Thursday, March 04, 2010

Game On

You hear a lot of pundits and politicians these days making predictions about how China is going to surpass America in the coming years if we don't start doing stuff like rebuilding and expanding our infrastructure (including lots of trains), better educating our children, investing in "green" technology, and reducing our unsustainable debt. You even hear some like Thomas Friedman who openly pine for a less democratic, more authoritarian political system so we could just get on with getting things done without all this messy debate and partisan wrangling.

Personally, I believe that for a variety of reasons most of these predictions and fears are unfounded. But even if they are valid concerns, I'm none too worried about being eclipsed by the rising Asian flavor of the day. Because we have a secret weapon at our disposal that will render China's young, predominantly male, generation powerless. It will sap their energy, consume their time, impair their health, and render them largely incapable of productive activity or thought. This weapon is so powerful that there are few defenses against it and once it's unleashed on a population there is almost no way to contain it or limit its damages.

No, it isn't chemical, biological, nuclear or even some advanced nanotechnology. I speak instead of video games:

Unlike console games in the U.S. and elsewhere, China's game market is dominated by online role-playing titles such as "World of Warcraft" that hundreds of thousands of people can access via their personal computers or Internet cafes.

Some of the games are free, particularly those made by Chinese developers, but players buy virtual accessories, such as weapons, or pay to play enhanced versions of the games.

The market is attracting increased government attention and software pirates because of its rapid growth. China is expected to see its ranks of online gamers reach 230 million over the next two years, more than three times the current estimated level of 69 million, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, a government agency, in a December study.

230 million Chinese--mostly young men--who could be channeling their intelligence, energy, and passion into helping China rule the world will instead be spending their time playing video games. Yeah, I think things are gonna turn out okay after all.

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