[Answered] Analyse the multidimensional challenges posed by online gaming in India. Also, discuss measures required to be taken to combat these challenges.

Introduction: Give context of online gaming in India.
Body: Write challenges posed by online gaming. Suggest measures to address these challenges.
Conclusion: Give a way forward, explaining benefits of regulation.

Of the numerous things that the pandemic has changed in our lives, an obvious one is the way we entertain ourselves, the average time spent on online gaming has gone up almost 65 per cent from pre-Covid levels. More than 43 crore people have spent time on virtual gaming. (KPMG report)

This increase in the engagement of online games has brought some of the challenges to the fore.

  • Addiction: Numerous people are developing an addiction to online gaming. This is destroying lives and devastating families. Compulsive gaming by children is affecting their performance in schools and impacting their social lives & relationships with family members.
  • Impact on health: Gaming addictions can also be linked with anxiety, depression, obesity, sleeping disorders, and stress. People who remain physically inactive for long periods because of gaming may also be at higher risk of obesity, sleep disorders, and other health-related issues, according to WHO.
  • Cyber bullying: Although cyber bullying has countless forms, some forms are particular to gaming platforms, like hurtful and harmful messages, spamming global chat channels with derogatory comments about their victims. This has led to instances of suicide and self-harming behavior in victims.
  • Privacy concerns: The personal data shared by players on gaming platforms, especially by children, could be utilised to breach their privacy.
  • Economic costs: Wagering on online games is a menace where people have lost their hard-earned income, when their children knowing or unknowingly have bought expensive game features.
  • Cyber security: Hackers could use chat room games to trick players into clicking malicious links. They could also modify a legitimate app and upload the malicious version to Google Play or another legitimate marketplace thus infecting our devices.

Step that needs to be taken to address challenges posed by online gaming.

  • Regulating gaming hours: The government can regulate the online gaming hours especially for Children. For instance, recently, China limited gamers under 18 years to just three hours of online games per week. This could be used as a guide for Indian context.
  • Age-Rating mechanism: Each game should follow a well-established age-rating mechanism and minors should be allowed to proceed only with the consent of their parents OTP verification on Aadhaar could potentially resolve this.
  • Consent for in game purchases: No in-game purchases should be allowed without adult consent and wherever possible, the in-game chat option should be disabled.
  • User education and Awareness: The government and Gaming companies should proactively educate users about potential risks and how to identify likely situations of cheating and abuse.
  • Grievance redressal: Gaming companies should remove the anonymity of participants and build a robust grievance handling mechanism.
  • Central Gaming authority: A Gaming Authority at the central government should be created while various forms of self-regulation are encouraged for the industry. This authority could be made responsible for the online gaming industry, monitoring its operations, preventing societal issues, suitably classifying games of skill or chance, overseeing consumer protection, and combatting illegality and crime.

In regulating the gaming industry to address the challenges the government must differentiate between Game of skill or Game of chance. The Government shall also balance the need to regulate online gaming with individual freedom and choice of individual.

A well-regulated online gaming industry presents compelling advantages in terms of economic benefits too. This industry is expected to generate revenues in excess of Rs 29,000 crore in 2025 with over 65.7 crore users. (KPMG report).

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