Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

FNC member calls for voice chats on popular PUBG game to be blocked

Naima Al Sharhan, Head of the FNC Committee of Education, fears players could fall victim to online predators

Naima Al Sharhan, Head of the FNC Committee of Education, wants authorities to take action over popular online game, PUBG. Antonie Robertson/The National.
Naima Al Sharhan, Head of the FNC Committee of Education, wants authorities to take action over popular online game, PUBG. Antonie Robertson/The National.

A Federal National Council member has urged authorities to block chat features on the popular online game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds - amid concerns that players could fall prey to cyber predators.

Naima Al Sharhan, Head of the FNC Committee of Education, has previously called for PUBG to be banned due to its violent content.

The game – which pits characters against each other in a virtual fight to the death – has already been outlawed by Iraq's parliament and blocked in the Indian state of Gujarat.

Now Ms Al Sharhan has told the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority that the 'damage' caused by the game could be mitigated if the online chat option was removed.

“Its damage could be reduced if online calls between players are blocked in the UAE,” she said during an FNC meeting on Tuesday evening.

“There has been many concerns about the risks of this game and parents are calling for it to be banned.”

She said PUBG can also have a detrimental effect on the mental and physical health of gamers.

“It causes addiction, shaking in the hands and crookedness in the neck and disc due to the long hours a gamer spends playing in that bent forward position.”

The PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds game features a Hunger Games-style competition where players armed with machine guns and assault rifles battle to the death. 
The PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds game features a Hunger Games-style competition where players armed with machine guns and assault rifles battle to the death. 

Playing the game long into the night can cause makes pupils to lose focus in school, and employees' productivity to decline, she said.

Hamad Al Mansouri, head of the TRA, told the FNC meeting the regulator had introduced parental guidance control on Apple, and on Android since June 2018.

“It gives parents the option to control the number of hours their children spend on the game, and alerts them once they have reached the limit.”

He said it is the responsibility of parents to monitor their children, especially since the game has been rated as 16+ in many countries.

He said the TRA has carried out awareness workshops for parents and pupils on the potential risks of online gaming.

Mr Al Mansouri said it would not be the TRA's decision to ban the game or alter the features it makes available to players.

“It is the National Media Council who is in charge of content and rating age categories,” he said.

Ms Al Sharhan agreed to refer her query to the National Media Council for debate at a future FNC session.

Ahmad Fathy, a PUBG player, said the game is not violence-oriented, but focuses on intelligence and speed.

“It did not make me more aggressive or tempted to kill. the game relies on quick wit and speed more than violence.

“In fact, playing the game has boosted my strategic planning skills,” said the 34-year-old Egyptian.

He said banning the game or blocking online calls is not the solution.

“I agree with the TRA official that it is the parents’ role to control their children’s use.”

He said he has managed to control his five-year-old son’s gaming activities by limit his use of the mobile phone to three hours a day.

“Parents could use the parental guidance feature, and the game is rated as 16+ so they should not allow their children to buy it,” he said.

PUBG games include an option to mute or disable video chats while playing.

Updated: May 22, 2019 05:51 PM

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