China Wants Fewer Monsters, More 'culture' in Online Games

Online games in China should move away from "lowbrow" content such as monster hunting, Chinese regulators said late Wednesday, highlighting the uncertain regulatory conditions faced by game operators in the country.

The game features the regulators dislike, especially monster hunting as the main way for players to gain experience points and new powers, exist in virtually all hit online games. Game operators should also limit highly popular systems that let players kill other human-controlled characters, the country's culture ministry said in a statement on its Web site.

Game operators using violence, erotic content and gambling to attract players "have adversely influenced consumers and especially the physical and mental health of minors," the statement said. The ministry also ordered game operators to create monitoring divisions to censor their own products and to strengthen systems that limit play time for minors.

China's online gaming sector is huge and still growing, but ruled by sometimes-erratic regulators. World of Warcraft, the hit online game from Blizzard Entertainment, spent months offline this year as its new local operator awaited clearance to reopen the game. And China's publishing regulator, which is battling with the culture ministry over which of them has authority over the online game sector, recently ordered the local operator of World of Warcraft to stop charging player fees until further approval, although the game is still online.

The culture ministry's order follows earlier government campaigns to clean up pornography and violence in online games as concern grows about Internet addiction among the country's youth.

So what should online games do instead of letting players kill monsters? "Take the core socialist value system as the guide, strengthen cultural elements in products, and vigorously promote the spirit of the times and illustrious ethnic culture," the ministry said.

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