“Pi Van” is a veteran gamer well known in the Thai gaming community. Last week in his live stream, he discussed a government proposal to regulate Esports, which is a form of competition using video games.
The gaming community is not happy about this proposal.
The proposed bill is seen as an effort to impose stricter control over the Esports and game streaming industry. Measures will possibly include a two-hour limit on streaming sessions and a ban on First Person Shooters (FPS) competition, due to the violent nature of FPS games. Furthermore, to host an Esports competition, one would need a permit.
“How are we to play only two hours per day? Don’t worry about our health. We sleep ten hours per day,” tweeted famous Gamecaster Heart Rocker, who also explained how it’s impossible to play a game in just two hours per day.
Even politicians are expressing concerns.
Sudarat Keyuraphan of Pheu Thai Party tweeted an invitation for gamers to get together to discuss the proposed bill on 12 July.
There are no additional details on the proposed bill. Still, ominous signs have the gaming community on edge, worrying that the industry might go the same way as that the alcohol industry, facing ever-tightening control.
A misguided approach
Move Forward Party MP Taopiphop Limjittrakorn posted on his Facebook Page that a health lobbyist group (The Co-operating Network to Protect Children from Online Media Usage) is behind the proposed bill.
The lobbyist group consists of 85 organizations. They submitted a statement to the parliament expressing concerns over excessive usage of online media by children and proposed measures to regulate the gaming industry.
The group cited incidents, including a teenage “game addict” who stabbed his mother and a 13-year-old novice monk who accidentally killed an 18-year-old novice monk over an argument about a mobile game. They said these are evidence of the harmful and criminal consequences of gaming.
It sounds all too familiar. After all, “game addiction” has long been sensationalized by the media as the main factor that “corrupts” young people. When a “gamer” commits a crime, society is quick to blame the game.
It’s an argument fallacy: some gamers committed crimes; therefore, playing games is a bad thing.
However, some of the points raised by the group are valid.
Games can be addictive
The group stated children are “so obsessed with playing games they lost self-control, leading to psychosis and paranoia.” It also said one of the significant causes of game addiction in children and teenagers is “an obsession to enter an Esports competition and online gambling.”
In this, they are not wrong. The group, misguided as they are, probably have good intentions.
For one, “addictive behavior” when playing games does exist. WHO (World Health Organization) even classified it as a gaming disorder in 2018, although it also stated the disorder only affects a minuscule proportion of all gamers.
The proposed bill, unfortunately, is trying to cure a symptom, not the root cause.
Solutions must come from gamers
First of all, no matter the legislation, the gaming community has ways to get around it. Government bureaucrats are no match for a tech-savvy 15-year-old gamer. But of course, this isn’t the best approach.
The root cause is the game developer.
The gaming community has proposed to regulate the developers. For example, reduce the “grind” required to progress in the game, especially in online games that are well known for their “time-sink” qualities. By reducing the grind, you lessen the playtime.
Famous streamer “9arm” proposed to mandate game developers to inform players of the odds when they are interacting with gambling-like mechanics such as opening loot boxes. With this mandate, players would know what they are getting into before they pay money to the developers.
So if someone has “concerns” about games and want to fix it, they should bring in the gamers.
Gamers are actually the ones who play. They know the games, are passionate about the games, and they are aware of the issues that need addressing. Inviting veteran gamers such as P’ Van to participate in drafting the bill is a step in the right direction.
A parliament committee will discuss the proposal on 13 July.