By: IRENE PARK / CONTRIBUTING WRITER
This year, China’s gaming regulator, the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), has implemented a new policy limiting the time children are allowed to play video games.
In 2018, China announced the establishment of NNPA and halted the approval of new video games, bringing about trouble for the industry.
A year prior, in 2017, a prominent gaming company named Tencent had already begun looking for ways to reduce the amount of time and money children spent on games thus signaling trouble for gamers for years to come.
Now, anyone under the age of 18 is prohibited from playing during school nights and are only allowed to play games from 8 to 9 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays.
In order to play, the government also requires that they must first go through verification, using their real names for accounts and log-in systems.
The new rules, which are hardly the first of their kind, force gaming companies to link their games with a state anti-addiction system.
In July, Tencent introduced a facial recognition scan to verify if gamers were adults and just a few years ago, in 2019, China had implemented restrictions stating that minors can only play for 90 minutes on school days and 3 hours on weekends and holidays.
The previous rule prevented gaming from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., and placed limits on how much time someone could spend gaming based on their age.
Why Does China Go so Far to Limit Gaming?
The biggest reason appears to be the rise of gaming addiction in youths.
In 2018, the World Health Organization classified “gaming disorder,” also known as gaming addiction, as an addictive behavior in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases.
China has identified gaming addiction as a major public health issue, with state media comparing games to “spiritual opium.”
Indeed, gaming addiction appears to be a big threat with China Briefing reporting that more than 30 percent of Chinese children were suffering from it in 2018.
There are also many more at risk, with Reuters reporting that 62.5 percent of minors play online and 13.2 percent of underage mobile gamers play for more than 2 hours on weekdays.
Of course, gaming addiction is not the only health concern, just the major one. Ever since 2018, the Chinese government has noted the rising cases of nearsightedness. They claim that video games are the cause, thus giving them more reason to implement such restrictions.
The new regulation also appears to be a part of China’s plan to help regulate the growth of tech industry giants, which have heavily invested in the video game industry. Such restrictions have impacted companies not only in China, but around the world.
Reuters notes that shares of gaming and tech companies such as Ubisoft, Tencent, Bilibili, and Prosus have seen some drops for a short period of time after the announcement of new regulations, as well as after the comparison of video games to “spiritual opium”.
Luckily for gaming companies, China Briefing states that some analysts believe that long term effects will be limited.
How do People Feel About the New Regulations?
It is often found that parents are relieved that the restrictions have been put into place, believing that their children’s time is better spent exercising or studying.
CBS News notes that some parents feel the restrictions did not come into effect in time, forcing them to take drastic action and send their children to digital “detox” centers.
These centers are a mix of boot camp-style living which includes exercise and counseling. Most patients choose to stay anywhere between three to six months, and are accompanied by their parents who stay with them to help reintegrate them into family and society.
On the other side of the spectrum, some parents are skeptical or unhappy with the new regulations, expressing these views on social media.
They believe that the government is overstepping its boundaries and reaching into the private aspect of family life.
Still others believe that the regulations are too stringent, or cannot be enforced well enough, despite the support of the gaming companies in enforcing the new regulations. They state that children can use the accounts of adults, VPNs, or other methods to bypass restrictions.