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From attraction to obsession: Children’s relationship with PUBG and other online gaming

Thanks to PUBG and more games like it, children in the city are channelising a lot of their time and energy into online and mobile gaming, much to the chagrin of their parents.

education Updated: Feb 04, 2019 14:18 IST
Sadia Akhtar
Sadia Akhtar
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
PUBG , a multiplayer online game which has caught the attention of both parents and children in the city, as well as the rest of the country.
PUBG , a multiplayer online game which has caught the attention of both parents and children in the city, as well as the rest of the country.(REUTERS)
         

If one were to eavesdrop on a discussion of mothers of school-going children in the city, chances are that the word PUBG would crop up. The acronym stands for Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, a multiplayer online game which has caught the attention of both parents and children in the city, as well as the rest of the country.

The player versus player shooting game is based on the concept of battle royale, a video game genre where the last man/team standing wins, and has gained vast popularity in the past few months. The popularity of the game in the country can be gauged by the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently mentioned the game by name while addressing the issue of children’s interest in online games.

Thanks to PUBG and more games like it, children in the city are channelising a lot of their time and energy into online and mobile gaming, much to the chagrin of their parents.

Ten-year-old Arjun Sirohi, a Class 4 student, started playing the game two months ago after hearing about it from his friends. The game, he says, is extremely popular among his peers. “When I started playing the game, I quite liked it. It allowed me to create and customise my virtual avatar. I could also choose the continent I wanted to play on and found it very interesting. I even won the game a number of times,” he adds gleefully. While Sirohi has stopped playing PUBG of late and switched to other games, he says his classmates are still enthralled by it.

“My friends love online and mobile gaming. Almost everyone I know either plays PUBG or knows about it. They play for at least two or three hours on a daily basis. They also constantly complain about being scolded by their mothers for playing the game,” he says.

Reetu Sirohi, Arjun’s mother, says children these days are addicted to online games. A mother of three, she adds, “Younger children like Arjun have a greater penchant for online games. If I don’t keep him in check, he can continue playng for hours at a stretch. In fact, sometimes, when he is asked to desist from playing, he gets angry and misbehaves.”

Sirohi’s concern is shared by other parents who believe that children’s studies are being hampered due to games like PUBG. “PUBG is so addictive. Children can play it for hours and hours. On regular days, my son spends around three or four hours playing the game. I have had many discussions with other mothers about the effects of online gaming. Most of them agree that children are distracted due to these games. They just don’t want to study,” Rubal Kaur, the mother of a 13-year-old who studies in Class 7, says.

Kaur adds that while parents constantly forbid their children to play the game, children have their ways of getting around. “Children have online avatars and are continuously in touch with friends through the game. While I haven’t played it, I know that the game involves shooting opponents. They share their scorecards, and we don’t even come to know,” Kaur says.

On June 18 last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had classified compulsive gaming as a mental health disorder. According to the WHO, gaming disorder is characterised by impaired control over gaming and an increased priority given to gaming, to the extent that it takes precedence over daily activities.

Dr Jyoti Kapoor, senior consultant, psychiatry, Paras Hospital, says that she receives at least two or three cases every month of children who are addicted to online multiplayer games like PUBG. “Multiplayer games with enchanting visuals and elements of virtual reality have addictive potential. The brain registers the game and releases a chemical called dopamine in the reward pathway. This production of dopamine gives the player a kick and induces an adrenaline rush in gamers, who then become addicted to the feeling,” Kapoor explains.

She adds that violent games are not healthy for children. “Aggressive games lead to higher aggression in circumstances off the gaming field. There are children who are unable to concentrate on studies, and start deteriorating academically, sometimes even having to leave school,” Kapoor says.

She adds that monitoring and awareness through counselling sessions are some ways of limiting the harmful impact of online gaming. Last month, PTI had reported that the Gujarat state primary education department had issued a circular banning the game after a recommendation by the Gujarat State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The game, the circular said, was “adversely affecting their studies”. An 11-year-old boy also moved the Bombay High Court last week seeking a ban on the game.

Some schools in the city have taken steps to create awareness about what they are calling the PUBG phenomena. “We are aware about PUBG. It is too violent a game to be played by children. Last month we had a workshop wherein children were informed about the addictive effects of the game. Our cyber awareness team also involves students in these sensitisation sessions,” Anshuka Aneja, deputy director, IT, Blue Bells Group of Schools, says.

First Published: Feb 04, 2019 14:18 IST

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