If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Researchers find China's game time limits ineffective in reducing excessive play

"No evidence" that restrictions on minors had any impact in cutting down on heavy gaming

China has imposed strict game time limitations for minors partly out of concern they could develop addictions, but a new paper published in Nature Human Behavior found no evidence that the rules have had any impact on excessive gaming at all.

The researchers partnered with Unity to examine more than 7 billion hours of playtime and around 2.4 billion Chinese gamer profiles from mid-August of 2019 to mid-January of 2020, a span of time that includes the imposition of an hour-and-a-half daily playtime limit for minors, or three hours on holidays.

"Heavy" gaming was defined as an individual playing for four or more hours a day, six or more days per week.

The researchers "found no credible evidence for overall reduction in the prevalence of heavy playtime following the implementation of regulations."

In fact, they found players were slightly more likely to engage in heavy gaming after the regulations went into effect, but the gain was not enough to be considered statistically meaningful.

"The work presented provides a case study for understanding how a government’s policy decisions affect - or do not affect - the lives of real people on a grand scale, and forms a blueprint for future data-led public policy," said the study's lead researcher, Dr. David Zendle of the University of York.

"It is now possible to tractably analyze billions of hours of direct digital behavioral data. This can lead to better and more effective policymaking. Governments, industry stakeholders, and academics should rise to this challenge."

Leon Y. Xiao from the IT University of Copenhagen was one of the co-authors on the paper. Ineffective gaming regulations is something of a theme for Xiao's research, which has previously found China's loot box disclosure laws being ignored, Belgium's ban on loot boxes going unenforced, and PEGI and ESRB loot box labels being inconsistently applied.

A Niko Partners study last year did not address heavy gaming specifically, but did find that most minors in China were complying with tightened restrictions on gaming hours.

Topics in this article

Follow topics and we'll email you when we publish something new about them.  Manage your notification settings.

Brendan Sinclair avatar

Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.