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Online Games to Clean up Their Act

China's software industry may soon classify all its online games in an effort to protect children from violent and pornographic content.

The China Consumer's Association, China Software Industry Association and Software World Magazine announced Wednesday that they will work together to provide standards to classify online games in order to create a healthier environment for adolescents.

The computer game industry is developing rapidly in China. Online game revenues amounted to 1.3 billion yuan (US$159 million) last year and are expected to reach 6.7 billion yuan (US$810 million) by 2007.

By the end of last year, China had 13.8 million online game players, accounting for 20.2 percent of Internet users. The number is forecast to grow to 41.8 million by 2007.

Some 80 percent of online game players are under the age of 25.

At present, there is no rating system for online games and anyone who can log onto the Internet can give any game a try. Most of the games are imported and the content of some is widely considered improper for young people, including material that is violent, pornographic, or involves gambling or superstition.

For example, the popular online game "Fantastic Mah-jong" has been described as "pornography-ridden."

"Adolescents are not mature enough to resist the influence of unhealthy online games," said Professor Li Xinmin, of the China National Children's Center. "They like to imitate people around them but lack the ability to separate the virtual cyber world from the real one."

Many children become too addicted to games to concentrate on their studies. Some even spiral downward and commit crimes. One example reported in Guangdong Province's Shenzhen Evening News involved a local 15-year-old boy who robbed an old woman to get money to play online games.

Teachers and parents often worry about their children's vulnerability, since most kids do not have access to good guidance.

"To develop a healthy online environment needs efforts from many sides. Our government should issue laws to force game developers to produce healthy games for children and Internet bars should not to provide access to improper games," Li said.

(China Daily July 8, 2004)

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