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Kids in China Now Allowed Only 3 Hours of Video Games On Weekends Only

Playtime’s Over for China’s Young Gamers.

Credit Chris/Flickr

China is taking increasingly drastic steps to curb video game addiction in its younger population. Online gamers under the age of 18 will only be allowed to play for an hour on Fridays weekends and holidays, a grand total of three hours a week starting September 1.

This has been the harshest restriction so far on the gaming industry as regulators in the country are continuing to crack down on the technological sector. The National Press and Publication Administration told state-run news agency Xinhua that game-playing would only be allowed between 8 pm to 9 pm.

Previously the already tight rules for minors (usually classified as under 18 in China) allowed for 1.5 hours of video gameplay each day. The Administration also instructed gaming companies to prevent children from playing outside between this narrow timeslot of 8 pm to 9 pm.

Online gaming companies would be banned from providing gaming services to minors in any form outside of these hours and need to ensure they have put real name verification systems in place, according to the regulator, which oversees the country’s video games market.

The enforcement of these rules is usually linked to real-name/ID accounts being tracked by game companies that are forced to comply with these rules when they are in operation in China. This means you can be kicked off a game after the hour expires, and minors won’t be allowed in outside of these specific hours.

In July, Chinese gaming giant, Tencent announced it was rolling out facial recognition to stop children from playing between 22:00 and 08:00. This move followed from fears that children were using adult IDs to circumvent rules.

The new regulation has already affected some of China’s largest technology companies, including gaming giant Tencent whose Honor of Kings multiplayer game is hugely popular globally.

Tencent: Shenzhen HQ Visit. Credit: Chinwag/Flickr

Tencent’s stock price closed down at 0.6% at 465.80 Hong Kong dollars on Monday ahead of the regulator’s announcement. Its market capitalization of $573 billion is now down more than $300 billion from its peak in February, a decline equal to more than the total value of the giant brand Nike.

Earlier in August, Tencent said it would limit gaming time for minors to an hour a day and two hours during holidays, as well as ban children under the age of 12 from making in-game purchases.

Bo Wang from Tencent. Credit: Dennis Satchel/Flickr

The company issued this curb hours after a state-affiliated newspaper Economic Information Daily branded online games as spiritual opium comparing them to electronic drugs.

The Chinese authorities have long been concerned about gaming addiction and other harmful online activities among youth.

Credit: Flickr

Beijing in particular is skeptical over the expansion of technology as well as the adverse impact these games have on the wellbeing of the country’s young generation.

By imposing these new rules the Chinese government wishes to create positive energy among young people and educate them with correct values. For authorities, videogame addictions caused a host of societal ills, including distracting people from school and family responsibilities.

Shanghai Game Exhibition 2009. Credit: Marc van der Chijs/Flickr

China’s regulator said it would increase the frequency and intensity of inspections for online gaming companies to ensure they were putting time limits and anti-addiction systems in place.

The curbs on online gaming follow a decision in July to ban companies that provide tutoring in core school subjects from turning a profit, causing the share prices of providers like TAL Education and Gaotu Techedu to plummet.

While many Chinese parents welcome these stringent regulations, some on China’s social media Weibo have criticized the government interference as being “unreasonable” One sarcastic comment read:

“Why don’t you plan when I go to the toilet, eat meals and go to bed.”

Similarly, on Twitter there have been several criticisms concerning the fact that China’s latest move will 100% drive more young players to delve into unregulated foreign games and platforms.  Warren Lee at esports company Hexing Local argued: 

“Gamers will find another way. If a domestic solution is impossible, then you cannot fault consumers from looking outwards.”

The announcement is likely to trigger a reaction among China’s major gaming companies. However, Tencent said in a recent earnings call that minors only constituted a small portion [just 2.6 percent] of its online gaming revenue.

This has ultimately proven that Tencent has strictly abided to the latest requirements from the Chinese authorities in functioning to protect the minor’s self- control when playing video games.

The results could be potentially gratifying as Beijing says, limiting video games will guide minors to:

“actively participate in physical exercise, and various colourful, beneficial recreational activities.”

Credit: Erwyn van der Meer/Flickr

It is worth noting commercial video games are a potential factor in tending to mental health and may offer mental health benefits- particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out this article for more information from researchers into this divisive topic.

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