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The Chinese government are continuing to crack down on their youth’s gaming time, with new laws limiting how much time they can spend playing video games.
Editor’s Note: While every effort has been made to translate the original source, it utilizes text on an image, making machine translation much harder. We have also utilized translation from PC Gamer and CNN.
The six laws are claimed to help tackle game addiction. These include banning under 18s from playing online games between 10 pm and 8 am, in addition to a 90 minute per-day restriction (or three hours per-day at weekends and public holidays). In addition, there are restrictions on what 16 to 18 year-olds can spend in online games, up to 400 yuan ($57) per month, with younger players restricted to 200 yuan ($29) per month.
Another law includes the expansion of real-name registration, where children must use not just their parent’s phone to register an account, but now a form of “valid identity information.”
This is enforced with another law aimed at game companies. Those who do not comply with the new laws are given a time-limit to fix the problem, or they may lose their licences. A new age rating system will also be created, and parents and teachers will be trained to “help minors establish correct online game consumption concepts and behavior habits.”
A spokesperson for the State Press and Publication Administration issued a statement to the (state-run) news group Xinhua. While they admit China’s online gaming industry has developed rapidly, they had concerns about children becoming addicted. So, utilizing “Jinping’s new era of socialism” and research, they decided the new laws were the best approach.
“In recent years, China’s online game industry has developed rapidly. While satisfying the needs of the people for leisure and entertainment and enriching the people’s spiritual and cultural life, some minors are addicted to games and excessive consumption, which are worthy of high attention. These problems affect the physical and mental health and normal learning and life of minors. In order to respond positively to social concerns and solve outstanding problems in the development of the industry, we conducted relevant research, listened to opinions and formulated specific measures to form this Notice.”
“On the basis of focusing on solving outstanding problems, the “Notice” emphasizes strict implementation of corporate responsibility, performs government supervision duties in accordance with the law, promotes coordinated management and effective participation of all sectors of society, and forms a joint government, enterprise, and society. The formulation and implementation of the “Notice” is of great significance and practical role in strengthening and improving the management of online games, effectively protecting the physical and mental health of minors, and creating a literate and fluent network space.”
The Chinese government has been attempting to crack-down on the youth’s time spent playing video games, but still seem curiously tempted to welcome games into the country.
In November 2018, Tencent had begun monitoring the time those under 12 spent playing their online games, and presenting a legal ID. This was after the company had lost $20 billion in August 2018, after the Chinese government had recommended fewer game approvals. Tencent’s expansion into the western market seems to make a little more sense in at least one way.
While the Chinese Online Games Ethics Committee banned nine games in December 2018, the Chinese government approved of over 80 games in January 2019 after a months-long freeze. The Financial Times claimed that there has been “bureaucratic infighting” from a media regulator, before a new one was formed.
In April 2019, Tencent was given permission to distribute the Nintendo Switch with a “test version” of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe by authorities in Guangdong (a southern province in China), opening the door for Nintendo in the nation. Finally on October 6th, the Chinese government imposed laws demanding citizens to pass a facial recognition test to gain internet access.
Despite this chaotic behavior, some outlets still claim China is the world’s largest gaming market, allegedly accounting for a quarter of global revenue. While China’s total gaming revenue is expected to reach $38 billion in 2018, what could its future be if children lose interest in video games?
China’s involvement with the video game industry has also been a recent topic. This started with a concern of how much Chinese investment and audience-size affects American business’ decisions, after NBA Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey showed his support for the Hong Kong protests, resulting in the Chinese government refusing to broadcast NBA games in China.
Since then NBA officials have been doing their best attempts at damage control. South Park’s “Band in China” episode also mocked entertainment companies such as Disney attempting to appeal to Chinese government censors.
There is also an extensive list of actions companies have taken to avoid upsetting the Chinese government in the last few years. These include the denial of Tibet and Taiwan as ever having been independent nations (even referring to Taiwan as its own country by accident), mentions of the Tienanmen Square Massacre, giving cloud and smartphone encryption keys to Chinese authorities, removal of intentionally pro Hong Kong comments and works, and firing employees for supporting the Hong Kong protests.
This came to a head in the video game industry, after professional Hearthstone player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai stated pro-Hong Kong protest statements in a post-match interview, Blizzard Entertainment suspend the player and the two casters. Gamers and free speech advocates rallied against the company with protests.
Many suspected it was due to Blizzard wanting to remain in the Chinese market, should it explode in popularity as many economic analysts claim. We took a look at Blizzard’s financials ourselves, and found the company’s total profit from the Asia-Pacific region was less than 13%. Blizzard later made two public apologies, emphasizing the company’s “relationships in China had no influence on [their] decision.”
In addition, China seems to have bought hard into the fear of gaming addiction. While the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared “gaming disorder” as a disease in May 2019, a study by Oxford University has found no evidence to support the classification. Even prior to the University’s research, the proposed classification was condemned by numerous psychologists and scholars.
Curiously, Chris Ferguson (professor of psychology at Stetson University in Florida, Psychologist and media researcher) had discovered during his own research via emails from whistle-blowers within the WHO (along with reports), claiming that the WHO is under pressure to push this diagnosis from stakeholders and “primarily Asian countries” respectively.
If true, we can speculate it would be a lot easier for the Chinese government to enforce its new laws if other nations were doing the same thing. Then again, the Chinese government has rarely listened to demands from foreign nations unless threats of taxes and tariffs on Chinese made goods occurred, and other negotiations behind closed doors.
In case you missed it, you can find our Gaming Disorder editorial series here (1, 2, 3).
What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!