The recent ruckus about PUBG reached absurd heights when the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights deemed the game ‘harmful’.
An 11-year-old kid in Mumbai – Ahad Nizam – moved the Bombay High Court to ban the game as it promotes ‘violence’. The game was also in the news because PM Modi referred to it in one of his staged talks. Our expectations from politicians are so low that we are bowled over when a staged question is asked, and our Prime Minister is aware of a video game!
But this is hardly a new phenomenon – Indian parents have a tendency to brandish anything beyond their comprehension as ‘harmful’ and ‘evil’.
While growing up, we were told that watching TV was bad for us. That watching too much television promotes vices in children, even if the only shows available were Krishi Darshan and Swaabhimaan. The only real risk children faced at that time was going brain-dead from the quality of shows.
My parents hated my habit of reading novels and comics, and thrashed, abused and emotionally blackmailed me through childhood. Today, as an aspiring writer, I wonder how my life would have panned out if I was encouraged to read. Their decision literally changed my life – for the worse.
It was the same when early ‘video’ games came into the market. My parents got me a Tetris game – it is blasphemous to call it a ‘video’ game as there was no real ‘video’ – just a blob of pixels floating about. But they regulated the time I spent on it, constantly mouthing the dangers of playing ‘video’ games for hours.
Indian parents adapt to technology in their rigidity. When computers arrived, Indian parents equipped themselves with new-age rebuttals. PCs came with pre-installed games that were as exciting as getting your ears cleaned by a quack. Games like Minesweeper and Solitaire were so boring that Bill Gates decided to donate all his wealth to the needy.
But till a decade ago, Indian parents regulated time spent on computers, the use of the Internet, and what kids choose to do with it. Browsing through educational sites was accepted, anything beyond it was frowned upon. Watching science videos was okay, picking up a new hobby was not.
Honestly, the only forms of leisure that Indian parents allowed children to pursue are those that they engaged in – ‘Why don’t you go out and play?’, or ‘Ride your bicycle’. For if a child dabbles in something they do not understand, Indian parents see it as the first sign of rebellion. “Today he is playing video games, tomorrow he will rob the neighbours, loot the railway station, escape to Syria and blow up buildings.”
It is of course, completely alright for them to watch the news for hours at stretch, or forward riot-inducing crap on WhatsApp – there is no danger in that!
Last year, the Blue Whale Challenge whipped up a storm in Indian media, but the statistics and real numbers were minuscule. Indian media played it on loop like it was the biggest problem in the country.
The Blue Whale Challenge was a confirmation of all things evil that Indian parents personify about technology. It gives them yet another reason to stifle the desires of their children, to hammer and mould them into socially acceptable individuals. That is the reason why most Indian kids grow up thinking sex is bad. That ‘drugs’ are a sweeping category of substances that ruin lives. That sipping on beer makes us an alcoholic and buying clothes online is avarice.
I have been meaning to write on this subject for a while now, but I needed to first get familiar with the game. I installed PUBG on my mobile and played the game over the last week, just to check out what the fuss was all about.
I found the game highly addictive, but also extremely fun. I met people from the ages of 12 to 45, happily playing with each other. There were young boys and college kids, women who finished their office, and middle-aged men who were making the transition from CounterStrike to mobile gaming.
I played the game for more than 50 hours in the last one week, and not once did I find any trace of bullying. If anything, I found people making new friends, teaming up with them, collaborating to come up with strategies.
One team I was a part of had two boys from Varanasi and one from Chennai. Usually, Hindi is the language that players communicate in. But seeing that the boy was struggling, they began speaking in English. It was a beautiful moment – three strangers getting to know each other, making efforts to understand each other – coming together with no agenda but to take their mind off their stressful days.
How the fuck is this harmful to society?
The real reason the PUBG issue is being brought up now is because of the upcoming Board Exams. For Indian parents, life begins and ends with the Board Exam, and since a mobile phone cannot be controlled and rationed (like PCs), they are losing their minds.
If my children do not adhere to the exact path that I charted out for them, how will I mould them into exactly what I think they should become?
I feel bad for the kid in Mumbai who moved the Bombay High Court to ban PUBG. It was clearly not his decision – kids have better stuff to do than move a High Court. He must have been severely pressurised by his parents.
I wonder what his schoolmates think of him. And if they secretly invite him to join their team on PUBG during a boring Hindi period!
A version of this post was first published on the author’s personal blog.