The Vietnamese government is not going to ban or penalize online games, but will act to encourage its positive elements, an official said Thursday.
Luu Vu Hai, head of the Broadcasting and Electronic Information under the Ministry of Information and Communication, told local newswire Vnexpress that prohibition would not bring any good results.
"In general, we cannot control such matters completely with penalties, but we can only reduce the bad elements side while encouraging the positive side," he said.
Hai's comments came after the Ho Chi Minh City government asked for tighter control over the games.
In early July, the ministry submitted a bill on managing online games and around the same time, the city government had asked the Prime Minister not to encourage online games, finding 43 of 65 legal online games had violent content.
The HCMC Department of Information and Communication recently published criteria on classifying a game as violent. But Hai said the criteria should only be used as reference because how violent or obscene a game was depended on each person's perception.
He said the ministry is forming a council of experts from many fields to assess the content of all online games on the market. Local governments will be questioned about allowing Internet shops to remain open all night long while parents let their children spend too much time on online games at these shops, Hai said.
Reports of addiction to online games with several children required to be hospitalized or admitted to mental institutions have focused considerable attention on the issue and evoked strong public concern and criticism.
He said online games has never before been discussed as such a big social issue.
Online game suppliers in Vietnam have argued that it was unfair that this form of entertainment is called a social evil just because a few people overuse and abuse it.
That's "disrespectful" to millions of other gamers, the businesses said.
Hoang Trong Hieu, deputy director of VTC Games, an online game supplier under Vietnam Cable Television, said "If a system of criteria for assessing online games is needed, they should be categorized according to the ages (of gamers)."
Hieu said banning online games would not solve the violence among young people these days.
"When I was at school, there was no Internet or online games but fighting between young people did happen. [Violence] is a long story of education of each person, family, school and the whole society."
Hai agreed that violence at school also happened earlier, but he added, "No one can deny that negative games have worsened the situation."
Many members on Vietnam's big game forums like Game Thu (gamers) and GameVN also expressed defiance about the public backlash.
Some said they will play with servers from overseas if Vietnam, a country that has 23 million people or 26 percent of the population using the Internet, shuts down online games.