Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds are among a number of video games that have been banned in Iraq.
According to CBC, the country’s parliament banned the game “due to the negative effects caused by some electronic games on the health, culture, and security of Iraqi society, including societal and moral threats to children and youth.”
Iraq is the second country to ban PUBG this month.
The Iraqi government has been devastated in recent years due to sectarian violence brought about by Islamic State militants. Though victory was officially declared over ISIS in 2017, the country’s parliament has been struggling to operate effectively since its 2018 election, which was mired by recounts and allegations of corruption.
It has passed very few pieces of legislation since, with the banning of PUBG and Fortnite being one of the few actions taken by the government. This led to some backlash on social media, with many wondering why it was prioritizing the banning of video games over more pressing matters for the domestic citizenry.
Though the banning of PUBG and Fortnite will raise eyebrows around the country, Iraq is not alone.
The battle royale genre has come under fire in several Asian countries in recent months. For the most part, these criticisms have amounted only to grumblings, but some regions have taken things a step further.
Earlier this month, the government of Nepal banned PUBG due to the rising popularity of its mobile port in the country. A number of cities in India have also banned the game, with people actually being arrested while playing in public. It isn’t just Asian lawmakers that have set their sights on the games, with British royal Prince Harry saying that Fortnite “shouldn’t be allowed.”
Each of these cases have involved the same talking points, with critics calling the games addictive and potentially harmful to children. Those labels have been come up many times over the years with the first example coming in 1978 when Space Invaders was nearly banned in Britain due to its “addictive properties” and a supposed likelihood to cause “deviancy.” These criticisms are similar to early gripes about other forms of media including comic books and television.
There is no scientific evidence to show that video games are addictive, and recent studies have suggested there is no link between on-screen violence and heightened aggression in children. Still, these criticisms pop up every time a new title reaches a certain level of popularity.
Time and time again it has been proven that if a video game can be attached to some manner of crime or tragedy, it will be labeled as the cause of the problem. While games like Doom and Grand Theft Auto have been among the most prominent examples of this, even the likes of FarmVille have come under fire.
But whenever those claims have been met with actual scientific research, they have never been proven true.
Links between violence in video games and increased violence in children has been disproven many times over the years, with the most recent example coming in February 2019 from the University of Oxford.
Addiction is a trickier subject. In 2013 the American Psychological Association refused to officially recognize video game addiction as a mental disorder, though it did acknowledge that it is a subject that requires further study. The World Health Organization added a “gaming disorder” listing in 2018’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, but this again served as a call for research rather than widespread action by governments.
Though gaming can impact different people in different ways, it is hard to look at calls to ban titles like PUBG and Fortnite as anything but excessive.