PlayerUnknowns Battleground, more commonly known as PUBG, has taken the world by storm since its release in 2017. While it doesn’t receive as much media attention as Fortnite, PUBG’s free mobile version actually surpasses Fortnite in total users, largely due to its popularity in populous Asian countries like India and China.
Now that gaming disorder is gaining global awareness, (thanks in part to its recognition by the WHO as a disease), some parents are starting to realise their need for professional help – but knowing where to turn is another story.
How PUBG is Played
PUBG is a battle royale-style game, which essentially means that its goal is to be the last player (or squad) standing. In PUBG, how players do this is up to them – which is part of why it’s so addictive (more on that later). This multiplayer game allows players to engage with up to 100 other people at a time.
To start, players are dropped in by parachute to different locations on a large-scale map. From there, they must start looting: searching in abandoned buildings and throughout their surrounding area for weapons they’ll use to defend themselves throughout the battle. After the looting phase, a large circle is placed randomly on the map. Players inside the circle when it’s dropped get to keep playing the game as usual, but players outside of it are stuck in the Blue Zone – and their health will slowly decline until it runs out. The Blue Zone shrinks periodically as the game moves on.
Why PUBG is so Addictive
Gaming technology is based on the industry’s knowledge of the brain’s dopamine reward system, which naturally reinforces pleasurable behaviour. Gaming companies design algorithms accordingly – that is, video games are intended to be addictive. Each time a player scores some type of win, it shoots off a small amount of dopamine in their brain – which makes them seek the experience again and again.
Because of its winner-take-all format, the wins PUBG promises are very big indeed. In addition, its ever-shrinking blue zone places a natural time limit on each session. Because players know about how long a game will take, it’s easier for them to squeeze more sessions in throughout the day. Players are automatically matched with others of a similar skill level, meaning everyone can still experience the satisfaction of wins – or crave repeats after near-wins. And, because players can win by whatever means they want to, they don’t tire of playing the same version. They can strategise indefinitely.
PUBG Mobile’s In-App Purchases are Akin to Gambling
One especially precarious feature of PUBG is its in-game purchase options. While the game allows players to open a certain amount of loot boxes for free, additional ones come at $2.50 a pop. You can also buy cosmetic features like upgraded weapon designs, parties and dances for your character. It’s easy to see how, for a game-addicted kid who doesn’t understand the consequences of buying online, this could easily get out of hand. That was certainly the case for one Indian teen who stole Rs 50,000 from his father to use in PUBG.
The addition of in-app purchases adds a whole new allure to the game. In fact, research has found that loot boxes are psychologically the same as gambling.
India’s Drastic Measures Against PUBG Addiction
The scourge of PUBG addiction sweeping South Asia has led to some drastic attempts to restrict users’ game play. Players now get locked out after playing PUBG Mobile for too long (time limits vary but allow for game time of up to six hours), at which point they receive a pop-up ‘health reminder.’
The Indian state of Gujarat banned the game, after which Rajkot police arrested ten young people for playing PUBG.
Is Your Child Addicted to PUBG?
If your child has been excessively playing PUBG and you’re worried that they’re developing a gaming addiction, ask yourself if you’ve noticed any of the following signs of gaming disorder:
- Becoming angry when their gaming session is interrupted
- Making excuses to justify how much time they spend gaming
- Neglecting their other responsibilities: school work, extracurricular activities or real-life socialising
- Inability to stop or limit their gameplay
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they don’t have access to their device: depression, loneliness, boredom or obsessive preoccupation with getting back to the game
Gaming addiction also tends to lead to academic decline and increased family conflict. One young man in India who had previously shown plenty of academic promise failed his pre-university exam after writing PUBG gaming instructions on his answer sheet. Another 15-year-old boy was reportedly convinced by his PUBG teammates to leave home, and has been missing since March.
With such drastic outcomes of this relatively new phenomenon, many parents are understandably feeling lost as to what they can do to help their kids.
Specialised Gaming Addiction Treatment
Gaming disorder, like any addiction, is best addressed with professional treatment. If your child is addicted to gaming, quitting successfully involves far more than simply taking away their device. They may also be gaming to escape a pre-existing mental health condition, or may have developed symptoms of mental illness as a result of their behaviour.
Seeking professional help for this newly recognised condition can prove difficult, as few professionals have experience and expertise in this area. Fortunately, The Edge young men’s programme has partnered with the world’s leading gaming addiction expert Cam Adair to develop a gaming-specific addiction treatment programme specifically for young men.
Our programme incorporates dynamic elements like digital detox, mindfulness training, outdoor therapy and relationship building to not only help your son recover, but give him the tools to lead a healthy, addiction-free life going forward. Contact us today to learn how we can help your son become a game quitter.