One hour a day, only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays… That is the time in which those under 18 will be able to use video games in China, according to the new rules announced by the government of the Asian nation to combat what they consider “spiritual opium” for their youth.
As reported by the state agency Xinghua, the National Press and Publications Administration established a new series of regulations on Monday to limit the hours that minors spend playing in front of the screens.
The new measures establish that they will only be able to play the 3 designated days between 8:00 PM and 9:00 PM, to which an extra hour is added, at the same time, on holidays.
The regulations are part of a series of changes that the Chinese government has imposed in recent times to strengthen control over society and that also include key sectors of its economy, such as technology, education, and property.
The new regulations
Under the new measures, Internet video game companies will be prohibited from providing services to minors in any way outside of those hours and days. They will also have to implement name and identity verification systems, following complaints that some minors use false documents to be able to play as adults.
And it is that previously, in rules established in 2019, the Chinese authorities limited playing time to 1 hour and a half a day and 3 hours on holidays. The National Press and Publications Administration also indicated that it will increase the frequency and intensity of inspections of online gaming companies to ensure they comply with time limits and “anti-addiction systems”.
According to the regulator, the objective of the new measures is “to effectively protect the physical and mental health of minors. Adolescents are the future of our country. The protection of the physical and mental health of minors is related to the vital interests of the people and is related to the cultivation of the younger generation in the era of national rejuvenation”, said an official to Xinhua.
Limiting the power of tech giants
Recently, the Chinese authorities have also tried to limit the power of tech giants such as Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings. Earlier this month, shares in the latter, the world’s most profitable video game company by revenue, plummeted after numerous attacks by state media.
Last July, the Economic Information Daily attacked video game companies on the internet, which it pointed to as responsible for creating addiction among teenagers. That same month, Tencent rolled out a facial recognition feature to detect children disguised as adults trying to circumvent time restrictions.
Party officials raised their concerns about video games again earlier this year at the China Two Sessions, one of the biggest annual events on the government calendar.
According to state media, more than 62% of Chinese minors often gamble online and 13.2% of them do so from mobile phones for more than 2 hours a day. Data from the analytics firm Newzoo estimate that the Chinese video game market will generate revenues of US$ 45.6 billion in 2021, ahead of the USA.