The consultations by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on draft rules for online gaming began on January 11 with key stakeholders, namely, parents, students and educationists.
During the meeting, Minister of State (MoS), Rajeev Chandrasekhar was encouraged by educators to make sure the planned self-regulatory organization (SRO) “operates at an arm’s length from the industry” and to frame “objective criteria” to prevent industry misuse of the process.
Chandrasekhar assured that the SRO will have “equitable representation” by all stakeholders of the industry. He further said that the government will provide its approval to the SRO’s planned obligations as outlined by its board.
“We are going by the principle of accountability and transparency. The government will certainly not allow the industry to hijack the SRO,” Chandrasekhar said, as quoted by Business Standard.
“Gamer representatives there hold as much importance and sway on SRO’s conduct as does the NCPCR representative or the NCW representative or the gaming industry representative or the government representative,” Chandrasekhar added.
Review of the definition of online games, permitting age-appropriate certification of games, and giving the SRO more authority to regulate in-game material, addiction, and psychological problems brought on by such games were among the main recommendations given by participants during the discussion.
Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Priyanka Kanoongo also took part in the discussion and suggested that when forming the SRO, an “institutionalized mechanism” involving eminent institutions or the nation’s top psychiatric facilities should be taken into account.
Some people also suggested having a permanent chair for a woman in the SRO.
Teachers from different schools and colleges acknowledged the advantages of online gaming for children’s “holistic development”, but they also pointed out the “risks,” citing the rise in cyberbullying and harassment of women on social media as well as the need for tools to limit time spent on such platforms. They also stated that a proper grievance redressal mechanism is needed to be implemented to ensure safety of women.
Other suggestions included continual monitoring of how young people are using these platforms which can be done by holding regular meetings with parents, students, and teachers. The SRO should be obligated to give monthly reports detailing the specifics of the types of complaints received.
Rules relating to in-game or in-app purchases were clarified by the MoS, saying that all online financial transactions will require eKYC.
During the consultation, Chandrasekhar agreed to look into the narrow definition of online gaming and requested submissions on the draft by January 17. The next consultation round is planned to be with the online gaming industry and the new and improved online gaming rules are expected to be ready sometime in February.
“We certainly want to make online gaming another aspect of our digital economy, where startups and entrepreneurs create more and more games and compete with the world’s best. At the same time, we have a mandate given to us by the Prime Minister that the internet, as it evolves and grows, must represent a place of trust and safety,” Chandrasekhar concluded.