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Meaning and extent of ‘harm to users’ under the online gaming regulations in India”

Fad & Fashion of Online Gaming

In recent years, the popularity of online gaming has skyrocketed in India, where it has developed into a thriving industry and a popular source of entertainment. Millions of Indians now use online gaming as a way to unwind, interact with others, and engage in a competitive activity because of the widespread availability of high-speed internet and affordable cell phones. The gaming industry in India offers a wide variety of options to suit the preferences of gamers across various age groups, ranging from well-known multiplayer games to captivating virtual worlds. Professional competitions, streaming services, and devoted gaming communities have all soared in popularity as a result of the emergence of esports, which has further driven the expansion of online gaming. As India continues to embrace digital transformation, the online gaming industry is primed to grow, providing a vibrant and dynamic platform for people to connect, compete, and discover new vistas within the virtual world.

A Malefic Angle Identified

While clearly providing many advantages and delightful experiences, online gaming can also have some detrimental impacts, especially when used excessively or without moderation. It is important to be aware of these repercussions. One major issue is the effect on physical health, as playing video games for extended periods of time while sitting still can result in disorders including obesity, bad posture, and other illnesses. The addictiveness and excessive gaming can also have a negative impact on mental health, increasing tension, anxiety, and even depression. Additionally, players’ emotional and psychological growth may be negatively impacted, especially those who are younger, by exposure to harmful online communities, cyberbullying, and violent content in some games.

Online Gaming Regulations, A Saviour?

The Indian government has unveiled new rules for online gaming in recognition of the need to protect consumers, especially minors, and encourage responsible gaming. These rules are intended to manage potential hazards and unfavorable effects related to excessive or uncontrolled gambling while also fostering a safe and welcoming environment for players. The emphasis on age verification and protection is a key component of the legislation. Age-restricted games cannot be accessed by children, hence online gaming platforms must incorporate reliable systems to verify users’ ages. Furthermore, laws may set time and money restrictions, discouraging excessive gaming and reducing compulsive behavior. The inclusion of technologies that monitor and regulate spending and gameplay time on gaming platforms is expected to encourage more responsible gaming. In order to avoid the spread of objectionable or harmful content, there are rules in place to control and filter user-generated content. These standards also address content and conduct standards. Any sort of abusive behavior is strictly prohibited in gaming forums, including cyberbullying and harassment. To protect players’ financial interests, consumer protection laws are put in place, guaranteeing openness regarding costs, chances, and any possible risks related to participating in gaming activities. The rights of users must also be protected through procedures for grievance redress and conflict resolution. Furthermore, regulations strongly emphasize data privacy and security, ensuring that user personal data is acquired, kept, and processed securely and shielding it from unwanted access or misuse. India wants to build a gaming environment that is safer and more responsible, places a high priority on user welfare, and supports a healthy gaming sector by putting these policies into place.

The compartmentalization of “Harm to Users”

The phrase “harm to users” refers to a broad range of unfavorable outcomes that may result from engaging in online gaming. It describes any negative effect that compromises a player’s physical, mental, emotional, or financial health. Protecting people, especially children, from the risks and dangers linked with excessive or unregulated internet gaming is the goal of addressing harm to users. There are many prevalent cases nowadays, which reflect the increase in self-harm because of online gaming. Gaming addiction, defined by an insatiable want to play video games regardless of consequences, can fuel the desire to damage oneself. Emotional anguish may be made worse by an inability to control gaming behaviors, a disregard for one’s own well-being, and a withdrawal from real-world obligations. Additionally, when people rely too heavily on online gaming for social interaction, they may become cut off from real interactions, which exacerbates feelings of loneliness and alienation. Online gaming platforms frequently encourage competitive environments where players contrast their abilities and accomplishments with those of others. Continuous exposure to the accomplishments of highly skilled players can cause inaccurate social comparisons, which can have a negative effect on mental health by causing feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. These emotions may be made worse by the pressure to perform and succeed all the time in the gaming industry, which can lead to a self-worth that is completely focused on gaming achievements.

Another aspect of “harm to users” is the financial losses that people suffer due to online gaming Online gaming can expose users to shady websites, tricks, and unapproved third-party platforms that may promise in-game benefits, rare items, or ways to get around progression systems in exchange for real money, but using such sites exposes users to the risk of financial fraud, loss of personal information, or account compromise. Games of chance that take place when people engage in activities like casinos, card games, sports betting, or internet gambling is another factor contributing to people losing money as a result of their involvement in online gaming. These games’ inherent randomness and unpredictability, as well as the existence of a house edge or fees imposed by operators, all increase the possibility of loss. The anticipated value is often negative in games with stacked odds against the player, like the majority of casino games, which causes long-term financial losses for the majority of players.

Does Wider Panorama Lead to Blurriness’?

Banning does not address the underlying issues that lead to purported risks like addiction or suicide, thus the ponderous, comprehensive, and amended online gaming regulations have helped in mollifying the conundrum of online gaming and its not-so-positive effects. But the main issue is that one-sided narratives which lack an empirically supported theoretical foundation. Given the direct impact this sunrise sector has on the economy with significant income production, job creation, and tax payments, it is perplexing that this emerging sector is being painted with such a broad and quite uncertain brush of regulations. It is evident from the “harm to users” factor that the regulations though is an attempt to address the harm caused by online gaming, but unfortunately, this attempt is quite superficial, as the categorization of “harm” into self-harm, phycological and financial is quite a cake walk but the complexities and perplexities arise when the talk for its effective preventions come on the table. Neither there could be a blanket ban on the game of chance, nor can any regulation which can figure out how much duration of a game or which game can affect which individual as it is a fair and complete play of one’s psyche, thus forming quite an unparalleled scenario from what these regulations promulgate.

Conclusion

Conclusively, the new regulations will encourage innovation, support Create in India and Brand India, and give India’s Techade the much-needed boost. It will make sure that the sector develops responsibly and transparently, protecting the interests of consumers and preventing the emergence of illicit offshore gaming sites. But the “harm to users” factor remains the elephant in the room as the regulations seem quite active on the part to effectively regulate and avoid the harm, yet its innate complexities raise question marks on its prospective efficiency and make these regulations quite hazy and disjointed. The development of the gaming business in India has mostly been hampered by this uncertainty.

Refrences:

  1. Cyrilamarchandblogs, https://corporate.cyrilamarchandblogs.com/2023/04/the-online-gaming-intermediaries-regulations-what-is-new/,  
  2. BusinessToday, https://www.businesstoday.in/technology/news/story/government-introduces-new-regulations-around-online-gaming-industry-prohibits-games-involving-betting, April 18, 2023
  3. MediaNama, https://www.medianama.com/2023/04/223-it-ministry-online-gaming-rules/, April 21, 2023

By Harsheen Kaur Luthra, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab

 

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