Indian online gaming industry has grown at an exponential rate over the past few years and it is expected to grow further with India’s digital revolution. The beginning of online gaming industry in India is traced back to 2000s when PC gaming and console gaming brought several middle income group Indians on digital gaming platform. The international developers provided a base to the Indian gamers whereas the Indian gaming developer’s ecosystem primarily acted as service providers. As India’s smartphone user base and internet penetration increased, online gaming grew very fast with an estimated 120 million gamers online now.
key driver of growth in Indian online gaming industry has been the rapid increase in penetration of low cost smartphones among the rural and urban populations. There are now approximately 400 million smartphone users in India. the internet penetration is low in India but it is expected to be about 53% of population in 2021. This growth will be further aided by new technologies at affordable costs, increase in local developer base etc.
With this increasing internet availability and rising number of online gamers, there have been ill effects such as poor academic performance, adverse effects on health, neglect of other important activities in one’s life. Online gaming also leads to cyber bullying as well as inculcates wrong values in young children.
Profile of Indian Gamers
According to a study involving Google India, an average Indian gamer is below 24 years of age. Males make up most of the gamers as compared to females. 83% of gamers are male and are concentrated in urban areas of the country. These people, under the influence of their peers, begin gaming. Another reason for initiating online gaming is playing for recreation and utilisation of time.
Some people are also engaged in gaming for stress relief and social interaction. Mobile phones tend to be the most preferred gaming platform with 85% games played on mobile. The most preferred genre across Indian gamers are puzzle games, action games and adventure games. Male gamers are concerned about data and memory consumption whereas female gamers seek regular upgrade. More than 60% of gamers play online games on budget smartphones.
Reasons for Rise of Online Gaming in India
following factors are responsible for rise in online gaming in India are
Improved Standard of Living
Income of middle class and upper middle class has increased considerably which has improved their standard of living. They are now able to spend more on leisure and spend their free time on such activities. Increased living standards and free time has attracted them towards online gaming which requires little investment in buying a smartphone and an active mobile internet connection.
Increase in Smartphone Penetration
India’s smartphone base is estimated to reach 820 million in the next two years by 2022. There has been increase in number of smartphones in both rural and urban areas. This is due to the emergence of cheaper smartphones in the Indian markets. Smartphone penetration has increased to over 25% and it is much higher in the urban areas.
India is demographically a young country with 50% of population below the age of 25 years and 65% below the age of 35 years. This age group is involved in online gaming and is more aware about the trends in smartphone and online gaming platforms. This younger population of India has made it possible for online gaming to take roots in India.
New technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality are available in India at much cheaper rates as compared to earlier years. These technologies aid in online gaming and enhance the experience of gamers.
Growing Local Developed Ecosystem
Earlier international developers provided games to Indian gamers. But with growing skill level, Indian developers have emerged even on the global scale. Games have started to be made in India by local developers.
Games with localised context and in vernacular languages have emerged. These games can be played even by those people who do not know English language, the main language in which games are developed. Now games can be played in Indian languages with incorporation of localised context that attracts more people towards these games.
Most of the games in the gaming ecosystem are free to play. Users have to pay no charges to download and play games. The emergence of freemium games has further aided the development of the gaming ecosystem in India. In this concept, the games are free to play but for some premium features the user has to pay to the developer. This does not deprive those users who wants to download and play free games only without buying the premium version.
Gaming Addiction in Youth
WHO has classified addiction to gaming as a mental health disorder. WHO defines gaming addiction as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour that becomes so persistent that it takes precedence over other life interests. According to a study done by a US based firm has revealed that 24.2% of Indian gamers have skipped work to play games. Many people play games during their work hours. There is enough evidence to suggest that gaming addiction has taken roots in India. WHO has said that gaming addiction can lead to impairments in all aspects of life, including academics, work, relationship and health.
According to psychologists, the following are signs of addiction
• Playing non-stop for prolonged periods.
•Declining social invitations to play games. •Disturbed personal and professional relations.
•Sleep difficulties and disturbed sleep patterns. •Changes in daily activities such as eating habits. •Less concentration on homeworks, studying, office work etc.
• Headaches, dry eyes, sore fingers
• Unusual weight gain or loss.
•Frequently playing games and not being able to stay away from it.
