Anti-drug authorities in Shanghai have joined hands with online game developers to develop and include anti-drug advertisements in games to better inform youths of the harms of drugs.
It is the first such move for anti-drug officers to include online games, which have become very popular among Chinese youngsters, officials said.
As of last month, more than 50 online game operators, including industry leaders such as Shanda Entertainment and Giant Online, have promised to take part in a competition launched by the anti-drug commission of Shanghai to make anti-drug public service advertisements at their own expense.
The winners' works will be showcased on the city's mobile TV network and the screens of hundreds of Internet cafes, where most of the players play their online games.
China reportedly has more than 30 million online game players, most of them men under 35 years old. They are also reportedly the main targets of drug dealers. For decades, people under 35 have accounted for more than 75 percent of all new drug users every year in Shanghai, said Xu Chuan, an official with the Shanghai anti-drug commission.
Of the 217 new drug users emerging in the first quarter of this year, 80 percent are younger than 35 and most of them are male.
The group also takes up 43.5 percent of the entire 32,716 registered drug users in the city, commission figures showed.
"Online gamers and drug users have similar demographic characteristics in most of the cases," Xu said.
"So the tailor-made, online game-themed ads go to the group that our anti-drug education aims to reach the most."
"The ads can get their attention more effectively as they are on the things that the target group likes," Xu said.
Two types of anti-drug public service advertisements of different length will be made in the competition.
The award nominees of the competition will be announced in the middle of June and a ceremony will be held on June 26 to award the winners. "The companies can have their names used in the ads, so it is really a win-win situation here: They get low-cost advertising and we have a free education campaign," Xu said.
The commission's next plan is to have their anti-drug campaign embedded in the online games, by making certain dialogues and items in the games carry anti-drug signs.
"The central government is looking closely at our move," Xu said.
"If it proves successful, it will very likely be promoted to other parts of the country."