These days, gaming is big business. Where it used to be confined to the peripheries or something you would be reluctant to share with friends, now to be a gamer is to be something of an athlete. With advancements in technology bringing hyper-realistic scenes to the realm of online gaming and companies looking to adapt equipment so as to improve technique and efficiency, gaming is a rapidly expanding industry and one that is proving to be highly addictive. Perhaps as a result of this and in a bid to crackdown on the online gaming industry, China is now banning children from playing online games for more than three hours a week.
Now, new rules stipulate that children under the age of 18 will only be allowed to play games between 8:00pm and 9:00pm on Fridays, weekends and on public holidays, starting on Thursday, according to a notice from the National Press and Publication Administration. It comes after a restriction was introduced in 2019 that allowed minors to play games for an hour and a half per day, and three hours on public holidays. These new restrictions will further limit playtime during the week to just three hours in total. As well as this, online gaming companies will be barred from providing gaming services to younger users in any form, outside those hours.
The crackdown might seem like a bizarre and rather brazen one, but it comes after growing concerns over gaming addiction, according to China’s Xinhua news agency. Reuters reports that authorities in China - which happens to be the world’s largest video games market - have long worried about addiction to gaming and the internet among young people. It’s led them to set up clinics which combine therapy and military drills for those experiencing “gaming disorders.” Nearsightedness in youth is also a rising concern. The publication suggests, “About 62.5 per cent of Chinese minors often play games online, and 13.2 per cent of underage mobile game users play mobile games for more than two hours a day on weekdays, according to state media. Chinese regulators have also targeted the private tutoring industry and what they see as celebrity worship in recent weeks, citing the need to ensure the wellbeing of children.”
To ensure companies abide by the new restrictions, they will be forced to ensure they have put real-name verification systems in place, the regulator, which oversees the country’s video games market, has said. The imposed restrictions also present a broad crackdown on China’s tech giants, with Chinese shares taking a beating. ABC reports that Tencent’s stock price closed down 0.6 per cent on Monday ahead of the regulator’s announcement.
Still, the National Press and Publication Administration also told Xinhua it planned to increase the frequency and intensity of inspections for online gaming companies. This would ensure they were putting in place time limits and anti-addiction systems, according to the regulator.