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Shedding Light in the Darkness

Electronic Heroin

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China’s state newspaper People’s Daily has declared a controversial mobile phone game “electronic heroin” that is ” poisoning” teenagers. Called Honor of Kings it has become the world’s top-grossing (paywall) mobile game, with some 50 million active daily users. The People’s Daily also declared that the game “has been constantly releasing negative energy” to the society.

Citing recent reports of a 13-year-old jumping off a building after his father stopped him from playing the game, the article asked: “Is the game entertaining the public, or ‘ruining’ people’s lives?”

According to The Telegraph a 21-year-old woman suddenly lost sight in her right eye after playing the game for the whole day over a weekend while at her parents’ house in Dongguan, Guangdong province. She was diagnosed as having suffered retinal artery occlusion caused by severe eye strain. The woman admitted to regularly playing the game for stints of seven or eight hours in a row without moving.

In April, a 17-year-old in Guangzhou played for 40 hours in a row until he was rushed to casualty after suffering a stroke.

The addiction has also spread to the army. The army’s official newspaper, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, has issued two warnings saying that its soldiers are so engrossed in the game that it is affecting their battle readiness.

“The game has already infiltrated … the daily lives of some soldiers and officers, affecting [their] physical and psychological health on a certain level”, the People’s Liberation Army Daily article said. “Over-addiction to mobile phone games is gradually harming the physical and psychological health of soldiers and officers. It even poses a threat to security management and could undermine combat capability.”

Some officers were cited as saying that entire platoons of soldiers were seen doing nothing on weekends but playing the game in their barracks on their cell phones, according to the paper.

Developer Tencent has taken some steps to protect young players. Following government pressure, it introduced a cap that prevents players under 12 from playing the game for more than one hour a day.

The game will be released in the US and Europe later this year.

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