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Can Mao save online gamers?

A Chinese game developer is betting a Mao-era model soldier and other patriotic figures are just the kinds of heroes needed to steer impressionable youths towards cleaner online gaming content.
/ Source: Reuters

A Chinese game developer is betting a Mao-era model soldier and other patriotic figures are just the kinds of heroes needed to steer impressionable youths towards cleaner online gaming content.

In Web-based games under development by a Shanghai-based company, gamers would be able to play as one of 100 heroes from Chinese history, such as Lei Feng, a self-sacrificing soldier whom Mao Zedong hailed as a spiritual example for all to study after his death in 1962, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

Aside from Lei, revered for darning his comrades' socks and helping old ladies across the street, other patriotic characters in the games would include Zheng Chenggong, a pirate also known as Koxinga who seized Taiwan from Dutch colonial rule in 1661.

The games will hit the Web after a five-month national campaign scouring the online gaming industry for pornography, gambling, violence and content "threatening state security".

"The series of games, supported by the Press and Publication Administration of China, aims to change the current situation of the Web game market being dominated by games featuring Japanese or American gunmen," the report said.

Online gaming has exploded in China in recent years, with an estimated 13.8 million people taking part. Chinese media have expressed concern with more and more young people getting hooked, taking a heavy toll on their studies.

Chinese online gamers spent $240 million on their hobby last year and annual revenues are expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2008.