Karnataka’s online gaming ban won’t work. It shows poor grasp of tech

Video games have been linked to addiction and mental health issues | Representational image | Pixabay The legislative assembly of Karnataka passed the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill 2021, banning all formats of online games involving monetary stakes on 23 September. It is one among many prohibitory statutes enacted by southern states including Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh. Tamil Nadu’s Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, which is similar in substance to Karnataka’s legislation, was struck down by the Madras High Court just a few months ago for being “unreasonable” and “irrational”. Such statutes are enacted in the name of protecting people from “the evils of online gaming”. It’s worth examining this pattern of digital paternalism from a wider international lens.

In August, China introduced new rules which cap the total time minors can spend on video games to three specific hours a week – between 8 and 9 pm on Fridays, weekends, and public holidays. As a country that has an infamous internet firewall, China makes a good case study for digital paternalism. However, it is not the only nation to have prescribed such overbroad curbs on gaming. In 2011, South Korea introduced a “ shutdown law ”, that prohibited children under 16 from playing video games for a six-hour period starting at midnight. In March 2020, the Kansai region in Japan passed a similar law limiting the game time for minors to one hour a day.

Heavy-handed technology regulation is a recipe for economic disaster and social rebellion. Soon after Beijing announced its new curbs, the shares of Tencent and Netease – two of the largest gaming companies in China, plunged by 8.5 and 11 per cent respectively. This wiped off $ 60 billion in combined market value. India is already among the largest gaming markets in the world in terms of user participation. Therefore, a sunrise sector, which is pegged to reach Rs 155 billion by 2023, threatens to be stymied through a spate of bans.

Moreover, experience suggests that regulations with moral overtones do not fulfil their societal aims either. For instance, studies show that the South […]

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