Lax management on online game services pose risks

An online games shop (Photo by Tri Thuc Tre)

An online gaming shop (Photo by Tri Thuc Tre)

By Phong Lan
Dantri Online Newspaper, Vietnam

HO CHI MINH CITY: Midnight and an online gaming shop on Nguyen Cuu Dam Street in Ho Chi Minh City was still very crowded. Most of the customers were teenagers and were staring at the screens which were displaying shootings or fighting acts.

The shop owner said that most customers were playing overnight and there are many packages which charge depending on the time and types of rooms they would like to stay for playing.

“Many people are buying overnight packages from 10 pm-6 am,” the shop owner said. “We sell fast food and drinks so they can stay longer.”

Arriving at another online gaming shop on Tan Ky Street, Tan Phu District at 1 am, it was closed but regular players would know that it was still open, just by calling the hotline number on the signboard. Inside, the atmosphere was very noisy with about 300 large screens all on.

“Tran Van Phu, owner of the shop said that he is receiving more customers when reopening after the social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Summer holidays have started and more schoolboys are coming to play.”

Although online game businesses in Vietnam are banned from operating between 10 pm-8 am, many shops are violating the regulation. Most of the shops are close to schools and male students are their key customers.

Meanwhile, local authorities said that the current punishments for violations are not strict enough to curb the problem. The fines are too low while there are no rules on revoking permanent licenses for multiple violations.

The Cau Giay District People’s Committee in Hanoi said that they have issued fines on many gamingshops for this violation for many times but the fines of only between VND3.75-7.50 million (USD163-326) are too small.

“The shops are always willing to pay and continue the violations,” the committee said.

A representative from the Ha Dong District’s Department of Culture and Information in Hanoi also said that they issued fines of VND 38 million (USD1,652) to 97 online gaming shops in the area in 2019, some were suspended for four months but the situation has not been improved this year.

“We’re going to propose to the city’s authorities to work with internet providers to cut connections at online gaming shops between 10 pm-8 am,” he said.

An online games shop (Photo by Tri Thuc Tre)

An online gaming shop (Photo by Tri Thuc Tre)

Risks

Meanwhile, Vietnamese psychologists and education experts have pointed out the relationship between games online addiction and the rising number of brutal criminal cases among local teenagers.

A seminar held on June 16 by a local newspaper with education and psychology experts in Ho Chi Minh City reported that there have been many tragic stories in which online game addicts became criminals and murderers in different cases.

According to the report, in the latest case occurring on June 7, a five-year-old boy in Nghe An Province went missing and then found dead in a local forest with hands and mouth tied. The suspect is a 17-year-old student who lives near the victim’s house. He said that he kidnapped the small boy and hid him in the forest following an online game’s plot. He had planned that he would lead the boy’s parents to find him in order to get some rewards but then he was too scared when seeing police joining in the search. He kept silent until the boy was found dead two days later.

In 2018, a 11-year-old boy in Nghe An Province stabbed his friend to death while they were quarrelling about a character in an online game.

And there have been several cases in which teenagers killed their father or mother who refused to give them money to play online games. These cases were reported in 2014, 2017, and 2018, the report said.

Doctor Nguyen Van Ca, head of the Psychiatric Department at the 175 Military Hospital told the seminar that online game addicts usually face some serious mental problems such as stress and depression.

“They can easily get angry or become rude,” he said. “Some find it hard to control their behaviour, which can lead to crimes.”

The National Psychiatric Hospital is receiving hundreds of patients who has mental problems due to online games addiction.

A study into online game addiction among young people in Vietnam carried out by Dr Tran Thanh Nam from the University of Education, showed that most teenagers between 13-17 years old play games that have violent and sexual content.

“Many criminal cases including kidnapping, murdering committed by online game addicts have been found to resemble the games’ content,” the study found.

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