Games & Play-to-Earn
Reactive, Limited, and Shortsighted: India’s Online Gaming Amendment
Engaging with MeitY’s proposed amendments to the draft IT guidelines
Updated On – 05:07 PM, Sun – 8 January 23
Hyderabad: The last week has witnessed mainstream conversation focus on the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology’s (MeitY) amendments on gaming to the draft IT guidelines. These amendments have triggered a spate of conversations as ‘experts’ debating if gaming as a leisure time activity can be considered healthy or suitable for the nation’s population.
Having spent the last week poring through the nine-page document made available to the public by MeitY, I can’t help but notice how undercooked it all is. The specter of PUBG Mobileis felt as you make your way through the draft and you can’t help but wonder if this draft policy was written to retrospectively justify the ban of the game.
The use of vague language that leaves ample room for overzealous regulation shows how the policy is conceptualized as a reactive measure rather than one that can nurture a nascent industry and encourage it to find synergies and collaborations with our global IT and software capabilities.
The following key aspects of gaming in the country have been overlooked by the draft policy in its current form:
Why is all gaming “online gaming”?: The use of language here to ascertain what is an online game and what isn’t seems both unclear and unnecessary as a draft bill of this kind must try and make room for all digital gaming practices that are prevalent in the country.
The proposed measure that allows for specific games to be “reclassified” as online games depending on the way they impact players and national interests seems unsuitable as it lays the burden of regulation on a body that may not be able to reclassify and then take a decision in time. If one were to consider the challenges posed by a game like Blue Whale Challenge, how would one use the current draft bill to classify and regulate it and then prevent its proliferation and subsequent engagement amongst India’s diverse playing communities?
No scope for digital media literacy: There is no room in the current draft for the formulation of long-term policy or specific steps that would inform and facilitate learning amongst the nation’s youth as they are exposed to video games. The creation of specific measures of this kind would allow for building of self-regulation practices at the personal and family level and could lead to informed decision making as opposed to perpetrating unending cycles of vulnerability and victimhood.
No cognizance of/regulation for loot boxes and other similar systems: Countries around the world have struggled to regulate the many currencies that emerge in video game and online game interactions. The current draft talks about “in cash or in kind”, an understanding that is both outdated and unsuited for the way economies function in the global gaming industry.
Not identifying and defining the distinction between real world currency (RWC), in-game currencies, and transmutable currencies (crypto, NFTs etc.) shows that the drafters of the policy haven’t explored the various ways in which transactions occur in the sector. In a time where game developers promise players Play to Earn (P2E) livelihood models, the draft policy is dead on arrival in its current form.
The challenges with the draft are several and terms like “intermediaries” only obfuscate its purpose further. The decision to club this policy under the IT Act is proof that there is no long-term vision in regulating India’s gaming publics.
A well-made gaming policy should ideally protect our players, encourage participation and playing at the highest level (e-sports), make parents and caretakers aware about newer developments in the sector (digital media and gaming literacies),and ensure the financial safety of the country’s population (a simple system of refunds of excessively spent funds). How are we as a nation planning to achieve these objectives if none of them are even mentioned in the draft bill I wonder.