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China slams esports and gaming as 'electronic drugs'

The new restrictions will stop children under the ages of 12 from spending money in games

China has labelled esports and gaming as “opium for the mind” to children, forcing gaming companies like Tencent to scrambling to introduce new measures to protect minors.

State-owned news outlet Xinhua compared digital games with “electronic drugs” and called for more restrictions on the industry to prevent “widespread” addiction among children, in an article in Economic Information Daily, a publication it owns.

The article called out Tencent’s flagship game Honor of Kings, one of the world’s most popular games.

“No industry, no sport, can be allowed to develop in a way that will destroy a generation. Society has come to recognise the harm caused by online gaming and it is often referred to as ‘opium for the mind’ or ‘electronic drugs’”, wrote the Economic Information Daily.

It quoted parents claiming their children played the game for seven hours a day, skipping breakfast to buy games, which saw their grades dropped.

A separate opinion piece on esports and gaming by the China News Service on its Weibo account was published later and called for “schools, games developers, parents and other parties to work together”.

What are Tencent’s new measures?

  • While the Economic Information Daily’s article was later pulled, Tencent announced new measures after noting “relevant authorities” had requested greater protection of minors in gaming and for firms to carry out their “societal responsibility.

  • The new restrictions, which will initially apply only to Honor of Kings, will stop children under the ages of 12 from spending money on the game and further reduce the duration they can play each day from 1.5 hours to one hour normally, and from three hours to two hours on holidays.

  • Tencent previously proposed for the entire industry to consider including a ban on gaming for children under 12. It has already enacted some protections for younger players, including a facial recognition feature on smartphones, to ensure that a gamer is an adult.

Why does this matter?

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