August 11, 2023 — In 2019, China introduced stringent game time limitations in response to growing concerns about potential gaming addictions among minors.
These regulations restricted minors to an hour-and-a-half of daily playtime and extended it to three hours on holidays.
Imposing regulations in personal domains, like gaming, is an authoritarian approach. In a free world, there must be minimal governmental interference, and regulations, if any, must be efficient, non-intrusive, and respect individual freedoms.
Unsurprisingly, the study casts doubt on the effectiveness of China’s gaming restrictions. The research found no significant evidence that regulations had the intended effect of curbing excessive gaming. Yet, in a world where VPNs and other digital tools are readily available, many have found ways to sidestep these restrictions, calling into question the true efficacy of restrictive gaming measures.
To ensure a comprehensive analysis, the researchers collaborated directly with the makers of the popular game engine Unity, examining a reliable dataset of over 7 billion hours of playtime and approximately 2.4 billion Chinese gamer profiles. Despite the potential for Chinese gamers to bypass restrictions using VPNs and other methods, the data collected through Unity was meticulously tracked and analyzed, ensuring the integrity of the findings.
The study defined “heavy” gaming as an individual indulging in gaming for four or more hours daily, at least six days a week. The results indicated no significant reduction in the prevalence of heavy gaming post-regulation. In a twist, the data suggested that players were marginally more inclined towards heavy gaming after establishing the rules, although this increase wasn’t statistically significant.
Dr. David Zendle of the University of York, the lead researcher behind the study, emphasized the broader implications of the findings. He stated, “The work presented provides a case study for understanding how a government’s policy decisions affect — or do not affect — the lives of real people on a grand scale and forms a blueprint for future data-led public policy.”
Recently, only last week — on August 2, 2023, China introduced the “Guidelines for the Establishment of Minors’ Modes for the Mobile Internet.” This initiative mandates a unified parental control system across devices and platforms. Now, not just app companies but also app developers, store providers, and device manufacturers are expected to collaborate.
While primarily targeting Chinese firms, global players like Apple and Samsung will likely adhere. The guidelines are stringent: kids under eight get only 40 minutes on smart devices daily, limited to educational and hobby content. As they age, the rules evolve, with the limit raised to 60 minutes once a kid turns eight.