The Chinese Ministry of Culture banned websites from featuring online mafia-styled games, saying such virtual entertainment is a threat to Chinese culture and a bad influence on the nation's youth.
The government organization said that websites face "severe punishment" if they run, publish, or link to online games with a mafia theme in violation of the ban, the Xinhua news service reported Tuesday.
Players of mafia games interact with other members of the online community as members of families or gangs. The Ministry of Culture said such interactions "encourage people to deceive, loot and kill, and glorify gangster life. They are a bad influence on youngsters."
Some of the games that reportedly went offline following the ban were Godfather, Jianghu ("Gangster Community"), and the ferociously-titled Guhuozai ("young and dangerous guys").
In the west, mafia- and gang-based web games have met some success, particularly Mob Wars and Mafia Wars, which are playable through social networking sites such as Facebook.
Gamers' attraction to the gangster life can also be seen in the success of console games such as Grand Theft Auto, Mafia, The Godfather, and Scarface.
One of the many disappointed Chinese online mafia game fans called the government's move "irresponsible."