Online Gaming and eSports' Popularity Raises Concerns in Thailand; Health Agency Proposes 'Gaming Law'

The International, the biggest DOTA 2 Tournament, 2018
Photo : Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Online gaming today is a worldwide phenomenon that keeps on growing as more and more players indulge to this gaming platform. With games being available on the internet, its accessibility is almost anywhere. That is why the emergence of electronic games sports, known as eSports has really marked its place on the sports and gaming industry today.

The rise of eSports paved the way for elevating the video game industry unto a whole new level. Competitive video games now have their own sports leagues, and there are players of those games who are now considered as professional athletes. Games such as League of Legends — probably the most played online game in history — Counter Strike, Defense of the Ancients 2 or DOTA 2, Hearthstone, StarCraft II, The Tekken and Street Fighter Series, these are just a few of the video games that already established their own eSports leagues.

These leagues are being supported by their own game developers and publishers, as well as investors from private entities and companies. The games are also used as platforms to showcase talents not just in game (players, designers, production people, etc.), but also those who utilize the eSports industry as a form of entertainment, like broadcasters or 'shoutcasters' in the gaming lingo, game journalists, hosts, critics, as well as game streamers, content creators and many more.

This has brought immense rise to the popularity of online gaming, and the revenue it creates continually becomes bigger, especially this time of pandemic that made people stay more on their homes, allowing online games to be their past time. The International eSports Federation's official website reported that there was a total of 1.1 billion USD global gross revenue generated from the eSports industry.

Thailand's eSports and Gaming Community Concerns

One of the countries where video games and eSports are being taken professionally is Thailand. Players and teams from professional Thai eSports teams receive continuous support from investors, patrons, and their own Thai eSports Federation, allowing them to compete on various eSports leagues across the world.

Yet Thai eSports players and gamers as of now are not supported and classified with any legal acts that concern them. Compared to the legislations and laws inclined for professional sports athletes, there is still no specific gaming law for the eSports and even for just casual gamers available in Thailand.

This has raised concerns from different sectors in the society, including parents, teachers, and governments agencies as well. Thai gamers especially teenagers often experience bullying from playing online games nowadays. A study presented on the Bangkok Post by website by the Radio and Media Association for Children (RMACY) shows that a concern about involving behaviors, especially those who play Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, StarCraft II and Tekken 7.

The Proposed 'Gaming Law'

This has opened the creation of the proposed Resolution No. 11 B.E. 2561 (2018) under the National Health Act by the National Health Assembly. It will focus on children's well-being while being involved in eSports and video games. It passed the first stage of legislation in 2019, yet further research to continue the process are currently being facilitated by its principal authors and the Thailand Science Research and Innovation.

It will be called the Draft Regulation of Gaming Business and Supervision for the Protection of Children and Juveniles Act, or the Draft Gaming Act. It is still on its early stages, and still subject for change or revisions. However, concerned Thai citizens especially those who are involved in the online gaming community looks forward for its passage, and eventually for it to become an official law. 

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