China Imposes 3 Hour Limit on Video Gaming; Requires Facial Scans

by: Katie McAuliffe

Continuing its crack down on tech companies, China’s video game regulator released new rules today that limit video game screen time of children and teenagers to three hours a week under the guise of combating a supposed rising trend of video game addiction. 

The draconian top down restrictions on individual lives in their own homes and choices on how to spend their free time is alarming, but the methods of enforcement are even more so. In addition to a name verification system, it seems there will also be facial scans of minors logging in to play games as a further step to limit access to gaming. During COVID-19 we’ve seen an uptick in gaming as a method for people to play “apart together” and stay in contact with friends they cannot see in person, which has been particularly harmful to school aged children.

Video game usage by those under 18 is not just confined to traditional console games like Mario Kart, Call of Duty, Fortnite, or World of War Craft. Educational games like Minecraft, Words with Friends, Duolingo, or Oregon Trail are hugely popular as well. And educational gaming communities saw a huge rise in popularity during COVID-19 because of a rising need for education, entertainment and connection.

But In China, beginning September 1st, children and teenagers will only be able play video games from 8:00pm to 9:00pm Friday through Sunday according to rules released by China’s National Press and Publication Administration. 

Gaming companies will be prohibited serving consumers outside of the approved hours. The rules will be enforcement through China’s new real name verification system that launched last year requiring all users to enroll in a state-run authentication system. 

In addition to the real name verification system, face scans will also be required to ensure the identity of the player where previously children have thwarted the existing system through identity theft

These rules are part of a series of recent efforts by China to restrict the technology sector where in July it passed a sweeping data privacy law. China’s efforts to reign in its tech sector come in many forms, privacy, gaming addiction, antitrust, but in the end it seems it these are not the real goals. Taken together it is about government control. When the government requires control of all data, including facial scans of minors, other motives are most certainly at play.

Photo Credit: Lianhao Qu