In a dystopian style episode of control, the Chinese government has moved to impose a curfew on underage gamers. Under the new law, anyone younger than 18 will be banned from online video game play between 10:00 p.m and 8:00 a.m. Underage gamers will also suffer a limit of 90 minutes of gaming on weekdays and three hours on weekends, per a BBC report.
The news came as somewhat of a shock for the country that is the second-largest gaming market in the world. Nonetheless, China’s Communist government is stepping in to address video game addiction and the negative health effects it causes.
The Chinese government’s dislike of video games is nothing new. In 2018, it established a gaming regulator to oversee the country’s increasing number of children with near-sightedness related to excessive screen time. It also halted approvals of all new video games for a nine-month period.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization listed addiction to video games on its list of mental health conditions under the name “gaming disorder.”
Though that might sound ridiculous, excessive gaming is becoming a public health issue in China and around the world. Although the Esports industry is booming thanks to increased interest in online games, the health of many players is at risk.
Now, the new Chinese curfew will attempt to stop the problem in its tracks. Along with its strict time regulations, the law limits underage players from spending money on in-game purchases. Those 16 and under can spend a maximum of $29 per month and gamers 16- to 18-years-old can spend twice that, $58 a month.
A Step Too Far?
While it appears that the move to limit underage gamers has good intentions behind it, many are concerned that the Chinese government is taking things a step too far. Even though the laws apply to children, such strict curfews are always a slippery slope. Perhaps that’s why they are a staple of dystopian literature and film.
After all, what would stand in the way of the government expanding the regulations to players of all ages? What if it was applied to the usage of the general Internet rather than just online gaming?
Infringing on the autonomy of citizens is nothing new for Communist governments. However, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen such a blatant ban put into place.
Meanwhile, many worry that the move will hurt the gaming industry. China falls second to the United States as the biggest video game economy in the world. If players are hindered from accessing games, that could soon show up in the bottom line of developers worldwide.
For young Chinese gamers, it’s a sad day. For the rest of us, it’s time to keep an eye on this regulation that has the potential to reshape the video game industry.