You are among the 100 gaming enthusiasts, who jump from a plane, parachute onto a virtual island, scavenge for offensive weapons to kill others and survive till the end. The last person standing is greeted with celebratory phrase- Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner.” That’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), the world’s most popular and controversial online multiplayer game.

Colloquially known as PUBG, this battle royale game is highly addictive and is even slapped with a ban in few countries over its negative impact on players.

In India, PUBG has been under Central Government’s radar for a long time now with many sections of the society pushing for a blanket ban on this online game, which has been blamed for distracting students, their poor academic performances, violent behavior, suicides and even murders.

If you have not been living under the rock, you must have heard the term PUBG in recent news about the arrest of youngsters in parts of Gujarat for playing the game despite a ban on it.

As the gaming enthusiasts are hooked on to this game like crazy, a large number of bizarre cases have been witnessed in the country lately. A 15-year old boy from Maharashtra stabbed his elder brother to death for scolding him over playing PUBG, a 17-year old boy from Haryana committed suicide after his mother scolded him for playing the game, a 16-year-old teen from Madhya Pradesh died of cardiac arrest after playing the game for six hours at a stretch, a 19 years old Gujarat based married woman with a year-old baby sought divorce from her husband over his immense addiction for the PUBG, a 15-year old boy from Punjab stole Rs 50000 from his father’s bank account to spend money to buy gaming accessories and the list of such bizarre cases goes on.

The PUBG phenomenon is now also compared to the notorious “Blue Whale challenge”, which was linked with several suicides across India, prompting demands to curb the menace of the deadly challenge.

The “Blue Whale challenge”, a social network phenomenon set 50 tasks over 50 days which includes elements of self-harm and the final challenge requiring the player to commit suicide. The Central Government had even issued an advisory in 2017 to the guardians to monitor their children’s online and social media activity to ensure that they are not engaging with the deadly challenge.

While the online games like Super Mario, Need for Speed, Road Rash, Mortal Kombat among many others shaped much of the childhood of 90s kids, the PUBG mobile version is the latest phenomenon that has grown exponentially after its launch last year with people of all age groups from various walks of life getting addicted it to and compromising on meals, sleep and their social life.

Interestingly, one can play PUBG with friends and voice chat in real time. After playing it quite a few times, I observed that we tend to play the game again and again when we lose the previous match. With probability of winning less with 99 other players in this violent game, the successful completion of a mission definitely gives you an adrenaline rush and you begin to fall into the “chicken trap”.

As you are among 100 others in the last man standing deathmatch, the weapons that aid you along the way are inspired by actual weapons like AK 47, Steyr AUG A3, M16A4,  M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), Mk 14 Enhanced Battle Rifle and several others. PUBG’s theme song ‘On My Way’, a slew of vehicles and a map are among other interesting things that you come across while lurking to shoot down the enemies in this violent game.

Undeniably, we all have often seen the kids and adults around us having their head stuck in the mobile game but playing it for several hours at a stretch everyday can also negatively impact mental and physical health.

Kushal Saini, 22, a final year student in the Department of Biotechnology, NIT Jalandhar says, “I and my friends used to play PUBG everyday for more than five hours and till late at night. We even had a WhatsApp group where we used to notify other friends about the time of playing PUBG. The addiction affected our studies and lifestyle as we used to miss meals sometimes and also, never attended calls while playing.”

Kushal tells me that he and his friends were addicted to PUBG last year but have got rid of PUBG addiction now. We are also helping other friends in the College campus who are addicted to PUBG. Whenever we see others playing this game for a long time and getting addicted to it, we simply delete the game from their mobile and engage them in a conversation to divert their mind from the addiction, he adds.

Harjinder Singh, 21, a final year student in the Mechanical Engineering Department, Thapar Institute of Engineering & Technology, Patiala says, “The PUBG game is truly an exhilarating experience and a good one for time pass.”

“I play it for about two – three hours every day,” he adds.

It may sound absurd but the “gaming disorder” is real and has even been classified as a disease in the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). The WHO defines the gaming addition as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” so severe it takes precedence over other life interests.

Ankit Mehta, 32, a Delhi based businessman, is addicted to PUBG and plays it every day from 8 or 8: 30 pm onwards to 2 am or sometimes, even more.

Sharing the reasons for playing the game for several hours every day, even when at work, he says, “It acts like a huge stress buster for him.”

His wife Arvina Mehta, 29, however is not happy with her husband’s love for PUBG. She shares, “After reaching home from work, he starts playing PUBG everyday and wastes around five or more hours. It is really annoying sometimes but now, I am trying to find new ways to help him get out of this gaming addiction.”

Dapinder Kaur, 46, a resident of Chandigarh, is a mother of two young boys aged 20 and 13. She shares, “Her elder son plays PUBG for some time and younger son plays other games on mobile.”

Asked if she worries about the children getting addicted to online games, she says, “Children should indulge in outdoor sports. But I also feel that there is no harm in playing mobile games as long as such things do not affect children’s daily activities.”

“Even though children do not listen to their parents these days but it is the parents who need to exercise real control and monitor their children’s activities on phones,” Dapinder adds.

While politicians, academicians and parents have expressed outrage over PUBG, arguing the game is diverting the players’ attention from their daily life, the physiatrists feel that banning is not the only solution but parenting approach and healthy relationship also play a key role in dealing with the issues of technology addition and gaming addiction.

Dr Savita Malhotra, Consultant, the Department of Mental Health And Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Hospital, Mohali tells me, “These days, youngsters are over indulging in social media and mobile games. We have observed that mostly, adolescents play mobile games throughout the night and tend to live in virtual world. Anonymity on online platforms also gives them comfort.”

Dr Malhotra, who was retired as Dean PGIMER and Professor Head, Department of Psychiatry says, “Easy access to the internet, interactive nature of games, disturbed parental relationship, parents neglecting their child are among some of the reasons of increase in cases of social media and gaming addiction.”

Some of the consequences of gaming addiction include withdrawal from social life, high levels of irritability in child, behavioral changes, increase in aggression, avoiding sleep and avoiding eating proper meals and health issues.

Dr Malhotra says, “The youngsters lack sense of rationality and judgment and tend to get involved in virtual world and seek pleasure in living a virtual life.”

On how to deal with child’s gaming addiction, she says, “Preventive intervention is better than the treatment. The parents have to be extremely cautious and need to monitor their children’s online activities.”

As far as treatment of such cases is concerned, it involves various steps including dealing with family and the affected child, psychological methods, environment, emotional and social therapies, she adds.

Notably, as per a survey conducted last year, close to 62 percent respondents in the age group of 16 to 24 had said that they play PUBG game, making it the most popular game in the country. On reasons of playing it, 46.2 per cent people had responded that it was better than other games while 24.5 per cent people said because everyone is talking about it.

In another survey recently, violent game-PUBG- had cropped up among various things like cigarettes, marijuana and online betting, on which around 40 percent respondents in India wanted a ban.

Dr Subodh BN, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, PGIMER says, “Violence in online games definitely affects one’s mental health.  Behavior management, monitoring online activity of children and diverting their attention from gaming can be helpful in dealing with the internet or gaming addiction.”

“Parents and schools play a key role in dealing with such issues,” he adds.

The experts also feel that government’s intervention is also required to put some regulations in place to prevent exploitation of young and vulnerable children on online platforms.

In the end, we would like to remind that if the violent multiplayer game is interfering with your personal life, it’s time to get some help otherwise keep hunting down the enemies to get your hands on that elusive “Chicken Dinner”.