The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) recently announced that it will temporarily ban PUBG in Pakistan. This news came after a series of events that were triggered by the suicide of a 10th grade student in Lahore last month. The police found a smartphone near the body which had the video game running on it. SSP Liaqat Ali Malik wrote a letter to IGP on Saturday, seeking a ban on the video game. PTA, in its decision, called the game “addictive” and a “wastage of time”.
Whenever a tragic incident like this happens, the ruling class immediately rushes to find the quickest possible solution. In doing so, the root cause of the problem is ignored and all attention is diverted to fixing things on the surface level, which doesn’t do much to address the actual issue.
The notion that the game drove the student to suicide seems ridiculous; blaming it all on a video game evades the responsibility of the failures of society that led to the student’s suicide. The presumption that the student would take his own life only and only because his parents tried to stop him from playing the game is an insult to him and to millions of children suffering from mental health problems. As shown by a study, discovering that a criminal liked violent video games “is no more illustrative than discovering that he or she happened to wear sneakers or used to watch Sesame Street.”
Additionally, a lot of things can be classified as “addictive” and a “wastage of time”. Should PTA ban those things as well? Should it ban all movies, cartoon channels, Netflix, and nearly all forms of entertainment because they, too, can be addictive and a waste of time?
While it’s true that overuse of video games can lead to an addiction and even damage the user’s mental health, our authorities are still stuck in the decades old mindset that a ban solves everything. Gamers have already found ways to go around the ban. Additionally, PUBG is rated 16+ on Google Play Store. If children start playing this game, the blame is on their parents for not strictly monitoring their children’s mobile phone usage.
The decision also raises the question that if actual research and facts are not guiding the decision-making of the state, what is? One could argue that it just loves to ban everything it doesn’t like. From the Doraemon ban a few years back to the recent PUBG ban, none of those decisions were actually shaped by scientific research. They are based on the state’s desire to find quick, short-term solutions instead of addressing the actual cause of the problems that exist in this country. Certainly, banning a video game is far cheaper than educating parents on how to monitor their children—how to be a parent, raising awareness about mental health issues, and facilitating such tasks on a national scale.
Most people in the government are out-of-touch with the needs of the youth. Despite Pakistan having a median age of 23, the representatives in government tend to be much, much older who have little to no idea of issues like overconsumption of entertainment media and mental health. As a result, they do not understand the problems faced by the youth and don’t know how to address them. Young people need to get more involved in politics and demand that their government do better in terms of policy making. We need to hold our elected officials more accountable and make sure that our taxes go towards actually benefiting us, not in violating our freedom.
PTA, to its credit, is seeking the public opinion on this decision, they can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. No one is going to raise their voice for us; it’s about time we get involved and do it ourselves.
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