China blames online games for drugs, murder, teen pregnancy

Chinese regulators are cracking down on allegedly harmful content in online games

China's state news channel has blamed hugely popular online games for problems including drug addiction, teen pregnancy and even murder this month as regulators crack down on allegedly harmful content in games.

In a program titled "Confession of a Murderer — Focus on Pornography and Violence in Online Games (Part Two)," China Central Television (CCTV) on Thursday reported on a Beijing juvenile prison where one man was serving a life sentence for murders he committed to obtain virtual equipment in an online game. Up to 80 percent of the violent criminals in the prison turned to crime because of online games, the report said.

"He himself killed five people, and the reason he took the path to crime was addiction to violent online games," it said.

The program follows other CCTV reports this month that have blamed social ills on online games and given voice to concerns among some Chinese parents that excessive time spent on games and social-networking sites is interfering with their children's schoolwork.

The reports, which also come amid a wide-reaching government campaign against Internet pornography, show how erratic political conditions can threaten companies operating in China. Chinese regulators this year have shut down dozens of online games designed overseas and ordered developers to stop including "lowbrow" content like monster-hunting in games. A struggle between government agencies for the right to regulate online games has further roiled the industry and helped send the hit game World of Warcraft offline for three months earlier this year.

Chinese state media have long criticized online games. The last installment of the CCTV series told the story of a 14-year-old girl purportedly influenced by an online dancing game to start having sex with people she met online. The game, called "Audition," was said to encourage one-night stands and the girl to have had two abortions.

CCTV this month also aired a report on teenagers who became addicted to cough medicine and then drugs like methamphetamine as a way to keep their energy up during all-night gaming marathons. The boys were said to spend their time in Internet cafes, which are often filled with chain-smoking young men using instant-messaging programs and playing online games.

China has the largest number of Internet users in any country with at least 338 million people online. Over 210 million of those people play online games, according to a government survey.

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Owen Fletcher

IDG News Service
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