SALAWAG — In the multi-player online battle video game Defense of the Ancients, or DotA, the aim is to conquer the opposing team on the other side of the map. The graphics are impressive, and the play is challenging.
But for some, the game is not just about friendly competition, after it's been blamed as a contributing factor in the Dec. 15 murder of a 19-year-old, who was allegedly stabbed by his friend outside a computer gaming shop after the two were playing the game. The boy responsible is now in government custody, and the incident pushed local officials to ban DotA.
Copies of the official ban have been posted in the shops, and any commercial enterprises that violate the law twice will have their licenses revoked.
"What happens to young people is they spend hours on the Internet," Salaway village chief Eric Paredes in Dasmarinyas city explains. "They won't eat, they lose sleep and gamble on the game. This leads to violence. Young people who play very well are hired for gambling with huge amounts of money. This is already too much."
He says parents would report their children missing in the evening only to find them later in the computer shops. About 80,000 people live in Salawag, and there are 75 computer shops in town.
Jo, a softdrink seller, says his son became addicted to the game. "My son stopped going to school two years ago," he says. "We found he was playing DotA at the computer shop. He changes out of his school uniform when he gets there."
An Internet cafe in Salawag — Photo: Madonna Virola
Nearby is Salawag elementary school, where Felix Libarios teaches computers. He says he's happy with the ban. "They were sleepy, their grades were falling," he says of his students. "It's problematic when young people turn to e-games to forget about the real world and be entertained,"
Paredes says the village tried lesser measures before instituting an outright ban. For example, they passed earlier laws such as a curfew and a ban on playing online when in uniform, but none of these were strictly followed. "A ban on e-games appears to be more effective," he says.
Computer shop owners protested the law, and in a meeting with the town council the shop owners said that they would monitor their businesses better.
On my way out of the village, I meet high school students riding in a jeepney and ask them about the ban. "I agree because DotA is addictive," one of the girls says.
But her friend Jerome disagrees. "It will be disastrous for the computer shop owners because 60% to 70% percent of people come to play DotA. I also play DotA and am able to control my behavior."