Over 200 Chinese gaming companies have pledged to regulate their industry to combat gaming addiction, including through the possible use of facial recognition to identify minors, a state-backed gaming association said on Friday, according to a report by Reuters.
The statement, published by the CGIGC gaming association, which is affiliated to the online game publishing regulator National Press and Publication (NPPA), on its official WeChat account, was signed by 213 companies including Tencent Holdings and NetEase.
China has expressed strong concern over growing video game addiction among its youth and the NPPA last month published new rules that forbid under-18s from playing video games for more than three hours a week, with some exceptions made during vacations. Share prices of leading gaming companies like Tencent fell after the rules were issued. The companies and investors worry more actions against the industry could be in store.
These steps are of a piece with an ongoing trend where the Chinese state has been trying to curb the rising number of minor gamers and their addiction to gaming. In 2018, regulators stopped issuing new licenses to gaming platforms for eight months, as India Today, among others, reported. The move led to sell-offs among investors.
In addition, the companies pledged to crack down on content that distort history or promote "effeminate" behaviour and will also work to prevent breaches of these rules, such as the use of foreign gaming platforms, the CGIGC said. Tencent in July rolled out a facial recognition function dubbed "midnight patrol" that parents can switch on to prevent children from using adult logins to get around the government curfew.
Video game addiction, especially among the Gen Z, is as much of a concern in India. According to a study published by the Indian Journal of Public Health last September, over half of the participants in a survey featuring students said they have been spending more time on gaming since the pandemic. The uptick has been also mentioned anecdotally by parents.
The Delhi High Court has urged the government to formulate regulatory policies to protect youngsters from gaming addiction. But it remains to be seen if China's neighbour is going to follow on its steps.