Iraq: Lawmakers Debate Banning Video Games for ‘Threatening Moral Peace’

Raging 'Fortnite' eSport game gets $100 mn prize pool

A senior lawmaker in Iraq backed a motion Monday to ban some video games across the country, claiming they “threaten the social and moral peace” of the war-torn Middle Eastern country.

Sami’a Ghulab, a female Sunni MP who chairs the country’s Committee on Culture, Information, Tourism, and Archeology, said that popular titles including Fortnite, Blue Whale, Apex Legends, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) were having an overwhelmingly adverse impact on the country.

“The Committee on Culture, Information, Tourism, and Archeology views with great concern the spread of the phenomenon of electronic games that is causing violence among children, and young boys and girls,” she told reporters. “These games are affecting the social, psychological and educational level of everyone who practices it.” Ghulab failed to provide any evidence for her claims, nor any details about how authorities planned to enforce such a ban.

Fears of a link between violence and video games became a widespread concern in the Iraqi region of Kurdistan after a young man accidentally killed one of his friends as they enacted a video game role play with a loaded gun.

“As they were getting ready to return home, the youths said they should roleplay PUBG,” Soran police spokesperson Sadoun Hawdiyani told Kurdistan 24 at the time. “And then, one of the friends asked another to hold the gun like PUBG and had someone else shoot a video.”

High-profile religious figures such as Shia clerics Ali al-Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr have also warned people to stay away from PUBG because of possible anti-social behaviors. Outside of the Middle East, Prince Harry of Great Britain recently argued that the Fortnite game should be banned altogether.

“Where is the benefit of having it in your household?” the Prince said at an event to discuss children’s health. “It’s created to addict, an addiction to keep you in front of a computer for as long as possible. It’s so irresponsible. It’s like waiting for the damage to be done and kids turning up on your doorsteps and families being broken down.”

A recent study into a potential correlation between violent video games and real-life violence indicated that such concerns may have been exaggerated.

“The idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one, but it hasn’t tested very well over time,” said lead researcher Professor Andrew Przybylski. “Despite interest in the topic by parents and policymakers, the research has not demonstrated that there is cause for concern.”

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