Gaming Prohibition: China Will Ban Gamers under 18 after 10 P.M.

The drastic measure is being taken to tackle a growing concern over gaming addiction.
Chris Young

Last year, the World Health Organization officially classified 'gaming addiction' as a mental health condition.

Now, in a bid to tackle the issue, China has set a gaming curfew for individuals under the age of 18.

The measure constitutes another step in China's strict control over its population's online behavior and comes amidst uncertainty over the WHO's classification of gaming addiction as a disorder.


China's gaming plan

China is tackling gaming addiction by setting a curfew for younger players and capping their playing time to 90 minutes.

As Business Insider reports, China General Administration of Press and Publication released the new set of six guidelines this week, referred to as the "Notice on Preventing Minors from Indulging in Online Games."

The notice states that users under the age of 18 will be banned from playing between the times of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. Their gaming will also be capped to 90 minutes daily on weekdays. 

On weekends and public holidays, that cap will be doubled to 180 minutes.

The notice also caps the amount of money that can be spent by minors on in-game purchases. Children aged eight to 16 can spend $29 (200 yuan) per month, whereas 16 to 18-year-olds can spend double that amount.

The directive also points out that individuals will be asked to create online gaming accounts that will help the government keep track of their gaming time.

Is gaming the real root of the problem?

Shortly after last year's WHO formalization of the term 'gaming addiction,' a group of psychologists released a paper titled 'A weak scientific basis for gaming disorder: Let us err on the side of caution,' in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

In the paper, the group warned of the danger of misdiagnosis and abuse of diagnosis, saying, "We agree that there are some people whose play of video games is related to life problems. We believe that understanding this population and the nature and severity of the problems they experience should be a focus area for future research."

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"However, moving from research construct to formal disorder requires a much stronger evidence base than we currently have. The burden of evidence and the clinical utility should be extremely high because there is a genuine risk of abuse of diagnoses."

Many would argue that China's new gaming curfew, rather than truly being made with its citizen's best interests in mind, is another example of a country restricting its population's freedom on the net.

In fact, in a recent study, China came last as the country with the least online freedom of expression.

That's not to say gaming and online platforms are not addictive and do not lead to abuse in some cases.

Google Stadia is set to make gaming ubiquitous, and the gaming industry is booming, with many companies employing underhanded tactics — loot boxes come to mind.

But the real question might be, is gaming the problem, or is it a symptom of another underlying issue in society?