In July 2015, an order issued by the four general headquarters of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) loosened restrictions on servicemen using smartphones, allowing the mobile games to enter military bases.
Officers said that while mobile games might distract soldiers from their training, but since using digital devices is a necessary skill, the only solution is to properly regulate the use of handheld fun.
"A lot of officers and enlisted men here play King of Glory as soon as they are given their mobile phones," a PLA officer surnamed Wang told the Global Times on Wednesday. "Some of them are quite good at it," he said.
King of Glory is a mobile game developed by Tencent which is regularly played by more than 200 million users.
Wang said that servicemen can only use their smartphones for two hours on Tuesdays and Fridays and ten hours in total over the weekend.
According to a survey of 200 soldiers conducted by the PLA Daily, more than 95 percent have played mobile games. A total of 75 percent admitted that they spend most of their spare time on their phones playing games.
The survey also found that older officers and enlisted men spend less time on mobile games. Most married servicemen choose not to play the games at all.
"The newly-enrolled soldiers are as young as 20 years old, so they are usually very addicted to mobile games," Wang told the Global Times.
One soldier said that there are few entertainment choices on military bases, but mobile games offer diverse distractions. "I can play whatever and whenever I want and am never alone."
Some soldiers said that they can chat with their friends and relatives through the games while playing them.
"The army has imposed limitations on using social media apps, so many officers and soldiers turn to mobile games," Feng Yongxiang, a PLA officer said, the PLA Daily reported.
"We do not encourage enlisted men and officers to waste too much time on mobile games," Wang said, adding that "games distract them from regular military training, and also keep them from team-building activities, such as the sports we used to do."
Yang Yi, a PLA officer, said that while smartphones bring convenience to servicemen, they tend to create distance between officers and enlisted men, the PLA Daily reported.
"In the past, on the weekends we would organize some sports, which have made us closer to each other. However, nowadays, the military base is quiet during the weekend, because many people are busy with their phones playing games," Yang Yi said.
"Many games create a fictional world and stress individualism and heroism, and feature violence and sexual elements, which might cause young officers to break the rules," Wang Shuai, a political instructor from the Beijing Garrison said, the PLA Daily reported.
In the PLA Daily survey, more than 51 percent of those polled believe that mobile games can help soldiers relax which can help their training, studying and work.
About 69 percent of servicemen said that multiplayer mobile games could increase their teamwork skills.
Meanwhile, 69.6 percent of officers and enlisted men said that mobile games can improve interpersonal relationships.
"We sweat in our daily training and rest with each other by playing games. It feels very good," Song Yan, a PLA officer said. "It's more about playing with your familiar mates."
"The new age calls for army officers to understand the Internet, and the younger generation also has a strong need for and reliance on the Internet, including on mobile games," Wu Yinhua, a chief from the PLA Southern Theater said.
Mobile games are not monsters, nor a panacea. When they begin to get popular in the military, "we should face them positively and lead the officers and enlisted men to use the Internet and smartphones properly," Wu said.
"The order that allowed us to use smartphones came in 2015, but the management on using phones is not completed yet, which has brought great difficulty to ranking officers in the army," Wang noted.
"But we are working on related regulations," he said, adding that "we will not ban the games, but we should strengthen supervision."
The PLA Daily contributed to the story.
This story was originally published by Shan Jie in The Global Times.