BrandWagon Explained: Online Gaming and the Theory of permissible games

What is the role of self-regulatory bodies in online gaming to determine the nature of games

The right to appoint and denotify an SRO would reside only with the government
The right to appoint and denotify an SRO would reside only with the government

Even as online gaming has found its fair share of players, it has not until last week that the industry finally got its sign of approval from the government. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology amended the draft rule by stating only permissible games which have been approved by the self-regulatory organisation or body (SRO/SRB) would be allowed.

Defining online games

Online games are typically games which can be played on mobile phones or on computers. Interestingly, in the past few years, video games which initially were console-driven thanks to the rise of cloud computing, can be also played online. Nonetheless, MeitY in its draft regulation has defined online games, ‘as a game that is offered on the Internet and is accessible by a user through a computer resource or an intermediary.’

The government further defines an online gaming intermediary as, ‘any intermediary that enables the users of its computer resource to access one or more online games.’

What are SRO/SRB?

As per the government definition, an online gaming self-regulatory body is an entity which is registered under section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013 (18 of 2013); besides its membership is representative of the gaming industry, its members have been offering and promoting online games in a responsible manner. Additionally, as per the new rule SROs should include an educationist and an expert in the field of psychology or mental health. Also, a person who is either dealing or dealt with the cause of protection of child rights. SROs further need to have an individual having special knowledge of or practical experience in the field of
information and communications technology, besides an individual having practical experience in the field of public policy or public administration or law enforcement or public finance or another relevant field.

The Ministry plans to appoint multiple SROs however, those who would be found violating the norms could be denotified by the government. The right to appoint and denotify an SRO would reside only with the government.

Permissible Games – Dos and Don’ts

The new rules released last week for online gaming prohibit any game that involves betting and wagering and entail a framework of multiple self-regulatory organisations (SROs). ‘Online games that collect money will need to complete KYC norms and are involved in wagering or betting will fall foul of new online gaming rules’, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and IT said. Permissibility will be determined with the simple principle of whether wagering is involved and “if wagering is involved, the SRO will be in a position to say that those online games are not permissible,” Chandrasekhar explained.

This does not, however, means that real-money games will be completely banned. An SRO can allow an online real-money gaming company to operate upon receiving an application. The SRO will have to declare it as a permissible game for a period not exceeding three months based on the information provided by them. The body can then carry out further inquiry and take a decision accordingly with regard to certification. The SRO may suspend or revoke verification if satisfied that online games verified by it are not in conformity with the rules. The rules further state that SROs need to maintain a list of games verified by it and its members.

To be sure, permissible online games are those games, real money or otherwise, that do not involve wagering, or harm user via their content and does not lead to any addiction among children.

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First published on: 10-04-2023 at 09:45 IST