The first time I was introduced to an online gaming world was with Need for Speed, a racing simulator. I can still remember the fun and thrill of challenging and playing against a real player instead of regular computer AI. That’s when I explored this space which is just virtual, but real nonetheless. This was in early 2000s. Online gaming has since then become vast and is ever expanding.
Until recently online games included traditional game genres. People would and still join their friends and other players from all over the world, the virtual world facilitated by internet. There are communities in gaming, giving the gamers a feeling of unity with their counterparts.
Popular games like Dota 2, Counter Strike etc., have seen people invest anywhere from 2-3 to 10-12 hours a day. Lately, online gaming has witnessed the rising trend of “Challenges”. Games in which you challenge your opponents or mates to perform a certain task that are mostly harmless and cause-drive. Few examples are like Ice Bucket Challenge, which was played to raise awareness about the disease of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). But not all the challenges that come out are done with an intent of happiness or awareness. One among them is the Blue whale which has shocked the world today.
The online “Game” called the Blue Whale Challenge coax its participants into committing suicide as its final challenge. India, a country largely unaffected by such extreme challenges saw huge impact of this game among the millennials. According to a recent report by Google India and KPMG, India’s online gaming market will grow to USD 1 billion by 2021, from the current USD 360 million, at a growth rate of 20 percent. The online gamer base in India is expected to almost triple to 310 million people from the current 120 million by 2021.
Question is, what motivation dare people to attempt these dangerous tasks? Why attempt it? Can’t it just be stopped? Or not attempt it at all?. Unfortunately, the answer to it isn’t that simple. Games are made to attract the user and maintain it to the point of yearning. It’s the same with music or any other method of entertainment or fulfilment that gives you pleasure. In the case of games, it’s the co-relation between the challenges involved and the reward it brings.
It would be unfair, however, to blame online gaming for this rising epidemic. Online games are just another outlet after all for these challenges to grow. It’s human nature to be enamoured with strength and violence, case in point, the gladiatorial shows in Roman times. Throughout the history we have courted the extremes and now it has become easier through internet. There are different type of personalities such as narcissistic, sadists and psychopathic deviants in the society. Only difference – it’s now easier for them to connect and prey on the vulnerable.
Most of these are self-mutilation in nature, which cannot be termed as a game. People get into this due to the anonymity that internet grants and this space has low barrier to entry . Though it’s a double-edged sword, with its own positives and negatives too. What you’re reading is just a small part of the large and healthy community of online gaming. The only reason to even consider them online games is because that’s where these are masked as “games” and reaches the masses.
One can guide and suggest ways to protect a person, but its up to them, how they can shield themselves from such sadistic experiments. More importantly, life matters above all. You see, if you die in a video game, you can re-spawn or be resurrected. The same isn’t the case in real life, thus making it important to not get lost in the virtual world.