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The secret nightlife of truck drivers in Ho Chi Minh City

Tuesday, July 26, 2016, 12:06 GMT+7

Truck drivers in Ho Chi Minh City are spending sleepless nights absorbed in an arcade fishing game that has swept the industry in recent years.

Along a 1.5-kilometer section of Le Phung Hieu Street that leads to Cat Lai Port in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City, four arcade shops operating an addictive fishing game have remained open 24/7 in order to accommodate cargo truck drivers.

The multiplayer arcade fishing game that has truck drivers mesmerized is a game where each player spends points on ammo to shoot at fish appearing on-screen, which then rewards the shooter with more points upon being ‘caught’.

Points can be purchased using real-life money, and they can be exchanged for money.

At 8:30 pm last Tuesday the fishing arcades at a coffee shop on Le Phung Hieu Street were already packed with truck drivers who had dropped by to pass the time while waiting for the start of their midnight shift.

“Die! Die! Shoot, shoot that man-fish! It’s dying!” came the cries of a 40-year-old driver named Tuan, though he was drowned out in the bustling shop.

With a 50-point shot (the more ammunition costs, the harder it hits), Tuan successfully caught the half-man fish, raising his total point score to over 13,000.

Tuan winked at the waitress, signaling for her to exchange 10,000 points for VND500,000 (US$22.32) in cash, before exchanging another VND200,000 ($8.93) and stopping for a rest.

Only moments later, Tuan was sucked back into the game after seeing another driver on a winning streak, only this time he left the table empty-handed.

“There goes my month’s salary,” said the driver sitting next to Tuan who was also losing.

Tuan said he was the least addicted player among his colleagues at the transport company, explaining that others had nothing to send home because of the game.

“They even use up their travel expenses to pay for this game,” Tuan recalled.

By around 10:30 pm, a driver named Hiep pulled up at the shop and used his last VND60,000 to buy 2,000 points and enter the game, only to lose them all 20 minutes later.

“At first I only played for fun to earn some extra cash for my cigarettes and coffee, but then the game grew on me and before I knew it, I was already addicted,” Hiep said.

Speaking with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, a transport company owner said there had been an increasing number of accidents caused by drowsy drivers, even during the daytime in recent years, since the introduction of the addictive arcade fishing game.

According to Vo Don, a doctor at 115 People’s Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, a brain that does not get enough rest at night will become exhausted, leading to a state of drowsiness.

A drowsy driver, Don said, is tricked into thinking he is aware of his surroundings while in fact his brain has already gone to sleep.

District 2 Police said they were aware of the situation, but the choice to stay up late to play games was the drivers’ personal right, which was difficult to govern by law.

The arcade fishing game. Footage: YouTube

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