Let The Games Be­gin?

Stud­ies show that a young adult can spend around 13 to 14 hours a week play­ing video games. Such long hours can cause im­mense im­pact on one’s mind.

Alive - - Con­tents - by Nam­rata Pahwa

Video games have come a long way since the days when Mario, Con­tra and HalfLife were played and gone are the days when video games were played by chil­dren only. To­day, the mar­ket is flooded with con­soles of­fer­ing a plethora of choices to gamers. Mod­ern video games are said to con­sist of highly dy­namic au­dio-vis­ual el­e­ments (in­clud­ing pic­tures, video record­ings and sounds) and soft­ware, which tech­ni­cally man­ages the au­dio-vis­ual com­po­nents and per­mits users to in­ter­act with the dif­fer­ent el­e­ments of the game.

These el­e­ments in video games present com­plex is­sues of au­thor­ship as they are pro­tected by var­i­ous forms of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, for ex­am­ple; Pa­tent Law cov­ers mat­ters such as game play de­sign el­e­ments, net­work­ing or de­sign data­base;

Trade­mark Law pro­tects com­pany names, game ti­tles or sub-ti­tles; and Copy­right sub­sists in works such as mu­sic, char­ac­ters or code. As a re­sult, video games rep­re­sent a com­plex bun­dle of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty.

Psy­cho­log­i­cal Ef­fects

Stud­ies show that a young adult can spend around 13 to 14 hours a week play­ing video games. Such long hours can cause im­mense im­pact on one’s mind. Gamers can have both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive feel­ings while play­ing based on the de­sign of the game and how en­grossed they be­come with cer­tain as­pects of the game. It is seen that video game ad­dic­tion can be as prob­lem­atic as gam­bling. Within the field of so­cial care, the ex­po­sure of young peo­ple to vi­o­lent video games may be viewed within the con­text of risk fac­tors for the devel­op­ment of ag­gres­sion. It was re­cently seen in the “Fire Fairy” and the “Blue Whale” games how chil­dren were lured in to in­flict pain on them­selves so much so that it lead to mass sui­cides and men­tal suf­fer­ing.

The Cal­i­for­nia Law charges a $1,000 fine on any­one who sells or rents a "vi­o­lent video game" to a mi­nor. Such a video game is de­fined as a game in which the player has the op­tion of "killing, maim­ing, dis­mem­ber­ing, or sex­u­ally as­sault­ing an image of a hu­man be­ing in of­fen­sive ways”. Par­ents or guardians are how­ever still per­mit­ted to buy those games for mi­nors.

In Brown v. En­ter­tain­ment Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion, 564 U.S. 786 (2011), a land­mark case by the Supreme Court of The United States that struck down a 2005 Cal­i­for­nia law ban­ning the sale of cer­tain vi­o­lent video games to chil­dren with­out parental su­per­vi­sion. In a 7–2 de­ci­sion, the Court up­held the lower Court’s de­ci­sions and nul­li­fied the law, rul­ing that the vi­o­lent video games did not con­sti­tute "ob­scen­ity" un­der the First Amend­ment. In the video

game, Postal 2, the user gets to "go postal" and re­ceive points for killing as many in­no­cent vic­tims as pos­si­ble while they beg for money. The cen­sor­ship ef­forts of the video game in­dus­try started af­ter a spate of school shootout by chil­dren, al­legedly in­flu­enced by vi­o­lent video games. This de­ci­sion is a to­tal and unam­bigu­ous as­ser­tion of the fact that video games have the same con­sti­tu­tional sta­tus as a paint­ing, film, and book.

Laws un­der the In­dian Pe­nal Code

How­ever, In­dia has for­mu­lated var­i­ous laws un­der the In­dian Pe­nal

Code and the In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Act to pe­nalise and quash all ob­scene and las­civ­i­ous mat­ter sold to mi­nors/young per­sons, as seen in, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, Direc­torate Gen­eral of Do­or­dar­shan and Ors vs Anand Pat­ward­han and Anr (Ap­peal (civil) 613 of 2005 of Supreme Court). De­spite all of the above, In­dia needs spe­cific leg­is­la­tion re­lat­ing to the video game in­dus­try as has been at­tempted by other coun­tries.

Crime in the Vir­tual World

What hap­pens when theft, mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion or dam­age to dig­i­tal prop­erty or breach of gam­ing rules have in­curred?

Who is to blame in times of vir­tual rape, as­sault, fraud or any con­duct af­fect­ing avatars or prop­erty with real word con­se­quences?

The ar­ti­cle; "A Rape in Cy­berspace" writ­ten by free­lance jour­nal­ist Ju­lian Dibbell deals with the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the vir­tual world and the real world. It was first pub­lished in The Vil­lage Voice in 1993 and soon found its way into schol­arly dis­cus­sions re­gard­ing cy­berspace. The ar­ti­cle de­scribes a grue­some "cy­ber rape" in a mul­ti­Terms player com­puter game called Lamb­daMOO which is a vir­tual Com­mu­nity (still in ex­is­tence), al­low­ing play­ers to in­ter­act us­ing avatars. The avatars are user-pro­gram­mable and may in­ter­act au­to­mat­i­cally with each other and with ob­jects and lo­ca­tions in the “com­mu­nity”. The par­tic­u­lar in­ci­dent in­volved an al­leged ‘vir­tual rape’ of a fe­male user by a young boy, in the purely text-based vir­tual world, as seen be­low.

The “vic­tim” in this case was emo­tion­ally trau­ma­tised and sought le­gal re­course. How­ever, tech­ni­cally, this act of vir­tual rape was per­fectly le­gal since no laws were bro­ken in the process as of Ser­vice (ToS) and an End User Li­cense Agree­ment (EULA) was vol­un­tar­ily signed while reg­is­ter­ing the ac­count. Af­ter sev­eral protests against the said video game, the per­pe­tra­tor (his avatar) faced “eter­nal ban­ish­ment” only to be rein­car­nated later. Was that ad­e­quate jus­tice?

The rape of an avatar may pro­duce some re­al­world phys­i­cal dis­com­fort or shock among un­sus­pect­ing or novice users. This could be pre­vented through mod­i­fy­ing sim­u­la­tion codes or real-world coun­selling to deal with psy­cho­log­i­cal or emo­tional harms or im­proved ed­u­ca­tion about recog­nised risks for new users. For­mal crim­i­nal in­ter­ven­tion would only have a place if an ap­pre­cia­ble and mea­sur­able ef­fect on the real-world vic­tim could be es­tab­lished, or if the vi­o­la­tion clearly falls un­der the es­tab­lished crim­i­nal pro­vi­sions tar­get­ing harm­ful on­line con­duct.

Such dis­missal of a crime in the vir­tual world could be very dan­ger­ous which gives the per­pe­tra­tor the lib­erty to tran­scend it into the real world. It lets the user be­lieve that it’s per­mis­si­ble to per­form such acts in the real world with­out any reper­cus­sions. The link­ing of vi­o­lent ac­tiv­i­ties by chil­dren to video games has hith­erto been viewed as a very far-fetched con­nec­tion by the Courts of Law. But the co­in­ci­dences are too many and the re­ports of psy­chi­a­trists around the world link­ing the two are hard to ig­nore.

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