Unlike the more popular games, where players have to slay dragons, fight aliens or beat up bad guys, in Chinese Heroes players "click on statues to learn about their experiences and carry out tasks like moving bricks", Xinhua news agency said.

Kou Xiaowei, an official with China's General Administration of Press and Publication, which is organising the game's development, said: "We hope the game will teach players about Chinese ethics."

Some of the heroes will include Lei Feng, a Mao Zedong-era model soldier, and Zheng Chenggong, a pirate also known as Koxinga who seized Taiwan from Dutch colonial rule in 1661.

Zhuge Hui, a spokesman for Shanghai gaming company Shanda, which is designing the game, told Xinhua: "Five heroes have been developed, but we have not yet decided the launch date."

A year after development began, the game is still not ready for release.

Appeal

Online gaming has exploded in China in recent years, with an estimated 13.8 million people taking part.

The Chinese media have expressed concern with more and more young people getting hooked, taking a heavy toll on their studies.

But some have expressed doubt the new game would appeal to China's youth.

Tao Ran, director of the Beijing Internet Addiction Treatment Centre, was quoted by Xinhua as saying: "Teenagers seek adventure and fulfilment in dramatic and skill-demanding games.

"If hero games do not focus on killing and domination, gamers will definitely not play them."