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China cracks down on MMOs, claiming they're "spiritual opium"

Chris Chester

In a curious bit of international news, Reuters is reporting that China has issued a crackdown aimed at diminishing what the communist government believes to be the undesirable side effects of online games' explosive growth in popularity on the mainland. Most of the online gaming that takes place within China happens in popular "net bars," which are packed to the gills with PCs. The government watches over the proprietors of these net bars with a close eye, making sure they enforce recent laws passed that both ban children from playing altogether, and restrict the number of hours adult players can stay in one net bar.

The establishments on which the government brought down their hammer were operated illegally and didn't abide by the gameplay restrictions mandated by the government. In one southern border city alone, officials shut down over 500 illegal gaming cafes. They cited one case where there was as many as 30 computers packed into a 40 square meter room. If you're more an english standard kind of person, that would be a room about 16 feet by 26 feet. You have to hope they had a good air conditioning unit!

What I found interesting was one official's comment that, "Although China's online gaming industry had been hot in recent years, online games are regarded by many as a sort of spiritual opium and the whole industry is marginalized by mainstream society." While their description of these net cafes does conjure up an image not entirely unlike that of an opium den, you have to wonder whether they see the real problem underlying China's addiction to MMOs. If players are so desperate to escape the hopelessness of their everyday lives that they'll literally sit and play a game at a computer until they die, shouldn't it be the conditions they live in that are changed, and not their opiate of choice, whether real or in a fantasy?

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