Today online games have solidified their position as an essential component of entertainment by captivating a vast global audience. In time, if the common harms noted in connection with video gaming go unchecked, it could hurt the video gaming industry as well if it has to face irate parents. Therefore, it is in the interest of the video gaming industry in India to adopt a self imposed regulatory framework to ensure that a balance is maintained between competing public interests of keeping kids and minors away from harms and the business interests for promotion and growth. A healthy balance, once developed, can even make the two interests aligned with each other.
Concerns around consequences of gaming becoming an integral lifestyle component has sparked debates regarding the possibility of prohibiting them in connection with apprehensions around harms connected to excessive usage borne out of addictive gameplay. Advocates of a ban assert prohibitions to safeguard users from potential harm such as:
Addressing addiction: These concerns relate to individuals neglecting their well-being and responsibilities due to excessive gameplay which may result in sleep deprivation, sedentary habits, and compromised mental health.
Safeguarding minors: Proponents of a ban are apprehensive of minors being susceptible to potential psychological and emotional harm induced by excessive gaming.
Eradicating cyberbullying: Online gaming environments could become breeding grounds for toxic behaviour, including cyberbullying, harassment, at unsolicited religious conversions.
Banning is often an ill-advised measure, except in extreme circumstances with well proven track records of demonstrated harms. In the absence of the same, policymakers and video game industry's leading public policy voices may consider implementing self-regulatory measures that strike a balance between protecting individuals, particularly minors, while preserving personal freedom and industry growth by implementing steps such as:
Implementing Age Restrictions and Parental Controls: Introduction of stringent age restrictions and effective parental control measures can ensure that individuals above a specific age threshold only can access and engage with particular games. Additionally, comprehensive parental control features can be developed, empowering parents to actively monitor and regulate their children's gaming activities.
Introducing Time Restrictions and Gameplay Limits: Another effective measure could involve the implementation of time restrictions and gameplay limits. Online games can be designed to enforce predetermined playtime limits, resulting in temporary or permanent restrictions once the allotted time has been exceeded. This strategy not only helps address concerns related to excessive gaming and addiction but also encourages a healthier balance between gaming and other essential activities in players' lives.
Promoting Content Regulation: Taking heed from worldwide experiences, it will be pruden to establish age based ratings and standards for game developers to adhere to, ensuring that games do not include explicit violence, sexual content, or other potentially harmful elements, or if they do include such elements, then their access is age-gated. A comprehensive rating system, akin to those employed in the film and television industry, can be implemented to assist users in making informed decisions regarding the suitability of games for themselves or their children.
Facilitating Collaboration Between Regulators and Industry Stakeholders: A productive approach involves regulators forging close partnerships with key industry stakeholders, such as game developers, publishers, and platform providers, to establish effective self-regulatory measures. This collaborative effort can include the creation of industry-wide codes of conduct, the promotion of responsible gaming best practices, and the development of guidelines to tackle challenges like toxic behaviour and cyberbullying within online gaming communities. By fostering this cooperation, regulators can encourage the industry to take proactive steps in addressing concerns, thus reducing the necessity for extensive governmental intervention. This cooperative model emphasises industry responsibility and collective action to ensure a safer and more inclusive gaming environment.