It's a tough time to be a gamer in Vietnam right now, as the Ministry of Information and Communication has ordered all Internet Service Providers to block access to online games between 10PM and 8AM in an effort to control the population's reliance on the service. The move must be imposed by March 1st, with failure to comply resulting in instant termination of the ISP's service.
It's yet another attempt by an Eastern country to combat the population's increasing addiction to online gaming. Just this month in China, the government brought in new rules that allow parents to thoroughly monitor their child's online gaming consumption. Addiction to online gaming, especially in the likes of Vietnam and China, can have dire consequences.
23 million rely on the internet in Vietnam, which equates to 26% of the entire population. So the imminent ban is sure to upset a vast majority of the country. And while the government's efforts to combat online gaming addiction appear drastic, a string of related crimes and controversies seem to have forced their hand. In 2007, a 13 year old boy strangled an 81 year old woman with a length of rope, robbed her of 100, 000 dong - approximately 6.2 dollars - and buried her in the sand outside his house. When he was eventually caught, the boy confessed he'd needed the money to play online games.
And while such a heinous crime isn't indicative of all online gamers in Vietnam, being in such close proximity to China, where the government is striving to contain their own online gaming epidemic. We mentioned how China have granted parents new powers to track and decide for how long their children can play games online, but they've also instituted Internet Addiction summer camps. They claim 2.6 million - 13% - of their 20 million internet users are classified as 'addicts'. That number of internet users has since ballooned to 450 million, so you can imagine the number of s0-called 'addicts' has risen, too.
While I disagree with Vietnam's decision to limit access to games at night, I can understand the government's fears. When a thirteen year old boy believes he must kill an elderly woman to play games, or when a thirty year old man spends three days online, not sleeping, not eating, and eventually dieing, it's obvious you have a problem on your hands.
More problematic, though, is that videogame addiction is not classified officially in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. A study in 2006, however, found videogame addiction is similar to compulsive gambling, which relates to an Impulse Control Disorder. Which is perfectly feasible; being unable to control your impulses, like telling yourself to stop playing a game online after a marathon session, is almost identical to a gambler who can't resist rolling the dice once more.
We've been covering reports and studies into videogame addiction at Dealspwn for a while now. Last year, we sat down to discuss therapist and psychology lecturer Steve Pope's claims that an hour or more of videogames was like snorting a line of cocaine. It's a ridiculous claim, but with what's happening in the likes of Vietnam and China and their ever-reliant populace, not to mention the supposed rise in anger-related issues stemming from exposure to videogames, it's a topic that isn't just going to blow over. [Viet Nam News]