At least 16 people from 18-22 have been arrested for playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), a mobile shooting game which some regions in India have banned, believing it to be addictive and harmful for kids.
Some of the young people arrested were “so engrossed in playing” the Hunger Games style online multiplayer game they didn’t even notice the police approaching, one officer told local media.
“Our team caught these youths red-handed. They were taken into custody after they were found playing the PUBG game,” inspector Rohit Raval told the Indian Express after three young people were arrested near police headquarters in the city of Rajkot.
Multiple cities across India began prohibiting the game last month following numerous complaints by parents and educators, a situation which culminated in an outright ban in the western-coastal state of Gujarat.
Police also seized the phones of those they arrest, “for the purpose of the investigation.” The officers themselves are exempt from the ban as they need to play the game to conduct their investigations, according to Bloomberg.
While police inspector VS Vanzara reported that all of those arrested were released on bail the same day, by law, those defying the ban could face up to a month in jail. Police Commissioner Manoj Agrawal told local news that those arrested will have to stand trial for their offense.
Whereas PUBG is not particularly unique in terms of its gameplay or level of violence, its massive popularity in India has brought it to the attention of even the highest levels of authority.
A minister in Goa described the game as “a demon in every house,” and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the game when a concerned mother told him about her son’s gaming addiction last month. The game has been downloaded over 100mn times, and India is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing mobile gaming markets.
People on social media have been incensed with the government’s focus on the issue, particularly given the fact that the country has a number of other issues to tackle that should perhaps take priority over people playing a game too much.
Dude are you arresting employees ? Which kind of dick head does that? Grown ups playing pubg man… Not killing or raping anyone else…… Concentrate on crimes which are happening daily…not arresting for playing pubg…get a life maroons
— Yashwanth Yadav (@yashu061995) March 15, 2019
Don’t you guys have better things to do? Like actual policing??
Even PM Modi had no issue with it. Chill guys
— Saran (@SamGreen1972) March 14, 2019
Waaow Rajkot Police arrest 10 for playing PUBG mobile. Are we really living in a democratic country?
Gaming is not a crime and there are many others which government should focus rather than giving too much attention to an online game. #PUBGARREST@PUBGMOBILE
— Karan (@Karan0072Karan) March 15, 2019
The game makers released a statement last month when the bans were first announced, reassuring parents and lawmakers that they took the issue seriously and planned to institute features to help address concerns. However, following the initial 10 arrests, the company put out a statement expressing solidarity with their faithful fans:
To PUBG MOBILE players, we want to assure you that we are on your side and we will try our best to find a reasonable solution.
The company also said they were reviewing the legal basis for the ban, and planned to work with Indian lawmakers to have the prohibition lifted.
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