It’s been a cruel week for India’s young people. Not only did students have to sit for JEE Mains in a pandemic, the Narendra Modi government also banned PUBG. Talk about brutal.
But hey, Modi’s surgical strike on apps may just have won the gratitude of scores of Indian parents.
With this, PUBG has become the new political divide in families now.
The Modi government banned 118 Chinese apps Wednesday. But PUBG’s ban is definitely going to hurt a significant proportion of the population, mostly grownup men who prefer not acting their age. The mobile game application altered the very social fabric of India — prior to this, no videogame had really garnered the obsession that PUBG did. Pokémon Go did come close, but let’s be honest, a ‘macho’ shooting game is much more likely to be a top favourite for so-called gaming fanatics.
For the uninitiated, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG, is an online multiplayer game that requires a player to gun down multiple other players. This is not a new concept for the video-game world, but the unique thing about PUBG was that it could be played on any smartphone.
Despite the fact that India was PUBG’s biggest market with 175 million downloads, which is 24 per cent of the app’s global total, our country’s love affair with PUBG could not last very long. In the now immortal words of Arnab Goswami — “The suddenness, the sheer suddenness of the move”.
The irony here is that PUBG is not strictly Chinese. It was designed by Irish game designer Brendan Greene and developed and published by PUBG Corporation, a subsidiary of the South Korean video game company Bluehole. The mobile version of the game, however, was developed by Tencent, a Chinese multinational conglomerate.
Well, so much for that surgical strike.
Dudebros’ grief, Indian parents’ relief
PUBG was the bread and butter for ‘dudebros’ who made quite a few bucks by live streaming themselves gunning down pixelated figures on a screen. Additionally, it also gave these men one more thing to mansplain to women. After the ban was announced, every woman must have gleefully texted that one guy who tried hard to get her hooked on PUBG by saying, “Videogames are amazing, and even though you’re a girl you should try it”. Red Dead Redemption and The Last of Us, who?
The game had fed their steady stream of narcissism, giving many men an opportunity to be good at another useless thing, and even make money off it. At the same time, feeding their machismo. What is more ‘manly’ than randomly shooting people on a screen?
I am especially concerned about engineering students. What will they do now, as one Instagram user rightly asked. Read books? Oh, the horror, the horror.
— Vaibhav jaiswal (@Vaibhav66294256) September 2, 2020
But there is a group of people apart from deshbhakts and loud news anchors who must be rejoicing this ban — Indian parents. It’s safe to imagine them thanking whichever god they prayed to free their laadle bacche from the sinful grip of the online game. Parents did not approve of the addictive nature and violent themes of PUBG. In an editorial on 20 March, the Navbharat Times was so incensed by the game that it said that children were turning into ‘psychopaths’ because of it. And no, this does not constitute ‘meaningful conversation’ about mental health.
PM Modi’s crafty manoeuvre
Now, while Indian PUBG fanatics must be wallowing in the pain of losing a loved one, one has to admire the craftiness of our prime minister’s move.
In the past few weeks, there has been a fair bit of strife between students and the government. With UGC making final exams mandatory, Delhi University’s horrendous online exams, and most recently, the refusal to postpone NEET and JEE, despite a raging pandemic and protesting students — the government has made life particularly difficult for students.
In response, students launched a ‘dislike’ campaign on Modi’s latest Mann ki Baat, which would have probably been embarrassing for the prime minister.
Cut to a few days later, the government has banned PUBG.
Not only did he one-up the students, Modi also won the gratitude of the parents, or rather his potential voters. If only this much strategising was done on the LAC.
But PUBG is now banned, and there is nothing much to do other than reminisce about those pixelated, violent scenarios with video game buddies, and miss trying to make PUBG an acceptable date conversation. For those who truly cannot bear the loss, here is a shradhanjali (in memoriam) stream to enjoy. I don’t get the appeal, but I guess you will.
PUBG will be sorely missed for its contribution to already messed up Indian masculinity (not). But I, for one, am happy to never hear this phrase again: “Winner, winner, chicken dinner”.
Views are personal.