As an unusual example of state regulation and government involvement in the personal lives of citizens, the Chinese government has implemented the strictest registrations yet to limit the online game time of children and adolescents. The government claimed that minors under the age of 18 are becoming addicted to online games, which it refers to as “spiritual opium.” The social intervention by the government would disastrously affect the fortunes of China’s major gaming companies, whose stock prices have all dropped significantly since the restrictions were announced and made.
According to the rules to limit game time, minors are only allowed three hours a week with one hour on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The gaming can also only occur from 8 pm to 9 pm on those three days. A real-name verification system will enforce these restrictions. Regulators also stated that parents and teachers must do all they can to curb game addiction. However, online comments from users on Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo hint that the government will not be able to enforce the regulations adequately. Users commented that minors could easily use their parents’ logins to play games anytime and for however long they wanted to.
According to state-run media, about 62.5% of Chinese minors often play online games, and 13.2% of minor mobile game users play games for more than two hours a day on weekdays. The Chinese government argued that young people are “still in the stage of physical and mental development with relatively weak self-control.” Furthermore, the restriction of video games would guide minors to “active participation in physical exercise, social activities, and a variety of colorful, healthy and beneficial leisure activities.”
The Chinese online gaming market is the largest globally, with sales estimated to be over $45 billion in 2021. Major gaming companies have yet to comment on these gaming restrictions for minors as they know that any negative comment towards the government will cause significant consequences. The companies will have no choice in the matter. Government regulators will monitor them to make sure that they are enforcing their legal name verification systems and keeping the time limits.
Even if the government comes forward and restricts the hobbies of minors, it cannot prevent all of them and all the problems. The adolescents would create new accounts using the names of their parents or grandparents. There could also be black-market businesses that create fake accounts under the names of adults and sell them to minors, creating a more significant social issue.