Facial Recognition, Image blurring and Time Restrictions - How China is Fighting Gaming Addiction in Minors
The ease of accessibility to games, especially on mobile platforms has raised concerns of gaming addiction in the last year or so. Horror stories involving children, running away from home, stealing and resorting to violence to get their gaming fix has struck fear in the hearts of parents and guardians. While these cases are the exception and not the norm, they certainly are concerning and need to be addressed.
China is already taking steps to curb videogaming addiction in minors using modern technology to address this problem. Tencent’s MOBA title , Honor of Kings (also known as Arena of Valor outside China) was the first title to test out a facial recognition system to detect minors. The move came after the Chinese government expressed concerns that these games were hurting public health. Tencent’s technology aimed to cross reference the images captured via facial recognition with public databases in order to have stricter control over minors.
Additionally a sudden increase in the number of myopia cases in China was also attributed to the popularity of video games and Tencent added a feature that blurred the screen when players got too close.
In a much more recent timeline, China’s state media has released new rules to curb addiction by introducing stricter registration systems and a new age rating system. The SAPP or the State Administration of Press and Publications also added guidelines which include limiting the number of gaming hours to 1.5 per day and restricting it between 8 am and 10 pm. For holidays, 3 hours of game time was decided and on top of all this, 400 yuan or 57 USD was set as the limit for maximum amount of money that could be spent in a game per month.
While these rules and guidelines haven’t come into full effect, SAPP has said that it is working with the Ministry of Public Security to build a central personal identification system for gaming companies so that they can verify and identify the ages of users. Companies who don’t adhere to these new rules will face penalties which may include the loss of publishing licenses in extreme cases.
However, the immediate concern with these new guidelines is the loss of personal freedom and the invasion of privacy with facial recognition. But considering what China’s views on these issues have been in the past, it doesn’t seem as if the move will be seen as out of the ordinary.