A card game called "Mafia" that requires competitors to "kill" their fellow players is sweeping China.
Pubs, clubs and restaurants are full of people playing the game, and it has even jumped to the Internet, where games can last a whole day.
The game has, however, caused controversy, with some professors complaining the game is too violent.
Searching the Internet, surfers can find out everything about the game, including information about game rules, online game services, "Mafia" clubs and debates on the advantages and disadvantages of the game.
There are various forms of the game, although the type using cards usually has 10 to 20 players who take on a number of different roles, including a judge, cops, killers, an angel and ordinary people.
The aim of the game differs depending on which character you play, but killers do just that, while ordinary people have to find who the killers are.
Xclub, in the Haidian District of Beijing, was one of the first "Mafia" clubs in China.
"The game can improve people's personalities, making them smarter and quicker," according to Yuan Yi, the club's vice-manager. "Introvert people become more active."
The Beijing-based club has registered more than 50,000 members all over the country since opening for business in March.
Yuan said members are from a wide range of circles, including public relations workers, media people, IT engineers and students.
"The name sounds scary but actually it builds up your brain without any actual violence. It demands high concentration, which is a great challenge," said player Liu Mei, a 28-year old Beijing architect.
"I think this game is much more meaningful than surfing online, doing karaoke, or playing poker or mahjong."
But not everyone agrees.
A player will try hard to lie, deny he is a killer and by fair means or foul "kill" others," said Gao Feng, a professor from Beijing People's Police College.
"People will imitate these ways of thinking when they commit a crime in real life and try to escape legal punishment."
"Players are easily addicted to the game and become numb when it comes to 'killing,'" added another professor, Zhang Zhensheng, from China Public Security University.
"These cheating minds formed through the game will have a negative effects on lives and careers in the long run," he said.
Zhang even predicts that lie detectors could fail when faced with experienced "Mafia" game players as they will be used to cheating.
(China Daily 08/15/2006 page3)