China to Limit Online Gaming Time for Minors
The biggest gaming market in the world is making changes that will limit the length of time and amount of money that minors can spend on their favourite online games. China announced new guidelines that they believe will “[protect] the physical and mental health of minors.”
Under the new rules, minors will have a curfew during which they will not be able to play games online. Between 10 PM and 8 AM, minors will not be able to play online. There are also restrictions on the length of play time. Weekdays see gaming time capped at 90 minutes for the day while weekends and holidays have the limit doubled to three hours.
In an interesting move, the Chinese government has also capped monthly spending on these games. Gamers between from the age of eight up to sixteen can spend up to ¥200 ($29 USD) per month while those from 16 to 18 can spend ¥400 ($57 USD) per month. Market research shows that is the largest gaming market in the world with annual spending in the neighbourhood of $38 billion.
This isn’t the first move that China has made in the name of the well-being of gaming children. Last year, China announced plans to limit the number of new online games released. Alongside that announcement, they announced a plan to limit the time children spent playing games which would seem to have been executed in these newly announced guidelines. The country’s Education Ministry said that they were trying to reduce nearsightedness in youth. As an aside, I floated this by my optometrist a couple of years ago and he didn’t agree that staring at screens all day did anything but harm my ability to quickly change focus between distances. So unless a recent, irrefutable study was released in the last couple of years, I suppose he would still think that China is overreacting.
It’s also interesting to see China’s approach to growing concerns over addiction to video games and excessive spending on games. Stories of video game addiction aren’t as prominent as those about massive spending on games but stories about both have surfaced over recent years.
Stories of video game addiction aren’t as commonly reported and more anecdotal in nature. In Canada, there were stories over the last year about hockey players being addicted to gaming, specifically Fortnite, and its impact on play. Last year, the World Health Organization recognized Gaming Disorder, when someone prioritizes gaming over other interests and activities despite negative consequences, as a new health condition.
You will regularly see stories of families devastated by children spending on in-game microtransactions to the tune of thousands of dollars. Hypothetically, China’s new regulations would curb both behaviours and therefore could be of interest to regulators abroad.
China and video games have been in the news prominently of late as a result of Blizzard’s ban of players and broadcasters for pro-Hong Kong statements during esports events and questions over censorship of League of Legends team Hong Kong Attitude’s team name at the World Championship. It’s probably not coincidental that both Activision Blizzard and Riot Games are owned in part by Chinese company Tencent.