Online games study not conclusive: officials

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Officials have questioned a new study released Tuesday (October 19), claiming that online gaming addiction is not a serious issue in Vietnam.

The study, carried out by the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences, included input from 1,320 respondents. The research was conducted in homes, in Internet shops, schools and other public places. One hundred people from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Can Tho, Dong Nai and Hai Duong were interviewed in depth.

The results of the survey showed that 5.2 percent of the 100 interviewees showed signs of online gaming addiction according to criteria specified by the World Health Organization.

Among the students interviewed, 6.8 percent were considered online gaming addicts.

The study concluded that the issue of online gaming addiction is not as serious as made out by local media. It said that online gaming was responsible for 11.3 percent of public disorder offences.

Trinh Hoa Binh, chairman of the one-month study, said it aimed to provide a basis upon which the National Assembly, Vietnam's legislature, and concerned authorities could set up proper management measures.

Ngo Thi Minh, vice chairwoman of the National Assembly's Culture, Education, Youth and Children Committee that asked the academy to look into online gaming and present research on the matter, said the study was not conclusive because it took samples from just six cities and provinces and interviewed only 100 people from a range of professions.

Binh said a broader analysis would be better but said his study took objective opinions from the community and can be taken as representative of the whole country.

Minh added that she was not convinced that only 5.2 percent of the population is online gaming addicts.

Le Manh Ha, director of HCMC Department of Information and Communications, also disagreed with the study during an interview with the Tuoi Tre newspaper on Wednesday.

"I appreciate the work the researchers have done but their analysis of online gaming is inconclusive.

"My feeling is that those people who support online gaming will be satisfied with the study but victims of violent games will be angry. Many people have already called me and sent messages expressing discontent with the study," Ha said.

The study found that most online gamers range between 16 and 20 years of age (42.1 percent), while 26.3 percent are aged between 10 and 15.

Office workers also make up a substantial proportion of players but most of them are low income earners, making less than VND3 million (US$154) a month, it found.

The study found most of the players (34.1 percent) play every day.

Ha said the study should distinguish between those over and under the age of 18 to get more accurate results.

He said most online gamers in HCMC are minors and many games sold on the market are only suitable for people aged 18 and over.

Ha also said he was not convinced that only 5.2 percent of the population was addicted to online games. He said, "it's easy to get hooked once you start playing online games. It would be better if we had the actual number of online gaming addicts across the country to know the extent of the problem and introduce measures to effectively tackle it."

"There are patients who need urgent medical attention because they suffered injuries due to violent online games. The study doesn't mention any of those victims," Ha said.

Sociology lecturer Le Minh Tien of the HCMC Open University agreed. He said that the study only highlighted the "bright side" of online games instead of looking into the problems.

Binh said the study did not mention game-related offences. Instead, it was meant to evaluate the effects of online gaming on the community.

During an interview with Tuoi Tre, Binh refused to explain why the authorities had to ban several online games when his study showed they had little impact upon people.

Tien, the sociology lecturer, went on to say the study seems to have been carried out on behalf of online games businesses. "We should not use the results of the study."

The HCMC Department of Information and Communications has asked 18 online game businesses in the area to stop providing services to Internet shops between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., starting October 25.

In September, the department ordered the same firms not to provide online game services to shops less than 200 meters from schools.

Online games were first introduced in late 2003 and quickly became wildly popular. In 2006, the government introduced a decree aiming to control online gaming in Vietnam. The decree banned games with sexual and violent content. It also required businesses to obtain a license to provide online game services.

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