NEWS

Government To Regulate Video Games in India

January 09, 2008
Deepti Lamba

Games like Grand Theft Auto may not be legally available in India soon. Video game players may shrug this off since most aren’t dumb enough to buy legal games when pirated ones are available at less than half the cost of their legal brethren.

The point though is, who wants the Indian government to play au pair to our children? Mrs Pataudi reportedly bought her grandkid a Sony PSP, and helped him get a game he had been wanting for ever from the US and let him merrily hack away on his PSP without blinking an eyelid. But once the lady realized the game, Jigsaw Killer, was banned in UK, she decided to act as Bharat Mata and drafted a proposal to censor and regulate the kind of games that enter into the Indian market.

And now the government will debate over this matter .

This does not come as a surprise to most of us. Censorship comes easy to our politicians. Ban pornography, ban books, ban people (at least rap them on the knuckles and say  I told you so as they did to Taslima and Hussain) and become the custodians of Indian morality.

The anti-obscenity law could easily have stifled the creative spirit in India but Indians, being enterprising folks, always find ways of getting what isn’t legally available; pornography, books, movies, electronics and even video games are easily available even in the smallest towns of India.

As with Internet usage, parents need to make their own informed decisions as to which games their kids get to play.

In fact, video games can be great bonding activities between parents and their children and I have frequently seen fathers come with their kids to the local pirates and buy games for their children after much entertaining discussions.The Big Brother approach rarely works with Indian citizens, yet people revel in the same nevertheless. When children find creative ways of breaking family rules, how does the state with lax legal institutions and enforcement agencies curb adults from indulging in activities they don’t consider to be illegal in the first place?

Does censorship really work in India or is it just a paper tiger? 

Since when have we let these Bollywood actors and socialites dictate what the citizens of India can or cannot do? Maybe it’s time Mrs Tagore sorted out her own house, paid more attention to the kind of games her grandkids played especially when the games have big letters saying MA printed on them instead of urging the government to baby sit the nation’s children at the expense of the tax payers hard earned money.

Why should others pay for her blatant ignorance and negligence? 

Deepti Lamba is a writer, an editor for Desicritics. She can be found at Things That Bang
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#1
Jawahara
January 9, 2008
10:05 AM

"Does censorship really work in India or is it just a paper tiger?"

I'm sorry Dee, I found myself chuckling at this question. Censorship and work in the same sentence is rather oxymoronic to me. How exactly is censorship supposed to work? In any case if it doesn't work I am glad. It means that India's soul has not drained out yet.

On the whole though I totally agree with your article. First look after your own house before policing the world, Mrs. Pataudi.

Interesting article.

I like the fact that government is so concerned about traumatizing rich kids and want to protect them against imaginary worlds, when millions of Indian children are hungry, physically and sexually abused, homeless, etc. etc. A little attention in that direction might help, huh?

#2
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
January 9, 2008
11:50 AM

Dear Deepti,

Any kind of censorship from government is bad and I agree with that. Most of the time it is ill advised.

The issue I have with video games is that they are deceptive. Some people tend to think that somehow they are good for intellectual development of a child. I think total opposite is true. Along with television, internet and IPOD, video games are systematically destroying the minds of the next generation. Serious debate is needed in this regard. Don't wait for the ESTABLISHMENT to do the research in this field, as there are no dollars available to do so.

Regards,

Ravi

#3
Amrita
URL
January 9, 2008
01:04 PM

I was going to say something but J said it better:

Precisely.

#4
temporal
URL
January 9, 2008
01:11 PM

dee:

how much did aaman say a pirated dvd costs?

;)

(there is the reply to Does censorship really work in India or is it just a paper tiger? ...)

with scant respect for copyright laws...these games....like movies....would reach a willing buyer...censorship or no....

#5
Atlantean
URL
January 9, 2008
01:27 PM

Impossible!

Sometimes, I get the feeling our governments (central and state) overestimate their own powers and reach.

#6
Deepti Lamba
URL
January 9, 2008
08:38 PM

A pirated dvd costs anywhere between 60Rs and 100Rs

Guns in the hands of rich kids is causing more damage than video games.

My son gets to play the PSP only on weekends that too only for an hour. We don't have cable and his internet games are generally on sites such as Starfall.com or Nickalodeon.

Token censorship disrupts viewership when the pirated shops are shut down for a while. Money changes hands and life resumes;)

Mrs Patudi woke up a bit too late;)

Thanks for commenting guys.

#7
Ledzius
January 10, 2008
12:03 AM

I think the govt needs to impose some kind of censorship on India's family newspapers, notably the Times of India. In today's Bangalore's issue, on the SPORTS page, there is an article captioned "I'm finished with boob jobs: Gemma". On the page facing the editorial there is a pic of a girl from a video game who is pulling down on her panty to reveal her butt crack.

Mind you, these are not in the Bangalore Times supplement, but in the main paper that is supposed to be read by all.

