A boy’s suicide this week in southern India after his mother scolded him for playing a popular online game has inflamed a national debate over whether the game should be banned.
The 16-year-old’s father demanded a ban on PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, known by the acronym PUBG, after his son hanged himself from a ceiling fan at their Hyderabad home following a reprimand for wasting time online rather than studying for an English exam, according to Indian news reports.
At the heart of the conflict in India is a cultural norm: Parents expect their children, many of whom live with them well into adulthood, to concentrate on academics and professional pursuits.
And supporters of a ban say the game can be a deadly distraction. In March, two men in their twenties playing the game on their phones near railway tracks in Maharasthra state were killed by an oncoming train, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
PUBG is a survival game developed by a South Korean company in which players are dropped onto an island and have to eliminate each other. Since its launch in 2017, it has garnered a huge global following across PCs, consoles and mobile platforms. By last December, it had 200 million mobile downloads alone.
A few cities in the central Indian state of Gujarat have already banned the game, citing concern that it was making players more violent and distracting students from their schoolwork. Since then, two dozen young people across Gujarat have been arrested for violating the ban.
A movement against PUBG in Gujarat began in January, when the state’s public education department ordered schools to place a moratorium on the game until April 30, the end of the academic year.
Though Gujarat is the only state in India so far where PUBG has been banned, officials in other areas are calling for similar action.
In December 2018, the Vellore Institute of Technology in Tamil Nadu state in southern India banned the game because it “spoiled the entire atmosphere on the campus,” according to a statement to students by the school’s wardens chief, the official responsible for student housing.
Arguing for a ban in February, the state of Goa’s minister of information technology, Rohan Khaunte, called the game a “demon in every house,” the Press Trust of India reported.
In Gujarat, police action against PUBG gamers began in March, when several districts started issuing bans.
Achyuta Rao, president of a children’s advocacy group in Hyderabad, said he wrote a letter to the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, a government agency, asking it to encourage city authorities to ban the game, citing the death of a 21-year-old man in late March who had played PUBG almost non-stop for four days.