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The game is not over

By yesterday evening, the concentration of the army fighting on the PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (PUBG) was disturbed. Their attention is diverted to a notification from the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority.

The authority had asked internet service providers to block the application of the online multiplayer battle game and make it inaccessible in the country from immediate effect, from October 1. While the ISPs are exploring the feasibility of complying with the notification, it has generated an online debate.

By late yesterday evening, the BICMA notification became the most trending topic on social media. Analysing the comments, there is a public support to the ban. Some are calling it a proactive move, some questioning the authenticity of the notice while some are already challenging the authority on its decision.  Others are “thanking god” while one was quite honest in seeing the notice as a marriage saver.

The game has captivated millions of players worldwide.  The young in the country are not spared too. Quite often, we hear parents, sometimes bosses, complaining of people wasting time, energy and money on PUBG. Teachers think it is a good intervention.

Notwithstanding the concerns that the game could expose the young to excessive screen time, violence or behaviourial issues, there is no scientific study to reason the banning of the game. The BICMA notice says the game has negative impact on the lives of the young people. The PUBG team will disagree, but there is a consensus that it is a good decision.

From almost no technology until the turn of the century, we are overwhelmed by technology. Our problem with technology is not being able to make healthy and productive use of what is available. Beyond PUBG, there are issues.

A common complain in government and corporate offices all over Bhutan is that most computers are switched on to chat programmes or Facebook during office hours. Office workers use the internet to idle away valuable time rather than using it for service delivery or research and official businesses.

Banning may not be the best solution, but when we are not aware of making the best use of technology, we end up misusing valuable time and energy. The young are quite good at technology. They can be up there with the worlds’ best on PUBG. It would be more fruitful if we can divert that attention, the concentration and the energy to useful things.

The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects are given importance. If we could channel the attention and concentration to STEM subjects, we would have creators of useful Apps rather than forming imaginary gangs to go after another to win a “Chicken dinner”, the virtual prize of PUBG after hours of battling.

We are not the first country to ban or try banning PUBG. Banning online games is not the best solution. We have seen in our neighbouring countries. Those into PUBG are exploring alternatives. They have found several already.

If we fear that violent games have social consequences, one solution could be initiating a social advocacy programme against their use. PUBG soldiers are already laughing at the initiative.

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