Preventive algorithms can be win-win for regulators, online gaming companies in India: Experts

Introduction of preventive algorithms which restrict indulgent behaviour, and not imposition of direct or indirect restrictions on the sector can contribute immensely towards the development of the skill-based online gaming industry in India.

Instead of banning, state governments should focus on defining regulatory boundaries that provide a safe environment for citizens to enjoy online games.

There should be no difference between online games of skill played in offline mode and in online mode. This in turn will boost the morale of gaming companies and help the entire value chain comprising of 5G telecom service providers, developers, and fintech players.

Going by the industry estimates, India’s gaming industry at its present pace will touch the dollar 25-billion-mark, way ahead of 2030.

With the advantages of a young talent pool and comparative costs favouring India, the online gaming industry is the fastest-growing technology sector and has the potential to open new avenues for the growing pool of Indian tech developers, at a time when traditional IT services are reaching a cycle of maturity in global markets.

These recommendations are part of an advisory for the online gaming sector, released by Think Change Forum, a Delhi-based independent think tank, dedicated to generating new ideas, finding answers and solutions for the new changing world.

As part of its research, the think tank organised a round-table which saw experts discussing the socio-economic and legal aspects related to the online gaming industry in India.

While discussing the legal aspects related to online gaming Arjun Sinha, Founding Partner of A&P Partners, shed light on the issues such as a game of skill and game of chance and the ongoing legal tussles going on in states such as Tamil Nadu.

“The law is clear. If an activity is not purely of the nature of gambling, the state does not have the power to exercise bans and instead it should be given protection. Regulators can still recognise what are the adverse consequences of gaming activities and regulate those. Unfortunately, none of the states in India have gone down that path.

“There are many solutions available in this space like globally there are practices where gaming companies agree to norms such as preventing players from spending more than a fixed quantum of time and money in a day. Such measures are better suited to regulate online games than banning something that states do not have the power to do in the first place,” Sinha said, adding that a law restricting the gaming industry cannot be a solution.

The government and the gaming companies can work together to implement solutions to solve the underlying issues and can create a win-win situation in the longer run.

Given the power that technology and AI holds, the gaming industry should build in preventive algorithm into their games, which should become the main subject of regulatory intervention. These algorithms should help players build their capabilities to decide when to stop playing a game, and report data which makes it easy to identify people with questionable behaviour traits.

Dr. (Prof) R.K. Suri, a renowned clinical psychologist, TEDx speaker and mentor of TalktoAngels, advocated that any sort of blanket ban on online gaming can be harmful.

“Any kind of blanket ban or prohibition is very harmful to society and citizens look at ways of violating it even if it means going to the extent of adopting criminalised ways. Games through electronic processes today are a part and parcel of recreation and helpful in breaking away from the routine, repetitive things. Distracting and cooling off the human mind is very important for stress management and protecting mental health.

“Till date we have not been able to completely regulate a sector like the education sector making strict regulation impractical. Given the potential of the online gaming sector in attracting innovation, creativity, funding and revenues, policy planners and implementers need to consider allocating a part of these funds towards the preventive and curative aspects and not deter it. Policies need to be framed in consonance with the needs of the society, and policy makers should be visionaries and think of what needs to happen ten to twenty years down the line,” he elaborated.

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