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A “No Game” campaign spearheaded by educators in Hokkaido has backfired after being perceived as an attempt to label video games as harmful to students.

The Hokkaido Board of Education, one of the organizers of the campaign, was alerted to the mishap by calls from bewildered people. It is now scrambling to explain what it says was a poorly executed attempt to prevent digital media addiction.

The campaign started in late December as part of a broader initiative by a group of 20 education-related institutions and associations in the prefecture, including the board, to eradicate Internet-related troubles affecting schoolchildren and prevent them from becoming addicted.

A 2014 online survey the board conducted on 4,700 junior high and high school students in Hokkaido revealed that more than half are glued to the Internet for at least two hours a day. About 20 percent said they consider themselves “addicted.”

To counter the trend, the group of educators started designating every other Sunday as a “no game” day during which both adults and children were encouraged to steer clear of digital games and spend more time reading books, playing outdoors and communicating with their families.

It also designed a poster showing a large X drawn upon a group of children playing video games. The campaigners have since redesigned the posters.

“We just wanted to stress the importance of activities such as reading books and doing sports. It wasn’t our intention to deny games,” said a Hokkaido Board of Education official.

That intention has been mistaken by some as an anti-game crusade.

The board said it has received phone calls and email complaining that the campaign almost sounds like it is singling out video games for criticism, the official admitted, while declining to divulge exactly how many complaints it got.

Education policy expert and prominent TV celebrity Naoki Ogi angrily described the campaign as “shameful” and “short-sighted” on his blog Thursday.

“Blaming everything on video games misses the point,” he wrote. “Learning to control them is the real point.”

Displeasure was also voiced in Japanese on Twitter.

The campaigners “are undoubtedly trying to make video games the bad guy here. They should simply say to spend more time with family,” said Twitter user @syunkodo.

“There are lots of things you can learn from video games . . . As a company employee, I find very useful those skills I learned by strategizing and simulating,” said another, @nyao4.

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