MOBILE VIDEO GAMES: A CAUSE OF CRUELTY? 

Entertainment is always a sought for activity by every human being to pass their time. Especially now during the pandemic wherein majority of youngsters, middle-aged and elderly are forced to stay at home and not step out, entertainment is the only way for them to get through each day anxiety-free. One of the most used and popular sources of entertainment are video games. As generations have grown up and are still growing up with video games a normal part of life, the age of the average gamer also increases. During a 2020 survey, 38 percent of video game players still come from the 18 to 34 age demographic, and six percent are 65 years and old.[1]

 

Are there benefits to playing video games? 

Several parents worry about their kids’ addiction to video games but fail to notice the benefits that it offers. Some of the most well noticed and reported benefits of playing video games are:  

a) Problem solving- Video games are challenging and the purpose of such games/apps is to find a solution to complete the tasks they prescribe. In a way, this could improve the real-world skills of the human being and solve issues by analyzing and execute their ideas to solve the issue. 

b) Creativity- Some of the video games enhance the cognitive functions of the brain and dramatically improve creativity. Games stimulate creativity and imagination in the users by indulging them deep into a world which they never imagined or thought to exist and ordering them to complete the game. 

c) Anxiety-free- Playing games is a definitely an activity sought for to distract the user from the difficulties they face in the real world. Video games immerse the user in their own world and divert their attention. 

d) Social connections- Games also offer the opportunity to connect with other user(s) to strategize and complete the games. This attributes to social connections and a healthy life. 

e) Job Performance- Playing games improve the attention and concentration of the players. In turn, this cognitive behaviour change enhances the job performance of the players. 

 

What are the consequences of playing video games?

While there are surprising benefits to playing video games, they are also downsides. The detrimental effects are: 

a) Addiction - The use of digital devices isn’t claimed to be a nourishment but rather said to cause damage to social functioning. Video games are designed in such a way that they tend to control behaviour by providing simple stimulus and rewards at strategic times and places.[2]

b) Violence- Video games that promote violence and horror in the games, also trigger an increase in emotional arousal and decrease in self- control. 

c) Social anxiety- When children or adults spend most of their time playing video games, in turn they spend more time avoiding their social presence. Social anxiety disorder or social phobia causes them to have extreme fear in social settings. 

Video games: Cause of crime?

Studies claim that violence in video games and real life aggression are linked. National Centre for Health Research published an article on “Violent Video Games and Aggression” which found that: “Very few studies have looked at whether playing violent video games increases the chance of later delinquency, criminal behaviour, or lethal violence. Such studies are difficult to conduct and require very large numbers of children. It makes sense that since playing violent video games tends to increase the level of aggressive behaviour it would also result in more lethal violence or other criminal behaviours, but there is no clear evidence to support that assumption.”[3]

Although there is a lack of evidence to prove that video games are the cause of aggression, fingers point at certain video games that portray violence in a glamorous and satisfying way. 

 

Some of the recent incidents that prove real life aggression and video games violence are linked are, 

  • In Belagavi, a 21 year old PUBG addict, beheaded and killed his father after he was objected from playing PUBG. The most shocking news was that even when the 21 year old man was in police custody, he begged the police to give him access to his phone to continue playing the game.
  • A 17 year old PUBG player in Punjab spent 16 lakhs from his parent’s account for in game transactions i.e., to purchase virtual weapons, outfits, etc. The teen’s parent had saved the money for future expenses. 
  • A fitness trainer from Jammu and Kashmir blacked himself out after playing PUBG game and was admitted to the hospital. The doctors examined and reported that the person was mentally unstable and was still under the influence of the game. 
  • 18 year old and 22 year old men were arrested for stabbing their friend who refused to give them his phone to play PUBG. Using a chopper, they stabbed the victim on his head followed by rage. 
  • Two minors stole over 20 smartphones to play the game PUBG by breaking into a local shop. On arrest, the two minors admitted that they were addicted to the game and wanted their friends to join them. 
  • A 15 year old boy from Thane killed his elder brother who scolded him for playing PUBG on his phone. The boy banged his brother’s head against the wall and repeatedly stabbed him with scissors. 
  • A 16 year old PUBG addict in Bihar faked his own kidnap and demanded ransom of Rs. 5,00,000 from his parents. The ransom was to buy a smartphone for himself to play the game PUBG. 
  • A Mohali teenager stole Rs. 2 lakhs from his grandfather’s pension for in-app purchase. Payments were made through PayTM under his grandfather’s name. 
  • 3 men from Jammu & Kashmir murdered a man who requested them to not make too much noise while playing games on the mobile. The men killed the victim by hitting him with a log of wood. 
  • A 19-year old from Delhi stabbed 3 members of his family to death. The family members had scolded him and demanded him to stop playing games on the phone all the time. Following the quarrel, the boy killed the 3 members of his family.

As convenient mobiles and smartphones are, it is necessary to draw boundaries to protect ourselves from psychological challenges.. It is viewable that playing video games have both positive and negative effects on the user. However, to control the user’s impulses and protect their mental health it is necessary to know the limits. Users that are obsessed with playing games on the mobile phone need to detox and get rid of their impulsive control disorder. 

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Karthikeyan.N

B.A., B.L., (Hons) IPDP., (London)
Pgd IPR., Pgd Cyber Law., Msc., (IT)
CCI., CFA., IPCL.,
Advocate, Madras High Court

Karthikeyan, is a renowned cyber law expert, who is also the Managing Partner of Law Office of Karthikeyan, a reputed law firm based in Chennai.

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