Vietnam teens unfazed by curfew on online gaming
By Marianne Brown dpa Mar 8, 2011, 5:33 GMT
Hanoi - The clock is about to strike 10 pm, but the hubbub of life on a dingy street in Hanoi remains vibrant.
Despite the looming curfew, hundreds of teenagers sit glued to computer screens playing online games, seemingly unaware that in a few minutes, they will have to wrench themselves away as the street shuts down for the night.
It's a typical scene on Le Thanh Nghi Street, home to about 15 internet cafes and hundreds of internet users, the vast majority of whom are playing video games online.
But since Thursday, their nightly activity has been curtailed between 10 pm and 8 am. Since March 3, internet service providers (ISPs) have been ordered to block access to game websites during that time and policemen roam the streets to enforce the law.
Many of the gamers seem unfazed by the new restrictions.
Riveted to his screen, engineering student Le Duc Trung, 20, said he spends about two hours a day playing online games.
'I still play, but I go home at 10 pm,' he said, the lights of the screen dancing off his face.
Trung was playing Gunbound, one of the most popular online games in Vietnam. The game involves creating an impressive avatar with killer fight moves. It is free but coveted extras can be bought with real money.
The young student admits he is addicted but refuses to say how much he has spent.
'I spend a lot of time playing games and a lot of money too, but I like it. My friends really like my avatar,' he said.
Linh, a 25-year-old student from Hanoi who didn't want to give too many details about himself, said he still played online games despite the restrictions.
'Young people still play. It is really popular,' he said.
The curfew is the latest in a series of moves to limit the online gaming that authorities consider a health hazard, especially for young people.
In July, the Information Ministry banned advertising of online gaming and temporarily suspended licensing of games. It also ordered ISPs to cut internet access to shops that offered games from 11 pm to 6 am.
The move last year was precipitated by a spate of attacks and robberies reported in the local press that were linked to video games. One particularly gruesome incident in April involved a 16-year-old schoolboy who allegedly cut his grandfather's throat after he was refused money for online games.
But ISPs including Asiasoft complain that their customers should receive the service they have paid for.
On a smaller scale, internet cafes have also bemoaned the move, with some managers complaining that their profits have been hit by as much as 25 per cent.
Nguyen Van Dung, 22, manager of one shop on Le Thanh Nghi Street, said the police had forced him to close since last October.
'Of course we have lost a lot of money,' he said. 'Most of our customers play at night. We used to make 2 million dong but now we make about 1.5 million (72 dollars) a night.'
The government is advocating the curfew for the health of the nation, Luu Vu Hai, a senior official at the Information Ministry in Hanoi told the German Press Agency dpa.
Playing games online keeps children away from their classes and stops youths from earning money. The consequences could be deadly, the official said.
'They (online gamers) find ways to make money by stealing and robbing, even killing people to get money,' Hai said.
Cutting the hours young people can access online games would help reduce crime rates, he added.
'For instance, young people often gather at online game shops and cause public disorder at night. Many young people commit crime at night after playing games online. The ban will help reduce the opportunities for such gatherings.'
But Hai admits there are limitations.
'The problem is that our force is thin while we have many online game shops, so we cannot check all of them.'
Some cafes are offering offline games as an alternative, while others simply close the door and carry on as normal.
'Many cafes are still open after 10 pm,' gamer Linh said. 'They just shut the door. They don't stop taking customers.'
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