The World Health Organization recently classified “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition, claiming it’s similar to gambling or substance abuse.
The state-run media organisation published an article warning against the “demonizing of games” on Monday.
“We can no longer simply slap the labels of ‘digital heroin' or ‘mental opium’ on video games," says an academic cited in the story.
Ironically, it was the People’s Daily itself which popularized the term ‘digital heroin’ back in 2000 -- the same year the Chinese government banned video game consoles. The ban was only recently lifted in 2015.
Of course, money is a factor -- as is China's growing role in the gaming industry. Monday’s story says online games developed in China have made US$7 billion in revenue around the world.
And China’s own gaming market is enormous: The country has half a billion gamers, and the story says 170 million of them identify themselves as esports athletes. Esports will even be included in the Asian Games in Hangzhou in 2022.
But the sheer number of gamers in the country means China has actually been trying to deal with “gaming addiction” for a while now.
In 2014, Reuters reported that there are 250 military-style boot camps in China designed to wean youngsters off their online addiction.
Some internet addiction clinics reportedly tied patients to a chair and shocked them with electricity as part of their “treatment”. An 18-year-old died of multiple injuries last year, just two days after being sent to an illegal internet addiction treatment camp.
The People’s Daily article published on Monday warned against the resurgence of addiction boot camps.
“If we consider the demonizing of games and calling games the ‘digital heroin’ a radical measure, linking gaming disorder with electrocution and physical abuse… is another extremity,” says the article.