The Government of Pakistan decided to temporarily ban the viral online game, 'PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' (PUBG) after a number of suicides which have been attributed to the game.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) claimed to receive numerous complaints about the game being “addictive, a waste of time” and was said to have a negative impact on young adolescents and children's physical and psychological well-being. Before the official court hearing on July 9th, the PTA has asked for feedback to be sent to them via email, regarding the game.
Suicides Linked to PUBG
On the 30th of June, 18 year old Shaharyar was found hanging in his home, in Punjab Housing Society, Lahore. The victim's brother, Shoaib, also confirmed that Shaharyar was a PUBG addict. A suicide note was also found at the scene in which the victim apologised to his friend and PUBG partner. Following the incident, the Inspector General of Punjab Police (IGP) penned a letter to the Interior Ministry, citing the abhorrent affect the game was having on youngsters, ruining their future prospects. He continued to state that the game had taken at least 3 lives in the past 2 weeks.
A week prior, Mohammad Zakarya committed suicide by hanging on the 23rd of June. The reason given was a missed task/mission which provoked the suicide. Khawaja Sohail, the father, confirmed the boy's obsession with the game; it was still running when found on the bed of the youth.
Liaqat Ali Malik, the Senior Superintendent of Police Administration, wrote a letter to the IGP, stating the game triggers aggressive, violent behaviour, as well as stress, anxiety and depression.
“The game has influenced the youth and changes in behaviour have been observed after ‘failing the mission’.”
Dr. Farah Malik, an Applied Professor of Psychology at Punjab University, discusses how the current situation surrounding PUBG needs to be studied and further looked at in the context of the pandemic. With Covid 19 ensuring everyone stays at home, social interaction has come to a standstill and children do not know where to channel their energy, becoming dependent on the game and spending hours in front of the screen, which leads to mental and physical deterioration.
The first suicide which has been related to the game is 20 year old Jonty Joseph, residing in the North Cantonment Area. He was allegedly reprimanded by his family for spending too much time playing PUBG, which led him to lock himself in his room. The next day, his family broke into his room and found that he had hung himself.
The Online Debate
The banning of the game has sparked controversy, with people either supporting it wholeheartedly or deeming it unfair. Dr. Sarah Nadeem Zaigham, a clinical psychologist in Islamabad spoke to Gulf News regarding the effects of the game,
“Too much screen time and exposure to violence will definitely have a damaging effect on the mental and physical health of people especially young children.”
With many supporting the Government's decision to ban the game, other players have spoken up against it, stating that the game is nothing illegal and does not cause bouts of aggression. A gamer claimed that despite playing video games for over 2 decades, no such side-effects came up. Another, Faheem Siddiqui, said. 'if a child goes to the extreme of killing himself, there must be something more serious going on in his life than a game'.
Popular Pakistani social-media star, Waqar Zaka, stated that he will be filing a petition to Sindh High Court, to lift the ban on PUBG. He further cited his reasoning, claiming that people do not want the youth of Pakistan to excel in "e-sports" and wanting to prevent them from succeeding in life.
"These are the same people who don't want our children to become famous around the world, who don't want our country to generate revenue online, who want to send out a message to the e-sports providers around the world to prevent them from setting up their business here – reason why YouTube never did. These people will not allow us to evolve, a digital revolution needs to be brought,"
Zaka made a valid point, emphasising how the game is not linked to suicide, therefore banning it will not prevent the number of suicides, "If you want to ban PUBG because of three suicides, then you might as well ban educational institutes –several suicide every day because of the pressure in schools and universities."
The South Korean game, created in 2017, consists of players being dropped into an unknown island, battling for survival. It has been temporarily banned in countries such as Nepal and India, but others claim the game has helped them cope with the suffocation of the lockdown. On July 9th there will be a court-ruling and hopefully we will see a just verdict.