Gaming scrutiny returns with CNY curfew for kids

Tencent Games is restricting China’s under-18s to a maximum of 16 hours of gaming throughout the winter holiday period, which includes the week of Spring Festival itself as well as the weekends before and after the official holiday. This year’s stipulation is two hours longer than last year’s Spring Festival gaming curfew, which Tencent and other major Chinese gaming countries have introduced since 2021. 

Tencent is China’s biggest gaming company, having published some of the world’s highest-grossing titles like Honor of Kings and PUBG Mobile. Its success also makes it a potential target for government scrutiny, but proactively implementing protective policies often helps tech giants stay in regulators’ good books.

Tencent Games announced the curfew via its official Weibo account on January 9, a month ahead of Spring Festival festivities. The post also included a helpful Winter Holiday Playtime Calendar highlighting in green the days on which gaming is permitted during the season. As per the calendar, gameplay is limited to 1 hour per day from 8-9 pm on the 16 permitted days from January 26 – February 24.

This year’s seasonal regulation follows growing concern over youth gaming “addiction” in recent years, which the government blames for some instances of poor academic performance, anti-social behaviour, and myopia. In 2019, regulators brought in the country’s first gaming curfew restricting minors to 3 hours per week, then in 2021 this was made stricter, with weekday gaming banned altogether. Since gaming is permitted on holidays, the long Spring Festival break is seen as a time when minors are particularly vulnerable to excessive gaming

While Chinese parents are likely thankful for the restrictions, gamers in general don’t seem to be too bothered by them. Some Weibo users suggest simply playing games published by Tencent’s biggest rival, NetEase, to get around the restrictions. China’s young gamers are now well used to these kinds of workarounds as they can easily dodge the draconian limits by using adults’ devices or lying about their age.


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