Chinese game throws the spotlight on the country's appalling internet addiction camps

A Chinese game based on the country’s notorious “internet addiction camps” has shed light on their condition, and some of the appalling “cures” they have inflicted on teenagers.

The game, called Mysteries of Fence (篱笆庄密闻), gained attention after getting featured on Steam Greenlight, which allows people to vote on indie games.

Set in a tense, clinical environment, players are asked to solve puzzles, use tools and play mini-games, so as to ultimately flee the compound.

The game’s developer — who goes by the pseudonym InkyCatEars — said that she made the game based on video interviews with patients who had undergone electric shock therapy at these facilities, according to Sixth Tone.

InkyCatEars spent four months making the game, before releasing a beta on Chengguang, a Chinese gaming website in September last year. She completed the game in January.

Image: Chengguang/youtube

Electric shock therapy — which has been used to treat internet addiction since 2006, was banned by the country’s Ministry of Health in 2009.

The practice still continues to flourish, and its key proponents — like controversial Chinese clinical psychiatrist Yang Yongxin, who developed the method and applied it to thousands of patients — continue to do it today.

Dr Yang tells the protagonist: "Don't give up on the (electroshock) therapy!"

Dr Yang tells the protagonist: “Don’t give up on the (electroshock) therapy!”

Image: Chengguang/Youtube

In the game, a similarly-named Dr Yang plays the central antagonist.

“I wanted to make a game that draws people’s attention to this dark and dusty corner, for those who don’t yet know about this,” InkyCatEars told Sixth Tone

Mysteries of Fence has yet to be released on Steam, but the game’s producers want to develop it in other languages. “We were outraged to learn that nothing has changed, even though there were media reports about this years ago,” Kenny Wei, a product manager at Chengguang, told Sixth Tone

“As this matter deals with the internet and online games directly, and as many of our users are teenagers, we hope the game will provide a source of inspiration.”

There’s hope that the plot of Mysteries of Fence will become history — or at least, illegal. China’s government drafted a new law in January that would ban abuse and threats to minors who are made to attend internet addiction camps.

The game has elicited strong feelings from the Chinese gaming community.

“I wish things in real life could result [in escape], as in the game. Entering the real Yang Yongxin’s clinic, or being trafficked to a rural village, is really a fall into a bottomless abyss,” said a reviewer.

“It’s best if there was an ending where you can kill the guy,” said a user on Steam. 

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