China is taking steps to curb online gaming addiction by ordering arcades and computer cafes to deny access to minors outside public holidays.
From January 2020, entertainment businesses should not allow minors to log on, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday.
“(This will) promote the healthy development of the industry and meet the growing needs of the people for a better life,” the statement said.
Enterprises that create gaming equipment are encouraged to tap into China’s “traditional culture” and “actively promote the core socialist values,” the statement added.
Sun Lei, a senior consultant at Beijing’s TA law firm, said a ban was already in place but it had rarely been enforced. He saw the announcement as a warning by Beijing that it is serious about addressing the problem.
“It is certainly a part of re-emphasis of the government on gaming addiction,” he said. “But whether it will be effective is still unclear.”
In recent years, the Chinese government has sought to reverse what it sees as a growing trend of gaming addiction in people under 18. Earlier in November, it announced a curfew, banning gamers whose registered age is under 18 from playing online between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m..
On weekdays, minors are only allowed to play up to 90 minutes, and up to three hours during weekends and holidays.
Sun said it was not clear whether the law could be enforced, given the number of machines that would have to be monitored.
“Even claw machines could come into the ‘banned machines’ category. But how can the machine operators supervise their huge amounts of machines all over the country and make sure no kids will play them?” he said.
World’s largest gaming market
China is the world’s largest gaming market, worth tens of billions of dollars and accounting for a quarter of global revenue, according to market research firm Newzoo.
Young people gather to play games – either in groups or alone – at hundreds of computer cafes across China’s major cities.
Last year, a survey by China’s Ministry of Education found that about 18% of the country’s young people were “at risk” of developing a video game addiction.
However, there is no official data on the prevalence of gaming addiction among internet users in China, according to state-run media.
The rules on minors in gaming centers is the latest in a series of government measures to address gaming addiction.
In 2018, Beijing said it would limit the number of new online games to “reduce nearsightedness in children and adolescents.”
The government has already implemented a registration system which would require people who play computer games to do so under their real names, allowing companies to check up on them.
CNN’s Jared Peng contributed to this article.