KOCHI: Case 1: The family of 16-year-old Varun (name changed) woke up with a start to sounds coming from the living room, in which he usually sleeps. It was three in the morning and it sounded like someone was breaking in. Varun’s uncle cautiously walked into the room to find the teenager violently talking in his sleep. “He was begging someone to revive him. And then he shouted, ‘Kill him, he’s right behind you.’ He had been playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) earlier that night. We have now gotten used to him shouting in his sleep,” says the Plus One student’s sister. While Varun asserts he is not addicted to the game, his family thinks otherwise. “He plays for four to six hours every day,” says his sister.
Case 2: Kottayam native Sam’s (name changed) parents got the shock of their lives when they got a call from his college saying their son was admitted to a private hospital in Bengaluru. Sam was a third semester BTech student at the time. On reaching the hospital, the parents found he was being treated at the psychiatry ward for withdrawal symptoms. That’s when things began to unravel.
Sam’s uncle in the US had gifted him an iPad after he scored well in the Class XII exams. Right after this, he developed a gaming addiction. In Bengaluru, he would not go to class, for which he had to pay penalty fees to continue studying. On top of this, he began using drugs to keep himself awake at night to keep playing PUBG. He was shifted to a private hospital in Kerala where he was admitted for three months. Later, he underwent extensive counselling. “His condition was so severe he had to stop his studies. He is still not fully recovered to use even a phone,” says Dileep Varkey, his psychologist.
Varun and Sam are two of the many youngsters in the state who have become addicted to the online video game. With Kerala bagging the highest internet penetration in the country, it will not come as a surprise that gaming addiction in the state would be as high. According to experts, a lot of youngsters - between the age of 12 and 25 - are being treated for gaming addiction, though numbers are not available.
Since its inception a few years ago, PUBG took the internet by storm. Surveys show that PUBG is the most popular online game in India, as of 2018. According to sources, India represents eight per cent of the game’s download market in the world. People - young and old alike - were literally hooked to the game. Many were later diagnosed with gaming disorder.
This is when the affected person prioritises gaming over other activities. “There has been a spurt in mental health problems associated with excessive gaming, especially among teenagers,” says Dr P N Suresh Kumar, professor of Psychiatry at KMCT Medical College.
The problem with battle royale games (a genre of video game, which blends survival, exploration and scavenging elements, where the last man to survive is the winner) is the amount of violent graphics in it.
“This is where video game content becomes an important aspect. Many parents never really pay attention to this. They give children gadgets to keep them busy. Children, especially, copy the violence seen in these games and attempt them in real life,” says C J John, a psychiatrist. Mental health experts say children, who have been exposed to extensive gaming since a young age, resort to threatening their parents when they are denied access to games or gaming devices. (Inputs from Sovi Vidyadharan)
Is it a game worth winning?
Marketed under the tagline ‘A game worth winning’, PUBG is an online multi-player video game that blends exploration, scavenging and survival elements with last-man-standing game play. Developed and published by South Korean video game developer Bluehole Inc under its subsidiary PUBG Corporation, the game can be played on platforms such as Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Android, iOS and PlayStation 4.
In the game, the player is parachuted into a deserted island with 100 others. Upon touching the ground, the first thing the player has to do is find a weapon. In the next phase, the player has to get to safe ground, which is marked by a white circle that keeps getting smaller as time passes. It is at this point the game takes an extremely violent turn when all other players are forced into this circle. The last man to survive till the end wins the game. Though the game was released in 2017, PUBG Mobile came out in March 2018. Having made over $60 million in sales, it has sold over 20 million copies across the world. PUBG’s base comprises gamers from China, India and the US.