badminton, cricket or football. Playing these games will only result in aggression, insensitivity and violent behaviour.”
GAMING COMMUNITY SAYS IT IS BRIDGING THE COMMUNAL GAP
In contrast to what psychologists say, people belonging to the gaming community believe that technology comes with both pros and cons. The pros should be taken and cons should be ignored, they suggest.
“In the present times of growing communal divide, it is this gaming community that has kept them united irrespective of our caste and community. It is bridging the gap between people. I found my soul mate on PUBG and now we are getting married this November. We have got friends from PUBG and often organise PUBG meets. I think we should also look at the positive side. Indeed, it is a welcome trend,” another gamer says.
Additional deputy commissioner of police (West) CN Sinha said playing games on mobile phones is not a crime and it is permissible unless it affects others.
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