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Censor scissors on video games soon

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry is considering an amendment in the Cinematograph Act to give the Censor Board powers to check video games entering the Indian market. Chetan Chauhan and Ruchi Hajela tell us more...

india Updated: Jan 08, 2008 02:29 IST
Chetan Chauhan and Ruchi Hajela
Chetan Chauhan and Ruchi Hajela
Hindustan Times

Video games in the country may soon have to carry a censor certificate and a rating saying whether they are fit for children or not.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry is considering an amendment in the Cinematograph Act, 1952, to give the Censor Board mandatory powers to check video games entering the Indian market.

Censor Board chief Sharmila Tagore had recently submitted a proposal to the ministry seeking powers to ask video games manufacturers to delete objectionable portions in the games. If required, the board should also be able to ban a particular video game, the way it can ban a movie, she wrote.

The board has based its case on representations received from schools and social organisations citing the adverse impact of violent and erotic video games on children in urban India.

There was mixed reaction to the censorship plan in the country’s Rs 25-crore video game industry. Ravi Kumar, country manager of Gameloft India, said, “Censorship is very much required for PC games as these are more exclusive than mobile games. Considering games are about repeat play, prolonged exposure to violence, gory images or erotica can influence the player.”

Samir Bangara, chief operating officer of Indiagames, said, “In fact, I believe this move might even increase the sale of games which are full of violence and sex.”

A recent study by Michigan University published in international journal of adolescent health found that violent content in video games and television tend to turn children more aggressive and violent. It also said that children now spend much more time on video games than on outdoor games.

If the retailers in Delhi's Palika Bazar are to be believed sales of video games, including violent ones are increasing. Games like Killer 7, Dragon Blade, Great Auto Theft 3, Devil May Cry, Kingpin, Fear, Gun, Gears of War and Slasher are some of the video games with violent content. "Not only children play them even adults are addicted to the high speed excitement," said Rajiv Singh, a video game shop owner in Palika.

The board has proposed a system similar to Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) applicable for interactive and entertainment software in United States and Canada. The ESRB provides rating symbols suggesting age appropriateness for the game and content descriptors indicating elements in the game that has triggered a particular rating.

Censorship laws are applicable on video game in US, Canada, Australia, Greece and Germany. Countries like China have gone a step ahead and even censored online video games and even banning games showing excess violence and depicting China wrongly.

The official video game market in India is about Rs 25 crore, which is about one-tenth of the overall market. The combined market for PC, video and online gaming is about 400 million USD and mobile gaming about another 200 million USD.