China is cracking down on its booming, billion-dollar online game industry, which is seen as “spiritual opium” that threatens to hook the Chinese people, Reuters reports. The government today said it plans to regulate “undesirable” elements out of the game, which 41 million Chinese played this year. “The whole industry is marginalized by mainstream society,” one senior official said.
Officials realize that the online game industry is hot – 23% more people logged on this year than last, for a total of $1.46 billion in sales – but the media and government blame the games for Internet addiction and juvenile crime. Already they’ve forced Internet cafés to ban children and impose time limits. Reuters even cites reports - perhaps apocryphal - of gamers dying from fatigue after playing too long.