The Vietnamese government see online gaming as the black magic of our time and blame the activity for everything from robberies and violent crimes among teens to bad grades and even the occasional murder. So the government got tough with teens and with Internet cafes that serve up the wickedness to them and the rest of the Vietnamese population.
A curfew was put in place to curb gameplay; now everyone in the country is banned from playing games after 10 PM and before 8 AM. While cafe owners are feeling the bite of lost revenues during those peak playing hours (some report a decline of about 25 percent in profits), teens seem mostly unaffected. This despite the fact that this new curfew has been in place since March 3.
The Vietnamese government instituted an online curfew and has ordered service providers and Internet café owners to block online game access after 10:00 PM. The Vietnamese Ministry of Information and Communication has told all ISPs operating in the country to block access to online games from 10 PM to 8 AM. The government has given ISPs and cafes a deadline of March 3 for the ban to be implemented. Those who do not comply can expect to face some serious fines or be put of business.
"Provincial departments of information and communication will inspect on-line games activities nationwide and deal with organizations that violate regulations by cancelling their services," said minister Le Nam Thang.
A roughly translated news story on vietnamnet reports that young players in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam will be subject to a gaming curfew beginning in January. The crackdown by the city's Department of Information and Communications follows a move earlier this year to curtail primary school students from playing games on weekdays between the hours of 8 am - 5 pm.
Under the new rules, gambling companies are also required to shut down from 10pm to 8am daily and not to provide online gaming to internet shops near any educational institutions.
The crackdown on online games is the result of a public outcry on the “negative effect of video games” on youth. Local reports have blamed an increase in everything from juvenile crime to school truancy on online gaming.
Vietnam has been implementing a series of measures aimed at attempting to curb what it believes is an overenthusiastic reliance on online gaming, but it isn’t above using games to lure the populace to a new government-backed Facebook competitor.
The state-owned Vietnam Multimedia Corp. launched a beta version of a social networking website called go.vn earlier this year. As detailed by the Wall Street Journal, the website requires prospective users to register using full names and government-issued identity numbers.
To help lure younger Vietnamese, the site features “several state-approved videogames, including a violent multiplayer contest featuring a band of militants bent on stopping the spread of global capitalism.”
The Journal piece mentions a university student named Pham Thanh Cong, who was waiting for “his turn to play an online shoot-'em-up game at a street-side Internet café.” When asked about go.vn, Cong replied, “I didn't even know it existed.”
The government of Vietnam has implemented a few (previously alluded to) measures restricting online games as it bides time in order to formulate an overall master plan for dealing with the industry.
Minister of Information and Communications (MoIC) Le Doan Hop called for the immediate implementation of a trio of stop-gap measures reports Saigon Daily: until new laws are drafted and propagated, all new licenses for online games will be suspended, all public media ads for online games are banned and Internet cafes will have to shut down game services between 11PM and 6AM every day. Vietnam News stated that these measures will be in place through year-end.
The Vietnam government’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has drafted legislation that could significantly impact that country’s online gamer population.
The proposed measures, according to Vietnam Net, include limiting users to three hours of playtime for particular games, imposing licensing restrictions on the purveyors of online games (to limit the current fragmenting of the online game market) and introducing clear language that would label in-game assets as unconvertible to real-world money.
“Simple and low-tension” games, such as chess, are not addressed in the proposal and would be able to continue to run twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The three-hour restriction on playtime would also be increased to four to five hours per day for games that are cultural or education-based.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is awash in a sea of pornographic games, which are displayed—and often can be played—out in the open.
An article in the Vietnam Vet Bridge details the spread of such games, from touch-screen, table top interfaces in malls or trading centers, to being offered for sale in markets (for use with game consoles like the PlayStation 2) and ultimately, to their availability online. One shopkeeper claimed that she sells “many games with sexy girls daily, adding that they were a favorite among teens.”
A reporter from the paper Tuoi Tre purchased one game disc for the price of 20,000 dong (approximately $1.07 U.S.), prompting the paper to corner Le Manh Ha (pictured), Director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Information and Communications, for some answers regarding an apparent lack of government regulation.
While Vietnamese game developers have been doing contract work for foreign companies for some time, the country's first locally-created game project is now underway.
Thanh Nien News reports that Game Studio South, a subsidiary of VinaGame, is developing Thuan Thien Kiem, a PC title which draws upon the history and culture of Vietnam:
The first 100-percent Vietnamese game is expected to be launched this summer under the title Thuan Thien Kiem, which means “God’s Sword,” a legendary weapon used by Vietnamese King Le Loi in the 14th-15th centuries...
Taking place in the Later Le Dynasty from the mid-15th century to 16th century, Thuan Thien Kiem features content from local folk stories and legends. In the game, players take on the roles of legendary Vietnamese heroes and heroines...
Traditional customs like marriage ceremonies and folk games will also be a part of the game, which aims to give players the background histories of favorite folk songs. The game also details the origins of several rare pieces of music from Vietnam’s past dynasties.
The Vietnam News Service reports that the nation's first clinic for addicted gamers has been opened in Ho Chi Minh City.
All 50 current "patients" at the facility are 13-18 years old. The rehab program lasts eight weeks. From the VNS article:
Though the first game only appeared in Viet Nam four years ago, there are six million people playing them, mostly aged 13 – 18.
Huynh Hong Hiep head of training at the Southern Youth Centre – a centre for sport and culture that has set up the rehabilitation facility – says many parents complain they are unable to drag their children away from the computer.
The "treatment" works by developing their personalities through involvement in social work and other activities like music, painting, dancing, and sports, he says.