The violent nature of online games has always been a question of research in the child psychology circles. But what happens when outside factors, coupled with the game, lead to children stealing money from their parents and getting so involved in the game that the even kill each other?
According to a report by RedSeer Survey & Analysis, the gaming market of India is projected to grow to up to $7 billion by 2026. A huge chunk of 31% of these revenues will be through In-App purchases. It is these purchases which should raise concerns on moral and ethical values because unsupervised children are misusing these features and committing unruly acts such as stealing money from their parents. Gaming giants should take into consideration parental restrictions so that a balance between good business practices and the well-being of the players is maintained.
The game Free Fire should come under fire because children are being misled by YouTubers and a possible connection between the game and these streamers can be deduced. Multiplayer arcade games such as Free Fire and BGMI are usually free but they have options to customize the player’s virtual character by buying it using real money. On one hand, it is a fair market practice for the game to be able to conduct its business but on the other, it is an incitement of greed at the behest of accelerated growth in the game. Using real money, children (who are the major audience of these games) can buy clothes, cars, skins and weapons for their gaming avatar.
It is estimated that in the year 2021 in India, Rs. 256 crores were spent on Free Fire, Rs. 70 crores on Call of Duty Mobile and Rs. 58 Crores on Battlegrounds Mobile India through In-App purchases.
Children are stealing money to buy upgrades in games
It is often seen that such unsupervised kids misuse their parent’s credit and debit cards and often spend out of proportions money on the games.
An Azamgarh resident lost Rs 8 lakh in numerous instalments from his account. After a detailed analysis, it was found that the criminals targeted his son who started spending more time on mobile gaming during the lockdown.
In the video, you can see a kid is telling how he got influenced by some YouTubers and bought upgrades in the games he was playing. It is believed that the kid has spent excessive money and was also present on rooter, a gaming community where streamers broadcast their gameplays and interact with their viewers.
Sri Ram, a Cyber Security Expert and Trainer from Puducherry says, “These days, kids have easy access to online games than physical games. Online Education has made it mandatory for every kid to have internet. Parental control helps you monitor devices but there’s one thing that is not under the radar it is, these online games. Because these games are very addictive, playing them also deprives the kids of sleep, dehydration and has a negative impact on their health. Online games have become an escape for these children to keep themselves occupied. Since money is involved, it has become more and more intense and is an issue that needs to be monitored very seriously.”
Biswajeet Ray, a Cyber Security Analyst, said, “The structure of these games is very addictive. Even the game makers know that they need to engage the user with the application. The more time people spend on these apps, the more do they become vulnerable to in-app purchases. When kids, without the realisation of the value of money, get swayed by these tactics, they can go on to extreme limits to buy upgrades in the game with real money.”
Kids turning violent for mobile games
There have been many instances when teenagers have found to be physically hurting and even murdering each other due to mobile games. Either influenced by the greedy structure of the game or the aftermath of social capital one gains as they make progress in the game, multiple accounts of physical violence in kids is seen with the element of mobile games in it –
An 11 year old Jharkhand boy was killed by his 20 year old friend Aman because he refused to transfer diamonds in the game Free Fire to the latter, the police found.
Roshan Ali, a teenager from Bihar was murdered and thrown into river Gandak after he got ahead of his friends in Free Fire. The Sub-Divisional Police Officer of his are informed that he was killed because of jealousy among his friends.
A 19 year old boy Jibhau Gaikwad was found murdered in Nashik in November 2020 and a probe found the act was committed by one 19 year old Sunil More over the addiction of Free Fire, a police official said.
The gaming addiction is an exponentially rising problem for our society. The WHO in 2018 declared gaming addiction as a mental health disorder. Addicted people tend to exhibit social phobias, anxiety and depression. This is also accompanied by a disturbed sleep cycle and eating habits. And games like these are replacing conventional forms of games with physical involvement of the body. Children are going to parks and playing Free Fire while sitting in a group rather than playing outdoor games.
According to Bhanu Sharma, a Security Expert from UP, Free Fire game is addictive, violent and is extremely dangerous for our youth, therefore Government should take it seriously and immediately ban such psychological games which is taking lives of young kids.
Happiness hormone dopamine comes into play
Rahul Pandey, a Cyber Security Expert from Telangana says, “Games like Free Fire are developed and planned by specialists highly skilled in neurosciences, brain science, and human conduct to make these games highly addictive. Playing them delivers the delight giving neurochemical dopamine in the mind telling ‘Let’s play again’.”
Indian populace is exceptionally excited with regards to sports and sports related exercises. but due to excessive gameplay online, lack of sleep, depression, peevishness when halted from playing, anxiety, aggressive behaviour towards family (specially parents), and absence of interest in friendly collaborations and other physical and mental exercises can be seen in them.
India has no statutory body or law to regulate computer games and their potential harmful effects, unlike for the movies for which we have the Central Board of Film Certification. The government should find some kind of harmony between the development of the gaming business and public interest. For example, the hazards of misfortunes brought in cash games which are a reason for multiple suicides in India while drafting a clear administrative Laws for the Gaming Industry.
Gopika Baghel, a Cyber Forensic Consultant from Chhattisgarh says, “Parents should limit the time of their children to use digital devices, and motivate them to play more outdoor games. Parents, keep in mind that when you give a mobile device to your children, your bank account should not be linked to it. In most cases, it is seen that children use the UPI account of their parents to buy upgrades in games without their knowledge. In today’s era, children should play games very well, they have a lot of positive effects, but they are only beneficial when played in limit.”