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China Bans Online Gaming for Minors

China limits online gaming for underaged children to only 3 hours per week over weekends.

The strict limits on how long Chinese children and minors can play video games just got stricter. China banned minors from playing online games during weekdays and they can now only play for 3 hours over weekends.

Tightening the already strict rules set in 2019, children can now only play online games from 8pm to 9pm on Fridays to Sundays. The new rules aim to curb the growing online game addiction among school children, said the government. Published by the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) on Monday, 31 August 2021.

This comes after parents complained that the previous play time restrictions were still too long and not enforced properly. Online gaming was allowed for 90 minutes per weekday and 3 hours per day on weekends before. A report by Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center further stated that children constantly found ways to pass the limits. The report also states that Chinese parents reported that their children had personality changes after becoming addicted to games.

This topic has also sparked a storm on multiple social media platforms. Some comments from users on a Tweet from Ash sums up the general feeling among most gamers:

  • “Honestly this would break teenage me.”-  @Ferg
  • “My 11 year old self is weeping.” – @SanMarino2ndX1
  • “During COVID too… really unfortunate timing! I feel like games in moderation are a great way to escape from reality and make a bad day better.” –  @SirTagCR
  • “I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without video games growing up. Unfortunate to see restrictions like these put in place :(“ – @duckybtw
  • “This is terrifying” – @Surfnboy

On China’s Twitter-like platform, Weibo, many users complain that the new online gaming rules are too strict too.

When is gaming an addiction?

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies a gaming disorder (addiction) as a pattern of behavior with the following characteristics:

  • Firstly, having impaired control over gaming.
  • Secondly, increasingly giving priority to gaming over other activities, so much so that gaming takes precedence over other interests.
  • Thirdly, continuation or escalation of gaming despite the negative consequences.

WHO further states that the behavior must be severe enough to disrupt normal daily activities, family life, school, work, etc. It must also be evident for at least 12 months to be diagnosed as a disorder/addiction. WHO also says that studies suggest that a gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who play games.

South Korea just announced their plan to abolish their 10 year old gaming curfew law on the other hand. And in doing so, leaves China then as the only nation in the world restricting online gaming hours by law.

Long Term Effects

The long term effects of the new rules on technology and gaming companies like Tencent Holdings Ltd and NetEase Inc are yet to be seen. However, Tencent said that children account for less than 3% of their spending customers in China. Tencent said on its official WeChat account that it firmly supports the new rule and will make every effort to follow it. It said that the company has implemented various new technologies, functions and measures to keep minors from being addicted to games. They will also continue to invest in the protection and development of minors in the future.

Crackdown on Tech Companies

And still China is continuing with the crackdown on Tech Giants, like NetEase and Tencent, among others. Not only are these companies being forced to comply with the new online gaming rules for minors. They are now facing stringent fines for unfair competition and monopolies. They are also expected to focus less on profit and acquiring players/fans of games. Both Tencent (TCEHY Stock Price) and NetEase (NTES Stock Price) shares fell considerably after the meeting with the Chinese regulators on Thursday, 9 September 2021.

Many in the market are speculating that Chinese game developers will increase marketing in the west due to these new restrictions.

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