They were equalizers of sorts—things which democratized the gamer tag, one preciously held on to and guarded by only a certain section of people for a very long time.
The two most talked about banned apps in the Government of India’s latest moves amidst increasing tensions with the Chinese government amassed their popularity with the Indian audience largely due to them being mobile games. India has never been a Personal Computer (PC) or console bastion.
PUBG mobile and Mobile Legends,’ which are products of Chinese tech giants Tencent Holdings Limited, have been the most high profile casualties in the Indian Government’s digital counters to Chinese activities at the border.
The democratizing nature of these two games (PUBG’s mobile version in particular) enabled those with a decent smart-phone to partake in a game with nearly Triple A credentials for the first time, without the fuss of hardware elitism previously harbored by the PC aristocrats. Meanwhile, the endorphin tickling capacity of its battle royal genre helped retain that large audience.
The government’s moves were taken in the name of national security; something difficult to argue against, especially as they are arrived at by invoking Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. Arguments over politics notwithstanding, these actions have put the spotlight on an industry and an audience which has been grossly undervalued and overlooked in India.
Criticism of this multi-billion industry has emerged, as most criticisms against emerging cultures do, from ignorance and simplified arguments based on stereotypes and slanted perceptions. Addiction is certainly a concern, but to help address this issue requires more than a cancel culture targeted at a particular product or industry. Meanwhile, ‘destructive psychological effects’ of games are perceptions popularized by ‘studies’ with inconclusive data, which sensationalize individual incidents to suit biased arguments.
What is a fact now is that this industry is not an emerging market anymore. It is here and real; with potential for independent developers to make their mark in an innovation hungry industry; and for gamers to earn a living either through the extremely competitive E-sports domain, or through streaming platforms which in theory give everyone an equal opportunity (barring algorithm manipulations by some companies).
The jingoistic bellows have been for indigenous games, with social media abuzz with an in the works game being advertised by a Bollywood star right after PUBG mobile was banned in the country. The game, with the unoriginal title of FAU-G sported a photoshopped stock image as a promo poster—a gauge of how much effort is being put in by the developers.
Patriotic fervor may at the beginning inflate initial numbers in favour of such games. But one thing which has been consistent with the gaming community is their fierce insistence on quality. Triple-A giants like EA, Blizzard, Bethesda etc, despite their enormous market valuations, have noticed a significant drop in user loyalty and reviews due to reduction in product quality and consumer-hostile strategies. This has opened up the market and ushered in perhaps the most opportune time in the history of the industry for smaller independent developers to make their mark. And many have. But half hearted efforts will never yield results in this market.
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