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China Struggles to Contain Online Gaming

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China is trying to slow the growing number of teens who are becoming addicted to online gaming.

Rules have been issued requiring that children under the age of 18 may only play two hours daily. The new rule requires players to register under their real names.

Good luck. The lure of cyberspace has become a worldwide problem.

China alone has 105 million gamers, the China Daily News reported Wednesday. Netease.com reported revenue up 33 percent for the second quarter of the year compared with 2009.

Some Chinese players openly boast they will be able to beat the registration system by registering under different names.

"With one in four Internet users visiting a gaming site, playing games online is extremely popular. The fact that these websites are pulling in over a quarter of the total worldwide Internet population shows what a global phenomenon gaming has become. The potential of the online gaming arena should be especially appealing for advertisers, as the average online gamer visits a gaming site 9 times a month," said Bob Ivins, managing director of comScore Europe.

A recent poll by China Youth Daily found 63 percent of those polled support requiring real name registration.

It would be a Herculean effort, even if players claim they support registration. Monitoring IP addresses might make it possible in some cases, yet even that would be susceptible to manipulation.

"Game players could register more than twice for a particular game. For instance, I have another game account under my brother's name. So you really can't prevent addicts," said Zhu Hai, 19, of Chongqing.

And it is a much broader issue. Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, has said anonymity will have to go. "Privacy is incredibly important. Privacy is not the same thing as anonymity."

In most countries people can say anything they want on the Web. The Internet is full of false death reports daily. Crazy ideas can get a life of their own. They are called Internet memes.

"We need a (verified) name service for people. Governments will demand it," said Schmidt.

On the other hand, the Internet has more heads than the mythical hydra. And games may not be the first place to start. Most governments likely will consider security more important.

A new European competition began this year for best online game. The winner was Bad Company 2.

This October, the Game Developers Conference will issue awards to the best online game designers in San Francisco.

Game awards have been around for more than a decade. Early ones focused on games played in the home, where two or more players could compete against each other. With expanded bandwidth they can across time zones and borders.

YouTubers post their own best online video game choices. The U.S. Army has games on its Website that potential future solders can download.

What is the harm in playing such games, other than taking time away from other things? The Columbine Massacre focused attention on the question because both teen killers were heavy players of the game Doom.

Nevertheless, except for teens with certain personality disorders, the latest research indicates the games may improve visual/spatial skills and be used as a tool to complement psychotherapy.