Wednesday, October 27, 2021

“Every Day Is Doomsday”: New Limits Give Chinese E-Gamers Whiplash

by Paul Mozur and Elsie Chenow, The New York Times Company

China’s video game industry is booming. But it certainly doesn’t seem so to Stone Xi, a game designer in China.

Xi, 27, got his first job in 2018, when Beijing temporarily suspended sanctions for new games. The next year, the government imposed new limits on the playing time of minors. A few weeks ago, the rules became even stricter. Those under the age of 18 can now play for only three hours a week during scheduled times on weekends.

“We never hear any good news about the gaming industry,” Xi said. “We have this joke: ‘Every time this happens, people say it’s doomsday for the video game industry,’ so we say, ‘Every day is doomsday.'”

This is a bit of an exaggeration. Xi remains employed, and millions of Chinese continue to play the game every day. Minors still find their way around government blocks. Chinese tech companies like Tencent are the cornerstone of the global gaming industry. The country is also looking forward to adopting competitive gaming, building an esports stadium and enabling college students to become prominent in the subject.

Yet China’s relationship with sports is certainly complicated. A major source of entertainment in the country, sport provides a social outlet and an easily accessible hobby in a country where rapid economic growth has disrupted social networks and long hours. For example, the multiplayer mobile game “Honor of Kings” has over 100 million players a day.

For years, however, officials — and many parents — have worried about potential downsides like addiction and distraction. As a more patriarchal government led by Chinese leader Xi Jinping has turned to direct intervention to mold the way people live and what they do for entertainment, gaining control of video games is on the priority list. has been high. Among other activities, like celebrity fan clubs, Xi’s government increasingly regards sports as an exorbitant distraction – and at worst, a social disease that threatens the cultural and moral guidance of the Chinese Communist Party.

On social media, gamers created a ruckus about the latest rules. Some have pointed out that the age of sexual consent, at age 14, is now four years below the age at which people can play without limits. Even though minors represent a small portion of Chinese video gaming revenue, shares of game companies have declined on concerns about the long-term impact on gaming culture.

Xi said that despite the anger, gamers and the industry are becoming accustomed to the government’s demands. For most adults, the new restrictions have little effect. For companies, this is simply another barrier to entering a lucrative industry.

Many in China’s gaming industry agree that games have some drawbacks. The most popular games in the country are built for smartphones and are free to play, meaning businesses live and die for them, depending on how well they attract users and get them to pay extra. We do. Game makers have become adept at hooking players.

But top-down efforts to wean children away from sports – which state media have called “poison” and “spiritual pollution” – are sometimes worse than the problem. Boot camps fond of military discipline have proliferated. So are the abuses in the Chinese media such as abuse, beatings, electroconvulsive therapy and solitary confinement.

Nation World News Desk
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