A nine-year-old and his eight-year-old friend each chose a computer at the shop and a side in the game.
At 10 p.m. the nine-year-old has managed to destroy most of the soldiers in the other’s team, which caused his companion to become angry and hit the keyboard.
But they soon returned to feverishly clicking mouses.
The mother of the younger boy came to fetch him at 11 p.m. but he only left after playing another 30 minutes.
Many Internet shops in Ho Chi Minh City admit customers of any age and remain open all night though the regulated close time is 10 p.m., occupying most of the time that children and teenagers are supposed to spend eating, sleeping or studying.
At many shops near the national university complex on the city’s outskirts, where there are few forms of entertainment other than Internet shops, many players pull chairs together to sleep right in the shop while setting their game on automatic mode after becoming tired because of playing for hours.
Some just rest their heads on the table.
An internet shop is filled with online game players in Ho Chi Minh City at 4 a.m. Photos: Thuan Thang/Tuoi Tre
The Ministry of Information and Communications last year allowed the licensing of online games again after suspending it in 2010 amid a public outcry over their harmful effects. "Playing games is the society's demand," said the minister at the time.
Surveys by global game market researcher Newzoo found Vietnam to be one of the biggest online game markets in Asia with revenues expected to hit VND4.2 trillion (US$187 million) this year.
Sociologists said Internet shops crowded until 2 or 3 a.m. is a “dark” reflection of that growth.
Some players would want to imitate in real life what they can do in a game. And sometimes it costs one's life” -- online game player in Ho Chi Minh City
Game addiction in the country has grown to criminal levels, according to a Tuoi Tre report.
Police in Dong Nai Province near Ho Chi Minh City have worked on two robbery cases over the past few months in which the suspects, aged 19 and 25, said they needed money to play online games.
In May the province police had to handle a deadly fight between people playing in a shop.
Le Minh Cong, a psychology lecturer at the Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City who conducted a study on online game addiction in Dong Nai, said he has encountered cases where the addiction “largely affected the life of the person and their family.”
He said when players are so drawn into the online game world, they cannot control their emotions or behaviors in the real world.
One seventh grader ran away from home and lived on the streets with his game friends, stealing and robbing to have money to eat, until his family found him a month later.
Another addict dropped out of university and stayed at home, doing nothing and talking to no one.
A university student in Ho Chi Minh City, who is a regular player, told Tuoi Tre newspaper that images and details from online games can go deep into one's subconscious.
"I would see images from games when I close my eyes. I used to play a murder game, and when I slept I would dream of killing people.
“Some players would want to imitate in real life what they can do in a game. And sometimes it costs one's life.”