Time and money are at the center of China’s latest move to curb the rise of gaming addiction.
New rules laid out by the State Administration of Press and Publications (SAPP) establish limitations on the amount of time a minor can spend playing video games daily, and how much money they can spend every month. The rules also strengthen a number of older policies and begin to establish an age rating system.
People under the age of 18 will now be limited to 90 minutes of playing time on weekdays and three hours on weekends and holidays, according to a report from the South China Morning Post. They’ll also have to squeeze that playtime in under a curfew, as minors won’t be allowed to play between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. every day.
Minors will also face new limitations on the money they can spend in online games. The actual number varies by age, but people between 8 and 16 are limited to spending no more than 200 RMB per month (roughly $29). Then, through age 18, that monthly limit rises to 400 RMB (roughly $57).
Minors were already limited to three hours of gaming each day, so the new 90-minute max that applies to weekdays amounts to a stricter version of an existing policy. The new rules also strengthen China’s real-name registration guidelines, the tool that makes any of this enforceable.
The SAPP is reportedly working with China’s Ministry of Public Security to establish a centralized ID system that gaming companies can make use of in order to stay compliant. Such a system would also give Chinese authorities the ability to hold industry interests accountable when they shirk their responsibilities.
The penalties can be quite serious, even fatal to business in a worst-case scenario. Earlier in 2019, China revoked a publisher’s license after the horror game Devotion, from the Taiwan-based studio Red Candle Games, was found to contain hidden imagery critical of President Xi Xinping. The move effectively removed Devotion from the global marketplace – you can’t buy it even now – and devastated the promising upward momentum arc of an up-and-coming creative team.
What happened with Devotion was obviously a different situation, stemming more from political concerns than public safety. But still, the actions taken against Red Candle and Devotion‘s publisher Indievent do serve as a demonstration of how much power the Chinese government wields when it comes to regulating the flow of entertainment content inside the country.
The particulars of the new age rating scale aren’t yet finalized, but the idea is for that entire framework to be a part of the centralized ID system. Companies that use the system to set daily limits on playtime will also be able to bar people from playing one game or another if they don’t meet that game’s age requirements.
The new effort is only the latest move in China’s long struggle to combat gaming addiction, and internet addiction more broadly. In addition to acknowledging and dealing with the threat of addiction head-on, there are also concerns in China over the risk games pose to eye health.
While it’s hard to argue with any effort aimed at addressing a public health issue, some believe that the new rules won’t actually accomplish much in a big picture sense. For one, some of the most worrisome reports out of China regarding game addiction tie to adults who wouldn’t be subject to the new guidelines.