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China games trade body calls for more restrictions on minors playing video games

Tencent pledges further measures in its games

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The semi-official trade body for China's games industry has said there should be more restrictions on the time and money spent on video games by young people.

The China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association held a two-day conference in Guangzhou on Monday, where secretary general Ao Ran said the industry should "further improve the level of protection and bolster [current] measures" based on what has been accomplished so far, according to the South China Morning Post.

Since August 2021, the Chinese government has been introducing a range of limitations to clamp down on minors' gaming habits out of concerns around 'addiction.' These include limiting play time for online games to three hours per week (one hour on Friday, Saturday and Sunday), monthly spending caps, and a ban on livestreaming for children under the age of 16.

These measures have certainly had an impact; by March 2022, Tencent – China's biggest games company – reported total playing time for minors was down 88% year-on-year, meaning young people accounted for 0.9% of time spent on the firm's domestic titles.

In November 2022, a China games industry group committee reported that 75% of young gamers played for less than three hours per week, claiming the issue of games addiction among minors had been solved.

"Minor protection is long-term and fundamental work," said Ao at this week's conference. "Our peers must resolutely implement the requirements of the regulators … and explore technical means, such as facial recognition."

He also notes that it is not just games companies who are responsible for protecting minors; parents must also contribute to these efforts.

Also at the conference, Tencent's Zheng Zhong – senior director for the company's division responsible for protecting minors – said the company would "continue to explore more innovative forms of protection for minors."

Over the past few years, Tencent has introduced measures to pre-empt government restrictions, including a "digital lock" that requires parental consent and limits to two hours of gameplay per day, as well as facial recognition checks to ensure children are not playing late at night.

While limitations on children playing games look set to increase, other restrictions seem to be easing. For example, following the latest nine-month freeze on approving games for release in the region, China has granted publishing licenses to 175 titles since the start of 2023.