In the words of Marc Prensky, the past few generations of children have grown up drowning in exposure to the digital devices of the new age. This has caused a huge shift in the paradigm, or as Prensky calls it–a singularity that has taken effect. That is to say, an event that is so fundamentally impactful, that there is no point of return. This is the digital evolution. The students and youth of today have grown up immersed in the tools of this digital shift, be it through smartphones, computers, play stations, online games, etc. Growing in this pervasive atmosphere has irrevocably altered and changed the way this generation processes information. Those belonging to this new generation are referred to as Digital Natives, given that they are fluent in the digital language. Their predecessors are the Digital Immigrants, those who have slowly adapted to the digital shift after having walked through a significant part of life without any exposure to it.
The digital immigrants have made provisions to adapt to technology, and pave the way for further change and development. India has welcomed the digital shift with open arms. The Digital India initiative launched under the discretion of the Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology, has strived to build adequate technological infrastructure to improve accessibility to electronic services for all Indian citizens. Despite these measures, there have been areas where traditional apprehensions about newer tech have posed hurdles. Online gaming is one of them. The online gaming sector has suffered from regulatory challenges from different states interpreting the segment differently and calling for bans and notions to prohibit. This is why a central regulation is the need of the hour.
Entertainment, sports, social media, and other avenues are intrinsic to the digital shift, and so is online gaming. In fact, a majority of today’s digital natives have grown up participating in various online games and continue to do so. With digital penetration, the access to such games has become even more ubiquitous. Their immanence in this change has gone miles in increasing digital awareness and literacy amongst gamers. Wisconsin-Madison University professor Steinkuehler, who conducted research in this space, has suggested that video games lie at the nexus of a complex constellation of literary practice.
Studies also suggest that such games are uniquely suited to address forms of literacy development, from teaching reading strategies in the classroom to supporting extracurricular, self-directed literacy improvement. In order to gauge the guidelines, players read articles, watch sports match reruns (in case of fantasy sports), study complex maps of game environments, participate in online discussion forums, and watch instructional YouTube videos and so on and so forth. This process develops players’ digital literacy, reading and communication, visual processing and map-reading, and critical analysis. In this light, online gaming has established itself as an important tool for learning about as well as immersing oneself into the digital space, to improve other skills.
The Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology (MeitY) established the aforementioned Digital India initiative to ensure ease of access for citizens, to the digital space and all the services it harbours. The programme is centred on 3 key vision areas–digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen infrastructure, governance and services on demand, digital empowerment of citizens. The overarching aim is to equip the countrymen with the means to tackle every aspect in the digital sphere and leverage it to take national development to the next level. As it happens, online gaming is a language the youth of today are fluent in. The sector itself soars upon similar vision areas as the above initiative. Not only does the online gaming industry give rise to technological innovation and infrastructure, it also becomes a harbinger of digital literacy, thus empowering citizens.
As part of a recently formed task force to regulate this space, the MeitY can foretell the right measures to pave the way forward in cultivating this sector further. Afterall, the Digital India initiative is one of the central visions profiting from the growth of the online gaming industry, which is set to touch $5 billion dollars by 2025. Beyond being in the best interests of the country’s digital growth, this space also aligns perfectly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desire to make India a gaming hub. His passion for helping this sector flourish, also brought upon the establishment of another task force that dealt with the development of the AVGC sector as a whole. The space is in dire and urgent need of a meticulous regulatory compendium built upon the counsel of various ministries and industry players. This would unify the national understanding of this space, bringing all states on the same page. Moreover, it would also give the sector some long overdue respite from the challenges it's currently facing, the absence of which would help the sector scale new heights.