There is still no release date for "Chinese Heroes", a government-backed online game.
Begun in September 2005, the patriotic Internet game showcases100 national heroes in the hope of infusing young gamers with traditional Chinese values, such as altruism and patriotism. The heroes all have cute cartoon images.
The game aims to wean young players from the grip of the dramatic, violent games with stunning graphic interfaces that are immensely popular with young people the world over.
But can members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) or ancient generals really become new game heroes and brush aside the challenge from Internet orcs?
"Five heroes have been developed, but we have not yet decided the launch date," said Zhuge Hui, a spokesman for Shanda, a major Shanghai gaming company which the government has tasked with developing the new game.
The first group of heroes includes Zheng Chenggong (1624-1662), a Qing Dynasty general who liberated Taiwan from the Dutch, and Lei Feng (1940-1962), a faithful CPC member and a national example of altruism.
Shan Hui, chief designer of the game, said the heroes gather on "Hero Square", where gamers can click their statues to learn about their experiences and carry out tasks like moving bricks and catching raindrops on a building site. Gamers will be asked about the heroes' life stories to earn scores.
"We hope the game will teach players about Chinese ethics," said Kou Xiaowei, an official with China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), main sponsor of the initiative.
However, gamers being treated in the Beijing Internet Addiction Treatment Center were skeptical about the games which they said sounded "too simple" and even "comical."
"The game sounds boring to me, it's a turn-off," said Wang Yuhang, a 14-year-old boy in the center. Eighty out of the 100 teenagers at the center are addicted to an American online game called the World of Warcraft (WoW), one of the most popular in China.
According to the company's financial report, on a typical evening in China there may be anything up to 630,000 gamers playing WoW simultaneously online in the country. While the American game reaps huge profits, "Chinese Heroes" remains blocked at the drawing board stage.
"Teenagers seek adventure and fulfillment in dramatic and skill-demanding games like WoW. If hero games do not focus on killing and domination, gamers will definitely not play them," said Tao Ran, director of the Center.
According to Tao, China has 15.4 million young netizens, two million of whom are Internet addicts, and the number is increasing rapidly.
"Internet legislation is miles behind the development of the industry. Games need to be strictly classified and Internet bars who illegally solicit young gamers must be severely punished," he said.
The online game industry, which will generate 2006 revenues of US$1 billion, is likely to grow by 35.5 percent annually from 2006 to 2010, according to statistics from China's General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP).
(Xinhua News Agency August 29, 2006)