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The problem of video gaming addiction by minors on the mainland is “basically solved”, according to a report from the government-backed China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Chinese industry body declares initial victory in reducing video game addiction among minors, raising hopes for eased regulation

  • More than 75 per cent of gamers under 18 have capped their playing time to three hours a week, according to China’s video gaming industry association
  • That result comes more than a year after China’s video gaming regulator imposed strict restrictions on playing time
Video gaming
China’s semi-official gaming industry association has declared an initial victory in reducing video game addiction among minors after more than a year of restricting their playing time, a development that could help convince Beijing to ease up on the industry.

More than 75 per cent of gamers aged under 18 have limited their playing time to three hours a week, according to a report published on Tuesday by the game publishing committee of the government-backed China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association.

That result showed how the “gaming addiction problem” of minors in the country has been “basically solved”, the report said.

Industry watchdog the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), which is also in charge of licensing video games in the country, implemented from August last year the country’s strictest measure to combat gaming addiction among teenagers. It limits gaming time for players under 18 to between 8pm and 9pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays.

More than 85 per cent of the undetermined “thousands” of parents surveyed in the report – co-authored by the committee, the Gaming Industry Research Institute of China and market research firm CNG – said they approved of their children playing video games under supervision. About 72 per cent of these respondents said video gaming did not affect their children’s studies at school and daily life, according to the report.

The survey also found that more than 15 per cent of parents said their kids secretly topped up their online gaming account, but the proportion was down from 28.6 per cent last year.

The report’s optimistic conclusion offers some hope for China’s video gaming market to rebound from its current downturn, which came in the aftermath of the kids’ gaming time restrictions, tightened game licence approvals and content censorship.

Total sales in the Chinese video gaming market, which remains the world’s largest, declined to 59.7 billion yuan (US$8.3 billion) in the quarter ended September, down 19.1 per cent from 73.8 billion yuan in the same period last year, according to CNG data.

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Beijing stepped up its scrutiny of the sector last year after a newspaper, affiliated with China’s Xinhua News Agency, published an article that labelled online gaming a “spiritual opium” and singled out Tencent Holdings as the main source of the problem. Shenzhen-based Tencent operates the world’s largest video gaming business by revenue.
Despite that criticism, China’s video gaming operators had already rolled out features, including facial recognition, to ascertain when minors were playing their games. Tencent, for example, created a calendar for the four-week winter break earlier this year to instantly remind subscribers under 18 to limit their playing time.
The report comes on the heels of the NPPA’s recent granting of 70 new video game licences last week, the second highest number in 2022 behind the 73 issued in September. The regulator did not grant any new licences in October.
Speculation about a potential thaw in Beijing’s industry crackdown started earlier this month when the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, published an opinion article that described video games as an industry of “great significance to the country’s industrial layout and technological innovation”.

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While it concluded that video gaming addiction was now under control, the report drew attention to another segment of the country’s online services market. It said 65 per cent of minors turn to short video services to kill time.

Still, short video platforms operated by Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, and rival Kuaishou Technology have both adopted a “youth mode” feature since 2019, requiring identification check and parental control. Kids are also barred from browsing between 10pm and 6am, while parents are able to set up online tipping limits.