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Did China really ban video games?

China greatly restricted the right of legal minors to play video games in August 2021 by allowing them to play for only three hours on typical weekends. While this policy doesn’t literally ban video gaming, it further tightens existing restrictions for video gaming by minors.

Overview

No one under the age of 18 can play video games at all from Monday through Thursday in China. They can only play for one hour from 8 pm to 9 pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays. The previous policy was set in 2019, which limited play by minors to 90 minutes on weekdays and three hours on weekends.

The Chinese government has stated that the purpose of the policy is to prevent children from becoming addicted to video games. It also indicated that it timed the implementation of the new policy to coincide with the beginning of the new school year. A government spokesperson added that the restrictions were in response to complaints from parents, who felt their children’s studies had been severely impaired by online gaming.

Private Enterprise

China also clamped down on private enterprise in 2021, especially the tech sector. Most recently, it has expanded these restrictions to other industries like private education. Analysts expect gaming giants in China like NetEase and Tencent to experience minimal impact, as the great majority of their customers are adults. However, the new policies are likely to curtail the growth of the gaming industry in that country.

Registration

China has previously implemented a registration system requiring online gamers to register under their real name. In addition, the policy change in August clarifies that online gaming platforms can’t provide their services to anyone who hasn’t registered for the services under their real name. Tencent also stated that it has been working on technologies to comply with these requirements since 2017, adding that a relatively small portion of its revenue comes from minors. In particular, only 2.6 percent of the company’s gross receipts are from players under the age of 16.

Martin Lau, Tencent’s president, stated that his company was preparing for additional regulations on online gaming. His company has already placed limits on its platforms that would limit the time minors could spend playing games like "Honor of Kings." For example, the current restrictions limit play by minors to two hours on holidays and one hour on other days.

Criticism

Many users have sharply criticized the latest policies on Chinese social media, arguing that they’re too strict. Others have said the restrictions are overly broad because they apply to all minors, regardless of age. In addition, gamers have complained that the policies will prevent them from remaining competitive in professional gaming, which is quickly becoming a lucrative career in other countries.