Iraq parliament has now banned several popular online games, including the biggest of all time, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). The government says these games are harmful to society and a potential national security threat.
Oil-rich Iraq has suffered for decades under the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein and U.N. sanctions, the 2003 U.S. invasion and civil war it unleashed, and the battle against Islamic State, over which Baghdad declared victory in 2017.
Corruption is rampant and basic services like power and water are lacking. Unemployment is widespread, especially among young people. The new ban quickly drew online discontent with hundreds of Iraqi social media users criticising lawmakers for what they said were misplaced priorities. Parliament has passed only one piece of legislation since it first convened, the 2019 federal budget law which was issued in January.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), made by South Korean firm Bluehole Inc, is a survival-themed battle game that drops dozens of online players on an island where they try and eliminate each other. North Carolina-based Epic Games’ Fortnite, with a similar premise, is seen as an industry game-changer by analysts as it signed up tens of millions of users for its last-player-standing “Battle Royale” format.
Both were launched in 2017 and have a huge global following. Influential Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose political coalition won the largest number of seats in parliament, earlier on Thursday urged Iraqi youth to shun PUBG, calling it addictive. Sadr called on the government to ban it.