The top gaming body in China claims to have ‘resolved’ concern about video gaming addiction among children and teenagers.

In August 2021 the Chinese media watchdog (the National Press and Publication Administration or NPPA) imposed tough new rules governing how much time children in that country could play video games.

It limited online gamers under the age of 18 from playing on weekdays, and restricted them to playing online to just three hours most weekends.

Gaming restrictions

This was at the time a significant escalation of the restrictions on the country’s massive gaming industry, as well as the country’s youngsters.

Prior to that, children in China had been restricted by the NPPA in 2019, to 90 minutes on weekdays and three hours on weekends.

Chinese officials justified the draconian restrictions, saying it would help prevent young people becoming addicted to video games. They also previously labelled video games as “spiritual opium”.

Concerns about the amount of children screen time had been heightened by repeated Covid lockdowns and the switch to online learning.

But now there are potential signs that Chinese authorities may be prepared to ease these restrictions, after research firm CNG alongside the China Game Industry Group Committee, which is affiliated with the gaming publishing regulator, published a report on Tuesday in which they praised the progress on reducing gaming addiction among people under the age of 18.

The CNG report on Tuesday said that 75 percent of minors play games for less than 3 hours a week, and the problem of minors’ game addiction has “achieved a step toward resolution,” according to a CNBC translation.

According to CNBC, the CNG report also singled out major Chinese gaming companies including Tencent and NetEase for their positive moves enforcing the protection of minors.

For example, both Tencent and NetEase reportedly use facial recognition to see whether the person playing the game is an adult.

And in a sign that China may be easing its gaming restrictions, regulators approved a batch of 70 new games for release. In China, video games need approval to be published and monetised.

Last year China paused game approvals in the summer and only began approving new games in April this year.

Observers say the move may be in response to winter’s approach in China, coupled with a surge in Covid cases in the country.

This means Chinese children are spending more time at home – and reportedly some parents have allowed them access to their accounts, in order to keep them entertained.

China restrictions

Clampdowns and restrictions in China are of course nothing new, and the country is famous for its online firewall and Internet restrictions.

In 2019 for example China enacted a law that requires individuals to have their faces scanned when purchasing a SIM card, to ensure mobile users could be identified.

The country also forced through a draconian security law in Hong Kong in 2020, which the British government said violated its Joint Declaration agreement between the two countries.

That law banned any activity Beijing deems to constitute sedition, secession and subversion, and allowed Chinese state security to operate in the territory.

Last year China also approved sweeping new rules that to govern the collection and use of people’s personal data going forward. Essentially this law prohibits “illegally collecting, using, processing, transmitting, disclosing and trading people’s personal information.”

China has also clamped down on private enterprises and companies in the country, which has impacted some of the country’s public figures.

China’s central bank in 2021 urged banks and payment firms to crack down harder on cryptocurrency trading.

This was part of China’s ongoing crackdown on the banking and crypto-mining industry.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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