China's Ministry of Culture has banned websites from offering online games featuring mafia-like gangs, threatening "severe punishment" to violators.
Such games advocate "obscenity, gambling, or violence" and "undermine morality and Chinese traditional culture," according to a circular posted on the ministry's website on Monday.
"These games encourage people to deceive, loot and kill, and glorify gangster life. They are a bad influence on youngsters," it continued before instructing internet operators to immediately stop running the illegal games.
The Xinhua News Agency reports that websites are now prohibited from running, publishing and offering links to such games. Those that were immediately blocked by sites included Godfather, Jianghu (meaning gangster community) and Guhuozai (young and dangerous guys).
Market revenues for videogames in China hit USD 2.75 billion in 2008, of which 77 per cent were online games. The country plays host to 23 million PCs and 170,000 internet cafes, with the total number of gamers in 2012 expected to reach 119 million.