The Chinese government has banned those under the age of 18 from playing online games for more than an hour a day, and only between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.
The ban will be enforced by online gaming companies who are now required to strictly enforce rules requiring users to register accounts with their real identities in order to play.
The new restrictions were announced on the Chinese social media platform Weibo by the People’s Daily – the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party – and originated from the General Administration of Press and Publications.
It follows the fall in shares of China’s largest online gaming companies after state media called their products “spiritual opium” and compared them to “electronic drugs” earlier this month.
The reference to opium is blamed in China, where European powers, including Britain and France, hampered the Qing dynasty in the mid-19th century with heavy drug imports, which ultimately led to the cession from Hong Kong to Britain as sovereign territory before it was surrendered in 1997.
The crackdown on gaming companies was sparked by an article published by the Economic Information Daily, a state newspaper, which warned teens were addicted to online video games and called for the industry to be curbed.
In particular, the newspaper appeared to criticize Tencent’s flagship game, Honor Of Kings, which students sometimes play for up to eight hours a day.
“No industry, no sport can be allowed to develop in a way that will destroy a generation,” the newspaper writes, comparing online video games to “electronic drugs.”
The newspaper called for “mandatory means” to force online gaming companies to prevent addiction among young gamers.
Tencent – which was behind the development of the latest Pokemon game released last month – responded by saying it would introduce new measures to limit access to its games and the time children spend on them.
Following this criticism, Tencent imposed restrictions on its Honor of Kings game, restricting those under 18 to play only one hour per day normally and two hours per day on holidays, but the new General Administration edict of the press and publication goes much further.