A proposal from China’s top gaming companies, including Tencent Holdings and NetEase, for an age rating system in the country is an attempt to demonstrate self-regulation to Beijing, which has been on a drive to curb gaming and internet addiction among the nation’s youth.
“In terms of the gaming industry, participants should not only obey rules from the top authorities but also, at their own initiative, carry out self-regulation,” said IDC China industry analyst Tan Rui. “The age rating system is just a proposal at this stage, unlikely to be applied soon, and should not hurt the industry as it mainly applies to minors.”
The proposed system, devised by more than 10 of China’s biggest game producers, aims to divide players into four age categories – six, 12, 16 and 18 and upwards. Where a game sits will be determined by its content, the presence of in-app purchases, and the genre, according to information posted in an article by state-run newspaper People’s Daily. Children under six years’ old are not recommended to play games on their own at all, according to the proposal.
China has stepped up its oversight of the gaming industry following a directive from Chinese President Xi Jinping last August to the government to prevent the growing problem of myopia among children. Fewer new games were approved by the regulator and gaming companies were prodded to establish controls to limit the amount of time minors spend on gaming.
In the past year, market leader Tencent has introduced an age verification system and limits on play time by young people.
Tencent declined to comment on the industry-wide age rating proposal.
China is home to the world’s biggest internet population with more than 800 million users and the video gaming industry is estimated to be worth US$30bil (RM124.13bil) a year in revenues. At the same time, playing videogames is an increasingly popular pastime that is challenging other modes of entertainment for the attention and wallets of consumers.
Currently, China does not have an established self-regulatory body that works on game ratings such as the US Entertainment Software Rating Board, which applies ratings such as “A” for adults, or 18 and above and “Teen” or “Everyone” on games before consumers buy them.
Aside the ratings issue, Tao Ran, the head of an Internet addiction treatment center in Beijing, said both game developers and the government must do more to curb internet and gaming addiction.
“Game developers should give money to support young people to quit digital addiction as so many teenagers are obsessed with playing games,” said Tao. “As for the government, we have to build up a rating system and if the game is very addictive, school-age students should be restricted from playing it.” – South China Morning Post