Leveraging Tech to Build End-user Safeguards in Online Gaming

Technological advancements have been a significant driving force behind the growth of the Indian digital economy. The technology sector, including IT services, software development, and tech startups, has played a pivotal role in India’s economic growth,generating an array of employment opportunities. The country has come to be known for its IT software and outsourcing services, […]

Technological advancements have been a significant driving force behind the growth of the Indian digital economy. The technology sector, including IT services, software development, and tech startups, has played a pivotal role in India’s economic growth,generating an array of employment opportunities. The country has come to be known for its IT software and outsourcing services, which have generated significant revenue and created numerous employment opportunities over the years.
In recent years, India has undergone a massive digital transformation due to the widespread adoption of smartphones and greater internet penetration in remote areas. This has enabled easier access to information, e-commerce, digital payments, and online services. Technology has played a critical role in improving access to digital and formal education in India. Online courses, e-learning platforms, and digital educational resources have made it possible for students, even those in remote areas, to access quality education. Telemedicine and digital health solutions have become increasingly important, especially in the rural and underserved regions of India. Government initiatives such as Digital India, Common Household Database and Aadhaar have helped digitize government records, enabled better targeting, reduced bureaucracy, and increased transparency, thereby streamlining public services and improving governance. Digital payment systems like UPI (Unified Payments Interface) have made it easier for people to access and use financial services, reducing reliance on cash and promoting financial literacy.
India has witnessed a surge in technology startups that are fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. These startups are creating jobs that requires innovation and developing solutions for various challenges in the fields of healthcare, education, and transportation.As technology bridges state and private realms, India leads a dynamic digital revolution, fostering innovation and societal progress.

Advancements in Tech & Challenges
With progress comes the potential for new and complex challenges. While technology has brought numerous benefits to India, it has also presented certain challenges, such as issues around data privacy, cybersecurity, and the digital divide. Therefore, responsible and equitable use of technology is critical to ensure that its advantages continue to benefit the country as a whole.Policies need to be credible and at the same time dynamic to encourage thediffusion of digital advantage for better governance. India has the potential to become the hub for this innovation enabling creation of wealth for Indian youths for the global market.
Let us take the case of online gaming where India is not just a consumer but also an innovator.The Indian online skill gaming industry, currently valued at $20 billion, boasts of over 420 million online gamers and more than 500 gaming studios. The industry supports lakhs of direct andindirect jobs, and these figures are expected to substantially increase in the coming years.However, the potential growth of this industry faces a hurdle due to a lack of comprehensive policies and insufficient and often inaccurate knowledge about the sector.
To address the issue of addiction to online gaming, a more assertive and proactive approach is necessary given that moral policing has often allowed emotions to overtake logic.The online gaming industry caters to various age groups through a diverse array of gaming formats. From esports and fantasy gaming to casual gaming, card games, and puzzle games, this industry continually introduces new formats and is not merely about entertainment. In fact, several online gaming formats necessitate a blend of cerebral skills like agility and rapid reflexes, in addition to mental abilities such as strategic thinking, logic, attentiveness, practice, adeptness, and an extensive grasp of the game.
To comprehend the challenges associated with excessive gameplay and behavioural issues linked to gaming, it becomes important to demarcate these different categories. Addressing these concerns requires acknowledging that prevention is possible through innovative and tailor-made initiatives promoting responsible gaming and advisory content.
Recently, a cross-sectional study was conducted on “Digital Competence as a protective factor against gaming addiction in children and adolescents”emphasizing the crucial role of digital competence in preventing gaming addiction. The study analysedaround 2000 students who completed a digital competence assessment and a self-report questionnaire on their mental health status, use of digital devices, and experiences of cyber bullying.
Educating young minds to enhance digital competence is vital for maximizing the benefits of media use while minimizing potential adverse effects from inappropriate use of digital devices.For instance, a graduate student from the University of Bath has developed a new device to tackle gaming addiction enabling parental control over screen usage.Once the predetermined screen time allocation has been reached, the device initiates a screen shutdown process, issuing a warning during the final 10 minutes of usage.
This innovative technology showcases the potential for complementary solutions to balance the benefits and drawbacks associated with digital devices. Many gaming platforms have incorporated reminders to discourage excessive gaming on the app, promoting the inclusion of cooling breaks to ensure a balanced gaming experience.
Real money gaming, on the other hand, has a different set or requirements to protect users’ identity and money necessitating a comprehensive Know Your Customer (KYC) verification and age verification for all users.
Several Indian gaming companies have already adopted a proactive approach and have responsible gaming charters in place to curb negative impacts and foster healthy gaming.These initiatives include educating gamers on managing their time effectively, creating games that foster healthy gaming habits, and providing resources to help individuals grappling with addiction. With the aid of technology, features such as time limits, monetary limitations and exclusions, and monitoring unusual behaviourhave been introduced on gaming platforms to prevent excessive gameplay. Making this the norm would require a collaborative effort from all stakeholders, including policymakers, gaming companies and the society as a whole.

What can be done?
With respect to children and young adults specifically, many safeguarding techniques to protect child rights have been recommended in UNICEF’s “Child Rights and Online Gaming: Opportunities& Challengesfor Childrenandthe Industry”that may further be included in the country’s digital policies to ensure safety for online gaming users, especially children. Recommendations include ensuring age restrictions are displayed,aligning age restrictions to relevant international ratings and legal requirements, creating parental control solutions and guidance pertinent to parents appropriate to different age groups of children that allow parents to restrict access to certain games. Marketing is to be appropriately identified, and children to be informed about anything of a commercial nature in the game. Flagging and adding additional controls to mature content, designing new age-verification methods, etc., are some other measures that the report talks about to safeguard young users against addiction.
While many gaming companies have initiated steps to create a better and safer experience for users, a holistic approach may be adopted to develop a more enormous and practical impact. This development area provides a notable opportunity for the gaming industry to adopt self-regulatory measures that will ensure prolonged growth of the sector while best protecting younger consumers.
A tech-driven industry such as online gaming, when managed well, can have positive benefits, such as improving cognitive function, enhancing social skills, narrowing the digital divide besides providing a source of entertainment. Industry meet-ups and feedback mechanisms of the users should also become vital components for fosteringaresponsible gaming industry in India.
Such technological advancements can continue to be a boon to the country’s growth if we can collaboratively find practical approaches to the challenges that arise.
(Aruna Sharma, Former Secretary, MeitY)