China's New Youth Online Gaming Restrictions Birth Underground Workaround Industry To Defeat It
from the oops dept
It will not be controversial to say that China has always been one of the leaders in the war on the internet and culture alike. Between the Great Firewall of China at the macro level, the almost hilariously Orwellian tactics like forbidding certain karaoke songs, and the full destruction of democracy in Hong Kong, it’s clear that Beijing values control over everything else.
But control isn’t always so easy to implement. Take China’s restrictive new regulation on online gaming among youths, for instance. These rules, implemented in order to combat “video game addiction” for minors, limit online gaming Friday through Sunday and on national holidays to 1 hour a day, 8pm to 9pm. This is achieved by forcing the gaming companies to implement a “real name” account policy. Gamers have to create an account utilizing their real names, which are checked for user age, in order to get into the online games.
Well, you probably already know where this is going. The new rule has given rise to an underground industry for renting gaming accounts that are registered to adults. Adults can also just let their children use their accounts, also defeating the check. In other words, this has all become somewhat pointless.
‘Complying with the new rule isn’t technically difficult because it’s just a matter of writing new [Software Development Kit] codes,’ Zhu told Kotaku. ‘[SDKs are] integrated as part of the login process. What happens is that when new players log in, they are asked to enter their ID number which then verifies their age. Every gamer needs to log in with their real names…[and] every [domestic] game that legally operates in China is required to have that function.’
According to Niko Partners’ [Daniel] Ahmad, parents aren’t barred from giving their unrestricted adult accounts to their children, and there’s a large gray market for adult gaming accounts. If an underage player wanted to, they could circumvent the new restrictions
And they are! Nobody can say for sure how much of this is occurring, but if the lawsuits are flying about you can bet that it is some significant number. And, considering that one of the methods for defeating the restriction is for parents to simply let their kids use parental accounts, this all seems really silly. After all, it should be obvious that the main thrust for China putting these rules in place is some version of Beijing wanting to parent children, only to have those rules defeated by parents and children.
So, does China admit defeat and rescind or rework the new rules? Of course not!
This summer, Tencent rolled out a time-sensitive facial recognition system for sixty games, including Honor of Kings. Dubbed “Midnight Patrol,” it aims to prevent tricksy youngsters from posing as grown-ups between 10pm and 8am. “We will conduct a face screening for accounts registered with real names and that have played for a certain period of time at night,” Tencent Games said at the time (via Sixth Tone). “Anyone who refuses or fails the face verification will be treated as a minor, and as outlined in the anti-addiction supervision of Tencent’s game health system, and kicked offline.”
And you can bet that the facial recognition piece of this will be defeated, too. That is how this sort of thing tends to go, after all. This is something akin to the famous John Gilmore quote that the internet sees censorship as damage and routes around it.
Game on, Chinese youth!