China has forbidden under-18s from playing video games for more than three hours a week, a stringent social intervention that it said was needed to pull the plug on a growing addiction to what it once described as “spiritual opium,” Reuters reported.
As per the new rule, under-18s will be playing for one hour a day – 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. – on only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, according to the Xinhua state news agency. They can also play for an hour, at the same time, on public holidays.
No online gaming companies would provide gaming services to minors outside those hours and need to ensure they had put real name verification systems in place, said the regulator.
The National Press and Publication Administration also told Xinhua that the inspections for online gaming companies would further be increased to ensure the deployment of time limits and anti-addiction systems.
The regulator said that “the purpose of the new rules was to protect the physical and mental health of minors effectively. It urged Chinese gaming companies to “always prioritise the social good and actively respond to societal concerns”.
“Beijing’s crackdowns on the gaming industry have been fairly consistent about protecting minors. Historically, the authorities have always had the intention to curb exposure from what they perceive to be a highly addictive habit,” said Rui Ma, a US-based China tech analyst. “It wouldn’t surprise me if there were further regulations in the months to come to protect minors from other harmful activities on the internet.”
The rules from the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) regulator overlap with a broader shutdown by Beijing against China’s tech giants, such as Alibaba Group (9988.HK) and Tencent Holdings (0700.HK).
China’s authorities have had a long history of intervening in the country’s booming online gaming industry. In 2018, regulators halted the issuance of video game licences for more than eight months, triggering sell-off among investors of Chinese companies that provide such services.
For a long time, the Chinese authorities have been concerned about gaming addiction and other harmful online activities among youth. The state media in recent months have been highlighting concerns of “gaming addiction” among parents. Some Chinese parents appreciate the effort, while others criticise the government over social media as being unreasonable and arbitrary. However, it might be a disappointing summer end for China’s millions of young gamers.
Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.