Effects of Gaming Addiction
Gaming addiction involves various physical and mental effects. THe harmful effects of gaming addiction are
Though games are mainly free to play but they include various premium features that are paid. The gamers purchase the premium features in order to progress more in the game. The young people often spend huge amounts of their revenue for purchasing the premium content. Many platforms also require information of debit and credit card even to download free games. Young people who get access to these credit or debit cards often purchase the applications without their parent’s consent. This, in extreme cases leads to overburdening debts and in many cases even friendly fraud with the young children.
Effects on Personal Growth
One of the major effect on the youth One of the major effect on the youth is impact on other areas of life. It affects the personal growth as young people are not able to concentrate on their studies or on their profession. People may feel bored, find it difficult to concentrate and feel demotivated in their educational or professional life. Exposure to violent graphic or sexual content also has emotionally bad effects on young people. It leads to violent behaviour and daily life aggression over petty things. This also affects the personal growth of people because they often feel frustrated with themselves.
Effects on Social Relationships
Gaming addiction hinders social interactions as people are busy in gaming while ignoring their relations. Reduced interaction in social lives is dangerous for both physical as well as mental health. Addicted gamers often suffer strained relationships. They often take socially destructive decisions as they prioritise gaming above all other life activities. After finishing their gaming sessions, they do not find time and sufficient energy to invest in their relations.
Effects on Mental Health
Mental health is severely affected due to addiction to gaming. It induces anger or rage and young people often shout, scream or even physically attack their relatives or peers . Also, there is strong sense of urgency to return to gaming as soon as one finishes some other daily life task such as eating or doing home or office work. The people also feel isolated or lonely as they spend long times playing games without any interaction. Often the younger gamers feel depressed as they have to withdraw from playing games due to various reasons.
Effects on Physical Health
People who continuously play games for longer hours suffer from stiffness, back aches, pain, numbness. Eye strain is common if one looks at the screen for longer times without any breaks. People often play games sitting in poor postures that also leads to complex stress and strains that are difficult to diagnose with common techniques. Gaming addiction also makes the life of people sedentry because people miss out of their regular exercise and even their regular meals. They also indulge in poor and hygienic activities such as eating junk food and eating and playing simultaneously. Gaming addiction also disturbs sleep patterns.
Thus, gaming addiction is a serious problem and puts various aspects of lives of people at risk. Addiction is a chronic condition where the mind perceives the gameplay as pleasurable and stress reducing but it has adverse effects on the young people and their families.
Reasons for Increased Gaming Among People
Video games improves a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem. The person becomes empowered and thinks that they can handle the complex challenges of life. It also improves the decision making speed of the people. But it becomes quite dangerous as it is often the violence based action games that improves the decision making abilities.
While playing games teamwork is involved and it improves teamwork and cooperation skills. Contributing to the team and getting rewarded for it also makes the young people feel empowered and energetic.
Games that involve puzzle solving and mathematical skills engages people who have interests in mathematics and solving puzzles. This results in more number of hours being spent on playing games. If this continues for longer periods, it becomes addictive. Gaming gives a real workout to the player’s brain. As the players continue to play games, the level of difficulty increases and people find the game more engaging. They find it challenging and have an urge to solve the more difficult levels. As it involves multi-tasking, it gives a sense of high self-esteem and the players feel improvements in their motor skills, decision-making abilities and cognitive skills.
Often friends in the peer groups recommend games to their friends. Social conversations and social buzz created about online gaming attracts younger people toward it. Engaging advertisements and fascinating graphics also contribute to increase in online gaming. Thus, all these factors together contribute to more engagements, less number of working hours and more hours in playing games .
Conclusion About online Gaming
Internet has become an integral part of daily lives of people in India as well as all over the world. More and more smartphones are being used even to carry out daily tasks such as cooking, travelling, learning, schooling etc. Mobile gaming has developed in India for over 2 decades now. While it has provided a sense of satisfaction to people but it has also been positively associated with social anxiety, loneliness and even depression. There is an urgent and to regulate gaming from the level of the family till the national level.
India has very rich demographic dividend if it is reaped in time and properly utilised. Addiction to gaming has emerged as a serious hinderance in reaping this demographic dividend. Though online gaming market has grown by leaps and bounds but it has also created several problems affecting the youth and their families. Such issues clearly underscore the need to rethink the way games on the internet are played and regulated.
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