China’s Ban on Gaming

Gabriel Fortaleza-Tan, Writer

The gaming industry has surged in popularity in the past decade and its growth has been met with many concerns about its effect on younger audiences. To combat gaming addiction and gaming-related injuries, China (the CCP) has passed a law that forbids under-18s from playing video games for more than three hours a week.

The global popularity of video games is undeniable, with nearly half of Americans playing video games on a regular basis— its influence and effects are as widespread as they’ve ever been. As expected, there are many different health risks that come with prolonged gaming sessions. The possible physical injuries are eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome (pain in the wrist’s nerves), tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon), neck stiffness, and lower back pain, just to name a few. While the physical effects of gaming are of concern, countries like China have cut down on their country’s gaming regulations because of the perceived psychological repercussions.

Most people assume that gaming causes addiction, depression, anxiety, alexithymia (inability to read others’ emotions), and other mental health issues. While there is some truth to the assumption, gaming usually does not cause the health issues mentioned. Gaming does have a correlation with increased depression and anxiety, but it does not necessarily cause them. People who suffer from severe depression and anxiety tend to play more video games as a means of escape from their problems. However, video games can worsen depression and anxiety because players become emotionally invested in their games and unfavorable outcomes can negatively affect their emotions. Additionally, obsessive gamers can be less productive in work environments because their minds are preoccupied, and their desire to play often leads to procrastination and neglect of work. 

Due to the negative consequences of video games and the CCP’s desire to improve their country’s educational ranking, the CCP passed a law that would limit under-18s from playing games for more than 3 hours during the school week. This is not only an attempt to prevent a widespread addiction to video games, but it is also to restore the culture as gaming in China is seen as distasteful to the Communist party (per Clifford Coonan). Many avid Chinese gamers and industry experts are upset with the harsh nature of the new law. 

Unsurprisingly, many teen gamers are against the new mandate. One Chinese teen says, “… at 16 you can go out to work but you have to be 18 to play games. This is really a joke,”.

The CCP enforces the new law through the national IDs that all gamers have. When starting a game, Chinese citizens must link their game account to their identification and phone number which creates a national ID. This ID can be monitored for the amount of time played and can be locked when the user’s time played reaches the 3-hour restriction. Many citizens have tried to bypass this system by using a VPN, however, the CCP’s system is advanced enough to counteract these tactics.

While the gaming desires of the Chinese people have been affected, China’s gaming industry is projected to take the biggest hit. Its powerhouse gaming companies like Tencent and NetEase rely on the constant interaction of its users that lead to in-game purchases. If China’s gaming industry severely declines, in turn, it would affect its economy. While the negative effects of gaming are important for the Chinese population, the repercussions of this law would be detrimental to the overall state of its economy which is why most people oppose the new law.