While the World Health Organization does include “gaming disorder” in its International Classification of Diseases, some recent research suggests that only a very small percent of game players are at risk of getting addicted. That, however, hasn’t stopped Nepal from banning the game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds under the auspices of protecting kids from addiction.
According to the Kathmandu Post, Nepal’s Metropolitan Crime Division filed a Public Interest Litigation to the Kathmandu District Court on Wednesday, requesting to ban PUBG, a game known to battle royale enthusiasts as the grim and gritty gruel to Fortnite’s colorful fruit smoothie. Shortly after, the Nepal Telecommunication Authority demanded that all internet and mobile service providers block the game. Service providers who do not comply will “face action,” said senior superintendent of police Dhiraj Pratap Singh, and anyone caught playing the game will be arrested. The ban went into effect yesterday.
Speaking with Reuters, the Nepal Telecommunications Authority’s deputy director, Sandip Adhikari, chalked the ban up to addiction concerns. “We have ordered the ban on PUBG because it is addictive to children and teenagers,” he said.
Singh cited fears of increased aggression in PUBG players as well, saying that Nepal authorities had consulted with psychiatrists and witnessed “shocking incidents” in other countries. While no incidents of this nature seem to have occurred in Nepal because of PUBG, Singh said authorities decided to ban the game “before anything unfortunate occurs in Nepal.”
Over the years, studies of whether video games are a direct cause of aggression have mostly turned out to be too surface-level or ill-conceived to provide useful or concrete conclusions. Gaming addiction, meanwhile, is still controversial among experts on the psychology of gaming. One paper published in 2017 cited a study of 19,000 participants and argued that the “moral panic” surrounding video game addiction “continues to risk pathologizing normal behaviors.”
“Video game addiction might be a real thing,” concluded the paper, “but it is not the epidemic that some have made it out to be... The overwhelming majority of people appear to be able to play video games while still balancing a productive work schedule and active social life.”