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Game Over: Minors Limited to 3 Hours of Online Gaming Per Week

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According to an announcement out of Beijing on Monday, August 30, online gaming companies are only allowed to provide services to minors from 8-9 PM on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, as well as holidays. Now, during a regular week, those under 18 have at most three hours for online gaming.

The National Press and Publication Administration is responsible for the new rule, which was crafted in response to alleged video game addiction among minors in China.

Gaming-related issues have been on the government’s radar for some time, as reports have identified teenagers’ unauthorized spending on games and addiction to internet cafes as significant problems.

In addition to service hour limits, the new regulation also requires gaming companies to verify each user’s identity through the administration’s real-name verification system.

Previous media reports claimed that minors circumvent anti-gaming-addiction rules by purchasing adult accounts from second-hand trading platforms, where accounts for Tencent games like Honor of Kings and Game for Peace were hugely popular.

Online gaming regulations 2021

The new rule requires gaming companies to verify each user’s identity. Image via Pixabay

This is not the authorities’ first attempt to clamp down on excessive youth gaming — as China’s young gamers will be well aware. In 2019, the agency published a regulation that limited online gaming time to three hours daily on national holidays and an hour and a half on other days.

According to state-back Xinhua News Agency, parents reported that the 2019 limits were not strict enough — feedback that led authorities to curtail the allowable hours of youth online gaming.

The new rule only targets online entertainment games, while the hours for sports and chess video games that “are beneficial to minds and bodies” are at the discretion of families themselves. (The question on everyone’s lips: Does the NBA’s online mobile game count as a sports game beneficial to minds and bodies?)

The latest update of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors, which became effective on June 1, notes that 10 PM to 8 AM is the ‘curfew’ time for minors.

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Since the announcement of the regulation, tech giants like Tencent have implemented a facial recognition ‘Night Patrol’ system to detect minors during off-hours. In addition, companies will ask accounts registered to adults to go through facial recognition if minor-like behaviors are identified, the company said.

However, individuals on social media have made profits helping minors circumvent the recognition process using adult faces, according to Beijing News. In February, police in the southern province of Guangdong arrested a nine-member gang that illegally made tens of thousands of yuan by selling private identity information to minors for facial recognition in online games.

CORRECTION: This article was updated at 7 AM on September 2, 2021, to remove reference to a time limit on Adobe Creative programs targeted at minors. After review, we are not confident in our source for this claim and have chosen to remove it as a result.

Cover image via Unsplash

Yiwen Lu
    Yiwen is a student journalist studying Economics and Political Science at the University of Chicago. She was born and raised in Shanghai.