As Border Tensions Close PUBG’s Virtual Battlefield, Addicts May Need Help

by Khalid Bashir Gura

SRINAGAR: Much to the frustration and agony of virtual gamers, the brewing tensions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China-made India ban 118 more Chinese apps including widely popular game: Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).

Youngsters while playing PUBG game. KL Image by Malik Kaisar

Still, to come with terms, the PUBG players in the virtual battleground have fallen silent after the ban. With the virtual battle app being banned, the headphones full of virtual war noise have been plucked out from ears: no bullets, lobbing of grenades, killings, shouts, shrill abuses and no exchange of friendly banters or thrill at the victory, or growing irritability at incoming calls or frowning at disruptions.

As parents, preachers, teachers, doctors and civil societies could not dissuade the PUBG players from exiting the game due to its highly insidious addictive nature and convince the government to ban the virtual the battle game, the real world standoff between two nuclear giants; India and China since past few months got it banned along with other hundreds of Apps.

Hameem Ahmed, 21, is one of this app users for more than two years, is worried about getting sleepless and missing late-night conversations with his friends. “I am used to falling asleep while playing the game. And there is always a sense of proximity and connect with friends while playing it,” he said. Considering it routine, Hameem said that every day after returning from work he meets his friends at their place or a public park and play till late evening. “As planned, much to the agony of parents at home, after dinner we get online again and played it till late night up till 2 -3 am.”

Amid all this Hameem had to bear reprimands, frowns of the parents and elders at home, especially those who are not involved in the virtual battlefield. At times he turns into social moron for days, refusing to go out of his room, scowling and growling at any interruptions, ignoring incoming calls or yelling of parents. If at all their voice reaches him through the noise of virtual war world.

Virtual Battles

“My mind is preoccupied with the thoughts of how I will live without it, and sleep without it,” worries Hameem who is growing anxious and depressed at the thought of it not working on the phone.

Hameem is a member of a team named WOLF bearing Indian Flag as an identity. “The game helped us to escape daily frustration and tensions. It was an escape for us after day-long work or studies. After my nervous breakdown due to relationship problems, it was this game which kept me busy and sane,” says Hameem.

Another co-players mother used to taunt and jest them to eat a lot of food at dinner so that they can fight and shout loudly at night in virtual battle.

Another user Takeef Ahmed, 21, said: “We are waiting for its removal. The waiting is full of pain.  It used to wade off my depression and anxiety. Time used to flit in its presence.” He believes that by removing the app the subsided anxiety and depression may aggravate.

“There is only one aim all the while playing the game: killing and winning the chicken dinner. The game is full of entertainment and provides the thrill with each win and loss,” said the duo, the PUBG players of the same group.

However, mental health experts believe that children who play more violent games are more likely to have increased violent thoughts, emotions, behaviours and less compassionate levels.

Dr Muzaffar Khan, a leading psychologist of Kashmir, welcomed the ban but questioned its implementation on the ground.

“PUBG has been documented with high addiction potential. The sudden stopping of the game will bring behavioural changes in people addicted to it. Restlessness, irritability, concentration problems, boredom and other health issues will entail its absence in the phones and the dependents will look for other alternatives; good or bad to cope up with its lack” said the doctor who forewarned parents whose wards are addicted to it may have to face a tough time as the addicts want of it will have “soft withdrawal symptoms,” which will subside with time.

Refuting the users’ justifications the doctor added that everyone is stressed and everyone seeks coping mechanisms, “There are healthy and unhealthy coping strategy, and if the game is used to distract oneself for a time being like other healthy pursuits, it is healthy but the unhealthy using patterns that alter lifestyle is dangerous.” The doctor added that there are pros and cons of everything depending on the usage.

Parents of Hameem and Takeef consider it as a blessing in disguise. The parents of the duo have heaved a sigh of relief. They expect their children to spend some time away from the screen. “We are worried about his sleeping, eating, socializing patterns disrupted by the game. During the day he used to sleep, work and at night kept shouting while playing the game,” says Hameem’s parent. Similarly, the ban has also allayed the worries of parents, guardians, teachers who earlier were failing to convince their wards to give up the game.

Psychiatrist, Dr Maqbool says that gaming and mobile addiction was aggravated during the lockdown as it kept them busy. As people had lesser opportunities to move out they resorted to confining themselves within four walls to screen. “This is also an addiction and for every addiction, the brain has an award system. The brain areas get stimulated. But this is less severe to drug addiction and less harmful.”

Why PUBG Should Be Banned? An Advocate Writes To PM

Contrary to the psychological impact of excessive gaming, research has consistently shown that gaming can bring many positive benefits including therapeutic, medical, health, cognitive, and educational benefits

Presently as geo-political tensions simmer, the app has been banned in India citing national security and data theft. It is worth mentioning here that roughly 25 per cent of PUBG players of the world belonged to India. “This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace,” the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in the statement.

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