Global Times Mobile

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Last week, while hanging out at a mall with one of my classmates, we saw a large screen showing some exciting game battles being broadcast from mobile phones. Nearby, 10 people sitting opposite from each other were hunched over their phones and tapping on their screens.

It is no newsflash that many Chinese, young and old, male and female, have become obsessed with mobile games since smart phones arrived in the local market several years ago. But today, mobile phone games has become one of the industry's most profitable sectors.

Online websites have been set up to recruit team members, WeChat groups established to share skills and strategies for winning games, and now there are even some television shows featuring celebrities leading contestants on mobile phone fights. Not to mention all the professional gamers who make a good living just by competing or live-streaming.

China seems to be encouraging the mobile phone game phenomenon rather than stifling it, which is what I think it should do. This omnipresent craze has become a detriment to the younger generations of Chinese, who are allowing their obsessions to control their lives.

One 13-year-old boy from Sichuan Province reportedly ran away from home recently because he dreaded going back to school after spending his entire summer holiday on his phone, playing games from morning till night.

It is not uncommon for many students today to have a bad academic performance due to their preoccupation with games. In the past, it was easier to prevent students from spending excessive time on games, since they could only play on a desktop computer. But with nearly every kid bringing phones to school now, it's impossible for parents to monitor their activity.

A research group observing 1,000 Chinese university students earlier this year found that over 70 percent of them played with their phones while in class. Mobile games are obviously undermining China's overall scholastic performance. Students are spending far more time on their phones than reading books or studying for exams, which will negatively influence their future college careers and even their ability to apply for jobs later on.

Kids who are addicted to computers, phones or games also interact less with the real world, which is turning an entire generation into social zombies. It always makes me sad when friends I am hanging out with are fixated more on their phones instead of on me. I've noticed how much less my friends and I chat now that everyone has a phone. Even if we do talk, most of our conversations are about a new popular game or app rather than anything meaningful.

Instead of making phones and games "cool" for young people, the government should institute a new campaign encouraging kids to attend more "off-line" activities. My father, who is from the countryside, often reminisces about the great fun he had in the summers of his youth, climbing trees to steal bird eggs, wading into lakes to catch crayfish and crabs or just helping his family with farm work. It is a true tragedy that most young people today know nothing about our natural world; to them, everything is virtual.

With China's irreversible rural-to-urban migration, I know it's impossible to expect that we as a society will suddenly turn around back to the countryside. But even in big cities, parents should spend the weekend bringing their children to parks - without their phones - to connect with nature, get some sunshine on their faces and be more active.

The government should also compel gaming companies to create more educational games rather than ones glorifying senseless violence. One of China's largest game companies has even been accused of filling their games with fake historical information about China, which may mislead millions of students.

The massive influence of mobile games on young Chinese people's minds cannot be denied nor can it be outright prohibited. The best solution, then, is to find a middle ground that encourages students to be more responsible about designating a very limited amount of time per day to their phones and games, so as to ensure that they don't shirk their schoolwork or off-line life. Otherwise, our country's youngest generations are doomed to all become social zombies.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.