China Limits Online Gaming Hours

The Chinese government will begin regulating the number of hours that minors spend playing online games starting April 15. The new law requires national game providers to install anti-addiction software that warns under-18 gamers when they have played longer than three hours a day, what the government considers a “healthy” level.

Gamers that continue to play above the three-hour mark will only receive half the normal points up to five hours. After the five-hour mark, players receive zero points in addition to an annoying message every 15 minutes that reads: “You have entered unhealthy game time, please go offline immediately to rest. If you do not, your health will be damaged and your points will be cut to zero.”

Keeping in mind I’m no World Of Warcraft player, the “three hours a day will keep the doctor away” system seems generous, especially for youngsters. My democratic roots from an American upbringing, however, take issue with the whole government mandate thing. It just doesn’t feel right.

Still, even here we regulate unhealthy drug use including alcohol levels and prohibition of cigarettes and booze from minors; something video games have been likened to, however justified. Therefore, the question largely remains whether or not game addiction significantly damages an individual’s health beyond repair like that of addictive narcotics. But of course, where do you draw the line (e.g. incessant TV watching)?

While a bummer for kids trying to level up in a short amount of time, how will the “game fatigue system” affect Chinese adults? “The system will only target minors who lack the self-discipline to control their playing time,” said state official Kou Xiaowei in the China Daily report linked above. But the new rule requires that every online player, regardless of age, register using their real identity; something that could negatively affect the bottom line of game makers in the country. “This will scare away many adult and young users,” said analyst Liu Bin of BDA China, also in the Daily report.

So will the “anti-online game addiction system” work? Maybe a little. Official statistics show that more than 85% of online Chinese gamers are over the age of 18. You gotta believe a large number of them are playing more than three hours a day. So perhaps even adults “lack the self-discipline to control their playing time.” Start ’em young, I guess.