Recently, the Chinese government limited minors under the age of 18 to just three hours of playing video games weekly as it cracks down on video game addiction among the youth. Gaming platforms such as Tencent and NetEase can only let minors play online games from 8-9 p.m. on Fridays, weekends and public holidays, as state-run news agency Xinhua gathered from a notice by the National Press and Public Administration (NPPA).
The NPPA also told Xinhua that it would ramp up the frequency and intensity of inspections for online gaming companies in order to enforce the time limit and other anti-addiction systems. The new policy is stricter than a rule introduced in 2019 that restricted minors to 1.5 hours of gaming on any day and three hours on holidays.
On 3 August 2021, Economic Information Daily — a newspaper associated with Xinhua — referred to online gaming as "spiritual opium", singling out the popular Tencent game "Honor of Kings" as a part of the problem. As a result, Tencent announced plans to reduce the amount of time and money children dedicate to online games. Martin Lau, President of Tencent, stated that he is cooperating with Chinese regulators to find ways to restrict gaming time across titles from different gaming platforms.
"If we can actually find a way to regulate the total amount of time that is spent across different games, that would address the problem. From the practicality perspective, it is actually doable," said Lau.
Tencent — China's largest social media and video game company — recorded a stock collapse of more than 10% in early trade after the newspaper's comment surfaced, slashing nearly US$60 billion (approximately S$80.67 billion) from its market capitalisation.
Tencent's stock loss was minimised after the Economic Information Daily article was removed from the media outlet's website and WeChat account. The article was then reposted with a shift in tone as the term "spiritual opium" was removed. The revised story stated that authorities, game developers and parents must work together to fight online video game addiction among children.
Written by Sophia Lopez
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