Among other concerns that have been raised in esports oversight is the lack of specific provisions that would ensure safe gameplay for women. A study found that 62.5 percent of harassment against women began with emails and online chats.
The Indian government has recently allocated matters related to esports to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) and online gaming to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTy) through an amendment to the Allocation of Business Rules 1961.
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While MYAS has yet to provide additional clarifications and details of their plans and involvement in esports, it is hoped that this will lead to the establishment of a national esports federation and steps towards player protection and talent development in the field.
With regard to online gaming, MeiTy has prepared draft amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which includes the need for an online gaming intermediary (OGI) to discharge specific duties that protect the users and ensures their safety.
According to Shivani Jha, Director of eSports Players Welfare Association (EPWA), “The proposed draft rules impose some obligations on gaming companies that operate games that take cash as deposits. This includes: (a) ensuring KYC and identification of its users; (b) due diligence requirements and disclosures; (c) incorporation of self-regulatory bodies (SRBs), which will be registered with MeiTy and additional compliances and (d) additional compliance requirements which include amongst other the appointment of a compliance officer in India a registered office.”
However, there are concerns about the lack of specific provisions that would ensure safe gameplay for women in the online gaming industry, as studies have shown that a significant percentage of women in India who play online games are committed gamers playing at least once a day.
A survey conducted by Rakuten Insight found that 42 percent of women in India who play online games are committed gamers playing at least once a day. A study on 72 women, titled ‘Cyber Stalking — Victimization of girl Students: An Empirical Study,’ found that 62.5 percent of harassment against women began with emails and online chats.
In terms of legal implications and execution hassles of the draft IT Rules, it is noted that gaming companies currently follow the self-regulation approach
“The government seems very clear about the fact that gaming companies fall under an intermediary category, and further, those operating pay-to-play games further qualify as online gaming intermediaries. Opening up this discussion by asking for stakeholder comments gives room to ensure that player safety measures are added to the rules or the functioning of the SRBs,” Jha added.
The government's decision to open up discussion by asking for stakeholder comments gives room for player safety measures to be added to the rules or the functioning of the SRBs.
How to make gaming safe
It is suggested that the draft rules must include measures to address the three essential classes of abuse that form many users in the online gaming ecosystem. They include:
It is in the interest of gamers that the government make a future-proof law for online gaming and an inclusive and safe space for the above.
The policy is expected to help the online gaming industry as a whole to grow by providing a soft-touch oversight and regulation for companies, and a safe gaming place for users. The Draft IT Rules also help reduce the state-wise regulatory measures taken without separate central legislation. With an estimated 60 lakh regular online gamers in India playing for entertainment or livelihood, it is essential to ensure that the industry is regulated and safe for all users.