China Imposes Strictest Limits for Kids Playing Video Games to Three Hours Weekly

Photo: (Photo : Michael Owens/Getty Images)

Kids playing video games in China will only be allowed three hours of gameplay per week as the country's regulators have imposed a new limit.

According to the National Press and Publication Administration, children under 18 years old can only play online video games between 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, as well as on legal holidays. The administration said that they had imposed the move to safeguard the mental and physical health of the children.

This restriction is China's stringiest measure yet as the country tackles online gaming addiction among the youth. In June, a piece on the state-run news outlet Economic Information Daily underscored how the online gaming addiction of teens has been impacting their lives negatively.

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About 110 million kids under 18 years old play video games regularly. Previously, regulators also imposed a limit to kids' video gaming time to just 1.5 hours per day.

Providers Expected to Comply

Companies that provide video gaming services to minors are expected to comply with the new restricted hours. Alongside the strict gaming time, companies have also been ordered to make their services accessible to users who log onto the platforms using their real names.

While the limits will trigger a decline in online video gaming players, market research company Niko Partners analysts Daniel Ahmad said that the cuts would not impact gaming companies significantly. A spokesperson for Tencent, a very popular online gaming platform, said the company earns just a small percentage from young Chinese players.

However, Tencent said it supports the new rules and will implement the changes in its platform. In July, the company has adopted measures to use facial recognition to confirm if their users are minors. 

In a statement, Tencent said they have "explored and applied various new technologies and functions" since 2017 to ensure that kids playing video games on their platform do not develop an addiction or other health issues. Before the government restrictions, Tencent was also cutting the hours minors played on their platform, but this was not as stringent as the new rules.

Gamers Will Find a Way

However, esports firm Hexing Global's technical director, Warren Lee, told the South China Morning Post that this latest restriction would likely drive kids to foreign and unregulated platforms. He said that "gamers will find a way" to look outwards if the domestic environment is no longer viable.

The report also cited that international platforms are grey areas in China. Consumers may still access Steam, the biggest online gaming platform globally based in the U.S. 

Niko Partners, however, doesn't believe that this will be a problem since most of the gamers on this grey area market are adults. As of 2018, Steam has 30 million Chinese users.

Members of the China Gaming Federation, on the other hand, are still wary about the enforcement of the new restrictions as users can also subscribe to virtual private networks (VPNs). Some players have been accessing Tencent and NetEase using VPNs that log the users to international global servers, thus bypassing the Chinese restrictions.

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