by To Nhu
The introduction of Viet Nam's first educational online game "Conquering Vu Mon" has many who are concerned about violent computer games hoping for a breakthrough for obsessed young gamers.
Leaders from the education sector, the media, parents and children themselves have shown interest in the new game about a journey to a waterfall in central Ha Tinh Province's Giang Man Mountain.
The game was developed by the Egame company in a bid to counter rising youth crime, which some have linked to violent online games.
Government initiatives on the issue, including a curfew for internet shops at 11pm and a ban on these shops from operating near schools, have shown little effect, so maybe developing healthy and educational games for the youth will achieve a better result.
In stark contrast to other online games loaded with weapons, war horses and violent action, "Conquering Vu Mon" is full of beautiful scenes that reflect typical Vietnamese landscapes and culture. The game is based on a Vietnamese folk story which has long been a lesson on the virtues of patience and determination in gaining success.
Hundreds of lectures compiled by teachers of leading educational institutions for students at secondary schools on a wide variety of subjects are included in the game, and this information is introduced in an engaging way. Players have to find answers for multiple choice questions about subjects that are part of school curriculums.
According to the game's producers, "Conquering Vu Mon" has been warmly welcomed by students. However, to make the game popular, marketing is very important.
A representative of Egame said the company was working on ensuring the game was affordable for students across the country. The game could also be given away as prizes to students who excel at their studies.
Game addict Dinh Viet Dung from Ha Noi's Alley 180, Tran Duy Hung Street, said he found the game interesting, despite being used to spending whole nights playing violent games on the computer.
What made "Conquering Vu Mon" attractive, said Dung, was the knowledge it offered to players by forcing them to brainstorm and discover new challenges.
Pham Anh Tuan, a ninth grader at the Ha Noi-based Ngo Sy Lien Secondary School, said he even made his parents play the game with him.
Tuan's mother, Nguyen Thi Men, who works at the Central Eye Hospital, said she did not allow her son to play violent games after seeing "many tragedies as a result of the harmful products". "But healthy games are necessary since students need time to relax," said Men.
"When Viet Nam lacks options for entertainment, particularly intellectual playgrounds, for children and young people, online games are extremely enticing," she said. "So it's important to ensure good and educational games."
Vice principal of the specialised high school under the Ha Noi Teachers' University Nguyen Ba Binh said online games were a good way for students to entertain themselves.
"Psychologically speaking, heavy brain users like students need to relax to release stress after classes, so playing games is an understandable demand," he said.
According to chairman of the National Assembly Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children Dao Trong Thi, online games in particular and the internet in general have both pros and cons. Therefore, to solve internet and game related problems, it is important to minimise the down sides while putting the positives into full play, just as many other countries are doing.
"Ignoring or banning them is absolutely wrong," he said.
The most effective solution, he added, was good management and orientation over online game providers so that they could develop healthy and educational products on the basis of the country's culture and history.
Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Vinh Hien, meanwhile, said the fact that Vietnamese game developers were focusing on educational products was a positive signal.
These games must have very clear educational goals — offering a healthy entertainment environment, knowledge and skills to players, he said.
"However, producers of educational games such as "Conquering Vu Mon" have to take the lead in promoting and advertising their products to have a firm position in the online games market," he said. —VNS