I am wondering how Indian newspapers can get away with it. Even in the US, the FCC can step in and impose stiff penalties for any kind of nudity during prime time on the regular channels (remember the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction fiasco?) Plus even local communtites there are super sensitive to children getting exposed to this kind of sleaze. We on the other hand are indifferent, yet we keep harping on the superiority of our culture over theirs!

The govt should issue a strict warning to TOI to clean up its act. If it doesn't comply, it should impose stiff penalties and even ban it outright, something it richly deserves, including the "Lead India" vampaign which belongs to the dustbin anyway.



#8
kerty
January 10, 2008
04:47 AM

Jawahara #1

"...when millions of Indian children are hungry, physically and sexually abused, homeless, etc. etc. A little attention in that direction might help, huh?"

That sounds like ransom logic because one can justify not addressing any problem with such arguments. Existence of one set of problems do not take away imperatives for addressing other problems.

On the issue of Toys, it is possible that some games may teach violent behavior to kids. Like movies, they have to be looked at on a case by case basis. Just because piracy and internet access exist does not mean government should not play its role. On the contrary, it is government objections against questionable toys that may raise the awareness among parents that not all toys could be suitable for their kids. Juvenile crimes are low in India and it should stay that way.

#9
Jawahara
URL
January 10, 2008
05:27 AM

I wouldn't have a problem if those problems were being addressed at all. There are a few NGOs and others helping, for instance, street kids. But no real government intervention.

The message is that only *some* kids are worth saving, and it's rich kids whose parents can afford the very instruments that are supposedly destroying them.

Come on, we had toys like Ram's bow and arrows when Ramayana was playing and other actually, physically unsafe toys. Toys (whether crude bows and arrow or hi-tech video games) need to be supervised by adults. If you, as an adult buy a game marked MA or if you do no research on the games you buy, what is the government's role? The Japanese play some of the most disturbing and violent video games and yet juvenile crimes there are rare. There is no established causal link between violent games and crime. This does not mean I want my kid to play them but I don't want to government banning it either. Children who live in violent homes, absorb violence from society, and observe violence are more likely to be violent than merely playing video games.

Juvenile crimes might be low in India but crimes against juveniles are not. Perhaps there should be some laws giving Indian children actual human rights before worrying about video games.

But that takes actual hard and sustained work. Whereas banning games and censorship is easy, knee-jerk and makes the right people happy. Perhaps the ban should be against idiotic parents and grandparents who have more money than sense.

*That* is the point.

#10
Jawahara
URL
January 10, 2008
05:29 AM

Sorry for the weird typos in the last post guys. Blame it on sustained Tylenol cold usage. Damn!

#11
commonsenseforall
January 10, 2008
01:01 PM

Jawahra,

Right on! There is no established link between video games, porn and violence. Only the so-called self-appointed moral police think in terms of censorship. In any case, in the days of the internet, censorship is at best useless. Does it mean there are no limits: of course not. The limits include child porn, cruelty etc. But to argue that nudity should be censored is hypocritical and will lead to unintended negative results. J true: in Japan porn, sex-parlours etc. etc. are in your face so to speak, in every major city. Does it lead to street crime. No, the opposite. You can also buy beer and alcohol from vending machines. And you can drink on the streets, in the subway, anywhere you like. Unlike in North America where the moral police and evangelists have tried to impose their own views on driking on others (remember Bush was an alcoholic!) Does it lead to alcoholism? The rates of alcholism are much higher in the US and very low in Japan. Right on J "the ban should be against idiotic (overprotective) parents and grandparents" who refuse to recognize change when they see it!

#12
commonsenseforall
January 10, 2008
01:06 PM

Kulkarni,

"Some people tend to think that somehow they are good for intellectual development of a child. I think total opposite is true. Along with television, internet and IPOD, video games are systematically destroying the minds of the next generation."

Maybe so, but the jury is still out in this one. There is a lot of research done at MIT media lab and other places. We still don't know for sure. But, remember people thought the same about computers when they were not common ie. kids will get addicted to them etc. For better or for worse, the next generation will be a digital generation. It already is! For a good well-researched book on this topic, please read:

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (Palgrave-Mcmillan, 2006)
by James Paul Gee

No, I'm not the author (I wish!) nor do I get a cut! But this study is based on actual research rather than opinion. And it shows some positive effects of certain kinds of video games vis-a-vis learning abilities.

#13
Deepti Lamba
URL
January 10, 2008
01:19 PM

In many ways its like the tv only its more interactive and like movies or shows certain games are not meant for children which is why they have the MA ratings. Which part of it don't these people get?

Also parents should be more proactive in their kids lives and not treat tvs and video games as handy babysitters. They neglect their kids and when the tots turn into Little Mr Hydes they throw up their hands and blame everyone but themselves.

#14
Sanjay
January 10, 2008
10:07 PM

Deepti should be in love with censorship, since she loves to practice it against political views differing from her own.

#15
Deepti Lamba
URL
January 10, 2008
10:14 PM

Good morning to you too Sanjay

#16
temporal
URL
January 10, 2008
11:36 PM

and a ps:

(to dee's comment)

how come you are suddenly so silent on the who's hindu boards sanjay the rational/irrational atheist?

;)

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