Restrictions on Video Games in China

by | Nov 16, 2018 | Blog

Last week, China announced that it will strictly limit online playtime for gamers under 18 by using the country’s citizen database for player verification. In other words, China is attempting to use identity checks and age restrictions to regulate youth video game usage.

Tencent Holdings Ltd., the largest gaming and social media company in the world, is working to implement these regulations on their products by 2019. This Chinese based company’s mission is to “improve the quality of life through internet value-added services.” Although they are not widely recognized in the U.S., Tencent has produced platforms, such as Tencent Games, QQ, and WeChat, that are ubiquitous in China.

China has a long history with video game addiction—popularly referred to as “electronic heroin.” In 2008, China was the first country to formally classify internet addiction as a clinical disorder. In March 2018, China banned the release of new video games in the country.  

I talked to my friend Judy Jiang, who grew up in China, about her experience with screen time. “Video game addiction was the biggest topic in my health class in elementary school. Adults showed us news about adolescents who died from playing too much video games. I think that during those years, adults were trying to scare us, but also emphasize the seriousness of screen addiction.” My elementary school health class was also my physical education class. Thus, I learned about nutrition and exercise rather than screen time.

However, Judy admitted that discussion on the consequences of technology has decreased in recent years. “Now—maybe because the prevalence of smartphones, laptops, and other devices—people no longer talk about it. Now, everyone is addicted.”

I think this is true around the world: people recognize screen time as a difficult issue, but screens are so widely used that the benefits are highlighted more than the consequences. Technology lets us do amazing things, but we have to put down our phones and start interacting with the outside world.

There are many great organizations and companies working to combat the challenge of screen time, but China’s example is the first time a national government is getting involved. This situation seems like it is far away from the United States. But to me, China addressing video game addiction with one of its biggest tech companies shows that screen time is a significant global challenge and gives me hope for a solution in the future.


Additional Information

“Video game addiction has sparked a culture war in China” by Business Insider:

“Game Changer: Tencent to Limit Playing Time, Verify IDs of Young Chinese” by Wall Street Journal:

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