The August 29, 2007, edition of the NPR Technology podcast included an episode on game addiction in China. Louisa Lim’s August 28th article “Gamers Find Gaps in China’s Anti-Addiction Efforts” was the same story, I think.

One of the attention-grabbing statistics shared in the episode was that every minute, 100 new people in China are getting online for the first time. One hundred per minute. Also according to the show, within two years China is projected to overtake the United States as having largest number of people online on earth. Are you and your students studying Chinese yet? Put antother way, are your students planning to have relevant language skills for the 2010+ global economy?

The story’s main theme of the problem of game addiction for Chinese young people (especially boys) is also eye opening. The government is trying to force online game developers to make limits on how long players can play and still earn points, to try and curb game addiction. Young people, apparently in large numbers, are dropping out of Chinese schools and blame their affection for sustained gaming binges on boredom with alternative activities. According to the article:

Xiao Wang could fit that description; he’s an articulate, intelligent 15-year-old. He’s focusing intently on his game, SuperDancer, competing with five friends in an online dance contest. His avatar sways and kicks to the music. Wang plays for five to six hours a day, a habit he blames on boredom, saying there’s nothing else to do during the long, hot summer vacation. He says bluntly that the anti-addiction software isn’t working. “Basically, the anti-addiction system has no effect on me. Many games haven’t yet installed the system, and even when games have installed the system, it isn’t effective,” Wang says.

As we see in other cases, some leaders are attempting to impose a technological “solution” or “fix” to address an issue which is fundamentally NOT technological. One parent interviewed in the episode sounded helpless to stop her child from playing video games for hours on end. Sounds like a parenting problem more than a problem with technology. It also sounds like a problem of low educational engagement in schools, and perhaps a lack of alternative engaging activities for youth.

Ultimately, this sounds like a challenge over CHOICES more than technology. How are people choosing to spend their time and attention?

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