Will China’s teen gaming ban kill their esports industry?

China has long since been a force to reckon with in the esports world, with plenty of talented young players mixing up the international circuits – not to mention, of course, the dedicated Chinese leagues filled with just as many esports pros and semi-pros.

Then, it happened – China imposed an incredibly bizarre almost-ban on teenage gaming. Not teenage gambling (that was illegal already) but teenage gaming. Anyone under the age of 18 can only play video games 3 hours per week – as if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, it’s not even the hours of their choosing, but rather an hour each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 8pm to 9pm.

A strange rule

That’s right, those meagre 3 hours aren’t even variable based on schedule, so someone who has an early bedtime might not get to play at all! Naturally, this move sparked tons of international ridicule and confusion, and called into question China’s usual dedication to supporting esports and gaming in the country.

China’s teen gaming ban

Where previously the Chinese government has been supportive of the industry, sponsoring and hosting tournaments, allowing esports uni courses, and so on, they now effectively ended teenage gaming. To enforce these bizarre rules, the government summoned Tencent and NetEase, the two companies who control just about all digital media not run by the state.

This new measure is an extension of the 2018 identification-requirement – kids need to provide actual ID to be able to log into online games. A year later in 2019, the hours kids could play per day was limited to 1.5 – of course, even that was generous compared to the current rules.


Criticism and consequences

Naturally, criticism from affected groups was harsh – teenager showed themselves extremely upset on Weibo, criticizing both the rules and the gleeful reactions some parents and adults had. “For all the adult gamers, don’t jeer at minors too hard now, because who knows if there will be a policy someday that requires you to prove that you have a spouse and at least three kids before being allowed to log into your games.” Was a Weibo post by one teenager.

As for esports – rightfully, people are concerned. Usually, esports fans that become players have been playing and training for years – this is now impossible, what with under-18s being unable to really prep for a potential pro career, or participate even in amateur tournaments unless they take place at 8pm on a weekend.

Some users are also concerned that because of that, interest in esports could also wane in general – this move is likely to decrease the abilities and skills of incoming esports generations… or if it doesn’t, it could potentially significantly worsen the conditions under which incoming esports pros train in order to ‘make up’ for lost time as it were, with harder conditions, longer training times and even more stress.

Then there is yet another angle to consider – crime! Naturally, not all kids will stick to the rules, nor will all parents enforce them. Kids could play on a parents account, buy a fake ID, or use a VPN to play internationally, and so on.

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Mel Hawthorne

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